INDIANAPOLIS (Jan. 25, 2007) -- Put Dwight Freeney in the Jason Taylor camp when it comes to banned substances.
The Indianapolis defensive end endorsed the NFL's tougher steroids policy, called for Olympic-style testing and said players who test positive should be ineligible for any postseason awards including the Pro Bowl.
"It's a shame guys get rewarded for that, and Shawne (Merriman) is a prime example," Freeney told The Associated Press. "I got to know him at the Pro Bowl, and I know he's a good guy. But what kind of message is that if you get away with cheating and you still reap the benefits?"
Taylor, a defensive end for Miami, won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award after making similar comments last month on a conference call with Indianapolis reporters. Taylor edged Denver cornerback Champ Bailey and Merriman, the San Diego linebacker who was suspended for four games because of a failed steroids test.
"If you get caught cheating, you have to wonder how many plays did you make because of that? You don't really know," Freeney said. "If it makes you faster and stronger, that's what the game is about. It has to do with a lot of other things. If you're faster and stronger than the next guy and you run him over, that has a lot to do with it."
The NFL and players association announced an agreement on a stronger policy to winnow out violators. Under the policy, more players will face random drugs tests and they will be tested for more substances, too. It also adopted a new punishment -- including automatic forfeiture of a prorated portion of signing bonuses for suspended players.
Freeney believes that's a step in the right direction, and urged the league to make an even stronger statement.
"I wish they would go all the way, to tell you the truth, like the Olympics," he said. "Cheating has no place in the game."
Freeney did draw a distinction between using supplements, that might contain hidden substances such as ephedrine, which is banned by the NFL, and more obvious performance-enhancing drugs like steroids. Still, he acknowledged players must be held accountable for whatever they put in their bodies.
"I think there is a difference," he said. "I'm not saying he (Merriman) knew or whatever. But at the end of the day, they're performance-enhanced drugs and shouldn't be rewarded."
He acknowledged that the league has cleaned up since the 1980s when most believe steroid use was rampant in the NFL, although he said he was not sure how many players were using steroids now.
Freeney thinks the announcement was a good start, and he hopes the league takes stronger action in the future.
"You know, it really upset me listening to the announcers and everything talking about (Merriman) the most dominant player this year or whatever," Freeney said. "I mean, he just got caught using illegal substances. Come on."