"I believe there is a resolution to this matter that can be collectively bargained," Smith said. "I do not think the only solution is continued litigation."
Last Wednesday, the NFL filed for an extension to its deadline for appealing the decision before all 11 judges on the Eighth Circuit. (The most recent ruling was by a three-judge panel.) While that filing certainly indicates that the league plans to pursuing further appeal, league spokesman Greg Aiello said the move was purely procedural, since the original deadline was Friday.
"We have not made any final decision on our plans for appeal," Aiello said last week.
To recap: The Williamses and three other players tested positive for a banned substance contained in a weight-loss drug called StarCaps, so the NFL sought to impose the standard four-game suspension it imposes for performance-enhancing drug violations. But the Williamses challenged the suspensions, claiming they'd asked for and received clearance from the league to take the drug. An earlier court ruling upheld the league's position, but the Williamses challenged the league's right to suspend them based on a Minnesota state law that prohibits an employer from disciplining an employee for a first positive drug test. Earlier this month, that three-judge panel ruled that the Williamses' case against the league in state court would be allowed to proceed, effectively preventing the league from imposing any discipline on the players before the end of the 2009 season.
The league has been upset with the union for failing to support it in this case, but the union has stood firm on its position that its job is to protect its players, not the league's drug policy. And Smith's comments Monday indicate a belief on his end that that policy could use some tweaking in light of the vagaries brought to light by the StarCaps case.
"I believe this drug-testing system is a system that works, but that can work better," Smith said. "Where our players rights are violated, we will work to make changes to that system."
Which means that, among many other things, the league's drug policy is likely to come up for discussion when the players and owners resume negotiations on the new collective bargaining agreement Tuesday in New York.