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Reports: NFL, NFLPA "very close" on new drug testing program, Gordon could return

Could Josh Gordon end up playing this season under a new drug testing policy?

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Fasten your seat belts, folks. Josh Gordon might just play this season after all, even if his legal team doesn't decide to sue. But it's important not to get your hopes too high, pun somewhat intended. The circumstances of Gordon's case have shown they can change very quickly and drastically.

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk is reporting that the NFL and NFLPA are "very close" to reaching an agreement on a new comprehensive drug testing policy, according to a source. Florio broke the story first on Wednesday evening.

The lack of an agreement on blood testing for hGH had delayed the implementation of other terms on which the two sides agreed, including the potential shift of substances like amphetamines from the PED policy to the substance-abuse policy.

The hGH testing agreement is expected to grant an independent arbitrator the authority to resolve appeals of positive tests. The last major sticking point related to the question of whether the Commissioner or an independent arbitrator will handle the appeals of discipline imposed for violations unrelated to a positive test.

Albert Breer of the NFL Network later added that the new policy currently "on the table" also includes changes such as a higher threshold for marijuana. Breer pointed out that Goodell's comments about "certain players" not being suspended under a new policy could be in reference to these changes.†

Breer was also sure to mention that all of the people he's spoken to about the news were careful in explaining the ongoing talks could still come undone, similar to the situation last year.

‣ UPDATE 9/4: † Breer clarified that he never said anything about suspensions already on the books being lifted.

‣ UPDATE 9/5: Despite the above statement, on Thursday evening Florio reported on NBC that Gordon, and other suspended players such as Wes Welker, could potentially benefit from the proposed new policy by having their suspensions reduced.

And yet there’s a chance that both players could still see their suspensions reduced.

As Mike Florio reported on NBC, Welker, Gordon and potentially other players in the midst of suspensions could benefit from a new drug testing policy that the owners and players could agree upon soon.

The new policy would increase the NFL's marijuana threshold up to 50 ng/ml (from 15), which means Gordon would have passed the test that resulted in his year-long ban. Another notable change is moving MDMA ("molly") from the performance-enhancing category to "substances of abuse," which wouldn't have given Welker a suspension as a first-time offender.

This is more than likely part of the reason both sides are eager to reach an agreement before Sunday.

Additionally, DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association executive director, did a radio interview with 106.7 The Fan in Washington on Friday where he gave further credence to the crux of Florio's report.

"If we get a deal done that covers players in this league year, I don’t like that we punish players under a deal active in the old league year," Smith said.

"We don’t want players to suffer because the union and league couldn’t get it done before the league year," he added.

While some have suggested that Gordon should remain suspended even in the event of this policy change because his failed test dates back to the previous league year, it's worth noting that he reportedly wasn't informed of the results until April of this year, which falls under the current league year. And the entirety of the appeals process of Gordon's case took place after that point.

As many may recall, the case was plagued with delays, none of which appeared to be because of Gordon's camp. Those delays effectively cost Gordon all of training camp and preseason in 2015 if the league were to fully uphold the current suspension in place.