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As a final, formal step, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith will sign the CBA at the front steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Friday morning. That's where the only game canceled by the lockout was supposed to be played Sunday between the Bears and Rams.
Among the CBA elements that were settled this week: parameters for penalties associated with on-field discipline and new disability program guidelines. Under a new neuro-cognitive disability benefit, for example, players do not have to prove that their mental disability was related to playing football.
For on-field offenses -- which grabbed headlines last season when the league made a point of enforcing existing rules about illegal hits more strictly -- the NFLPA must be consulted before a player is suspended or fined more than $50,000. And players now will be able to argue on appeal that a fine is excessive if it exceeds 25 percent of one week's pay for a first offense or 50 percent of a week's pay for a second offense.
The off-field conduct policy remains largely unchanged and in Goodell's hands.
The most significant new item in Thursday's agreement, though, is the HGH testing, which was the last topic holding things up.
Goodell has been keen to have players tested for HGH, saying in an interview with the AP in August 2010: "It's about the integrity of the game."
"We think it's important to have HGH testing, to make sure we ensure that we can take performance-enhancing substances out of the game," Goodell said then.
Preventing athletes from using HGH is considered a key target in the anti-doping movement. The substance is hard to detect, and athletes are believed to choose HGH for a variety of benefits, whether they be real or only perceived -- including increasing speed and improving vision.
Last year, Major League Baseball implemented random blood testing for HGH in the minors, making it the first U.S. professional sports league to take that aggressive step against doping. Baseball was able to impose that on players with minor league contracts because they are not members of the players' association, which means blood testing is not subject to collective bargaining.
Gary Wadler, who until this year led the World Anti-Doping Agency's committee that considers which substances should be banned in sports, cautioned Thursday that it will be important to find out the specifics that eventually are agreed to by the NFL and players.
"You can get a sound bite out of saying the NFL and NFLPA have adopted a blood-testing policy. You can say, 'That's pretty good,' and forget the rest of the story," Wadler said in a telephone interview. "But the devil's in the details. The rest of the story might be equivalent to having no testing at all."
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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