Dominik backs Schiano on Freeman leak

The other off-field issue: A fan shows his support by referencing the three Bucs players who have contracted a MRSA staph infection.
The other off-field issue: A fan shows his support by referencing the three Bucs players who have contracted a MRSA staph infection.
Published Oct. 14, 2013

TAMPA — Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said Sunday that he "stands behind" coach Greg Schiano with regard to the leak of Josh Freeman's participation in the league's substance-abuse program.

USA Today reported Saturday that the players union believes Schiano disclosed confidential information about Tampa Bay's former quarterback in conversations with other Bucs players. It also reported the union wants to question Schiano.

Asked two weeks ago if he was the source of ESPN's report that Freeman was in the program, Schiano said, "Absolutely not." Schiano added he was "100 percent comfortable with my behavior."

Disclosing confidential medical information violates federal law and the collective bargaining agreement and can result in the NFL fining a team $500,000.

"I feel confident in what Greg Schiano said on the podium," Dominik said before Sunday's 31-20 loss to the Eagles. "I know he stands behind that, and I stand behind him."

Asked after the game about the USA Today report, Schiano said: "We as an organization look forward to cooperating with the NFL and the NFLPA. We'll leave it at that."

DeMaurice Smith, the union's executive director, reiterated Sunday his call for a joint investigation. Because currently only the NFL is investigating, the union cannot question Schiano and other members of the organization.

"We encouraged the (NFL's) investigation," Dominik said. "We have nothing to hide as an organization. There's nothing here that's going to stop the investigation. We'll be there to answer any questions anybody may have."

The NFL did not respond Sunday specifically to Smith's call for the joint investigation.

"We take the confidentiality provision of the policy as seriously as the union and will vigorously pursue any leads the union provides," the league said in a statement it released. "However, such information should be shared confidentially with our office rather than inappropriately leaked to the media before the investigation has been concluded."

Smith said any punishment should be based on intent.

"If the release of the information was deliberate, if it was malicious, if it was intended to harm, those are the issues that will typically motivate the level of punishment,'' Smith told WDAE-AM 620.

"The real goal here is, I believe, to work together to make sure that the rules that are in place … are enforced. And if we're under a situation where a team or a team official believes that they can operate outside of those rules, we have truly reached a point in the National Football League where one has come to a conclusion that football players deserve less than you or I do.''

Smith said the Bucs should be motivated to find the responsible party.

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"I would believe that any team would want to have the reputation of being a good workplace to work in because, after all, these are the same teams that are going to be looking for free agents in the future," Smith said.

"Perhaps the union needs to do a better job of informing potential free agents as to what teams are good workplaces, what teams respect their rights as men and what teams provide the best medical care or quality of medical care."