Friday's NFL: Cowboys lineman Collins alleged to have bribed drug-testing official

Associated Press

Frisco, Texas — The NFL accused Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La'el Collins of trying to bribe a drug-testing official before the player was suspended five games for a violation of the substance-abuse policy, according to court documents released Friday.

The allegation surfaced in a federal court case after Collins sued the league, its management council and Commissioner Roger Goodell while seeking an injunction to stop the suspension with two games remaining.

FILE - The NFL accused Cowboys offensive lineman Collins of trying to bribe a drug-testing official before he was suspended five games for a violation of the substance-abuse policy, according to court documents released Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.

The NFL said the person who collects specimens for testing wrote in his notes that in November 2020, Collins asked to meet with him “man to man” and said he felt he was “being tested too much because (they) were seeing each other every day.”

The collector said Collins asked if there was something “we could do” and offered $5,000, and later $10,000, according to the NFL's filing in response to Collins' request for an injunction.

Player agent Peter Schaffer, one of Collins' representatives, strongly denied the allegations of bribery against Collins, who was recovering from hip surgery at the time and didn't play in 2020.

“He allegedly bribed a collector without giving him any money, to look the other way on a test that was negative?” Schaffer said. “No witnesses, no nothing. He walked in in a T-shirt and shorts on crutches. How can you bribe somebody?”

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A federal judge heard arguments over the injunction Friday in Sherman, Texas, about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Dallas. There was no immediate ruling.

The Cowboys (3-1) play the New York Giants (1-3) at home Sunday. Coach Mike McCarthy said Friday there was not a plan in place for Collins, the starting right tackle, to play against the Giants if the suspension were halted.

Collins’ suspension was announced the day after Dallas’ 31-29 loss to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the opener, his first game since 2019.

During an appeal of the suspension, Schaffer called star quarterback Dak Prescott to testify in an attempt to refute the allegation of bribery. Prescott testified to the joking nature of some of the conversations with the test collector, and said he didn't see Collins carrying $10,000 on the day in question.

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The league said in its filing Collins had a “long history of discipline for repeated violations" of the substance-abuse policy. Collins missed seven drug tests in a five-week period around the time of the alleged bribe in November 2020, the NFL said.

Schaffer took issue with what he called personal attacks on Collins during Friday's hearing.

“That’s why it was so important to La’el to fight this thing so that people can see he’s not a bad person and he doesn’t have this great history of missing tests and being a bad person,” Schaffer said. “Just the way they just took personal attacks at him. This is one of your players. Find a way to do it without doing the personal attacks. I was embarrassed to be part of the NFL today by the way the NFL lawyers attacked La’el personally.”

The league intended to suspend Collins for the first four games of 2020, but the management council and players' union agreed to a fine. The NFL said Collins continued to miss tests, leading to a five-game suspension that the union negotiated down to two.

An appeal of the two-game ban resulted in an arbitrator reinstating the five-game suspension after the league alleged Collins' attempt at bribery.

Collins' representatives say the NFL falsely claimed the seventh-year player had previously been suspended four games when he hadn't. They also said he was suspended for missed tests when the new labor agreement in 2020 no longer allowed for suspensions over missed tests or positive marijuana tests.

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The lineman's representatives said Collins had legitimate reasons for missing tests, including the death of an uncle in Arizona and the death of Cowboys strength coach Markus Paul, who collapsed in the weight room two days before last year's Thanksgiving game.

Collins signed with the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2015. The former LSU player was expected to be a high draft pick, but his name surfaced in the investigation of a woman’s death just before the draft. Collins was cleared in that case.

NFL reacts strongly to reported Gruden racist email comment

The NFL reacted strongly and quickly Friday to a report that Jon Gruden used a racist comment about NFL Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith in an email 10 years ago.

A Wall Street Journal story noted that Gruden, then working for ESPN and now coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, referred in a racist way to Smith's facial features.

“The email from Jon Gruden denigrating DeMaurice Smith is appalling, abhorrent and wholly contrary to the NFL’s values,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. “We condemn the statement and regret any harm that its publication may inflict on Mr. Smith or anyone else.”

Jon Gruden

The league is looking into the matter and a person familiar with that probe told The Associated Press that disciplinary action is possible for Gruden. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because details of any league probe are not made public.

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Gruden's comment in an email to then-Washington Football Team President Bruce Allen came during the 2011 lockout of the players by the NFL. Gruden told the newspaper he was angry about the lockout during labor negotiations and he didn't trust the direction the union was taking. He also apologized for the remark, the Journal reported.

During a review of emails regarding workplace misconduct at the Washington Football Team that was completed during the summer, “the league was informed of the existence of emails that raised issues beyond the scope of that investigation,” McCarthy added.

“Over the past few months, at the commissioner’s direction,” he added of Roger Goodell, “senior NFL executives reviewed the content of more than 650,000 emails, including this email which was sent to a club employee. Earlier this week, the executives presented a summary of that review to the commissioner and are sharing with Raiders executives emails pertaining to coach Gruden.”

Extra points

... Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is expected to be out several weeks after he had surgery Friday on his injured right middle finger.

Wilson posted a photo Friday night following his surgery in Southern California. Wilson flew to Los Angeles to see a hand specialist and determine the best course of action to repair the injury.

NFL Network reported that Wilson had screws inserted to stabilize the finger.

... The Green Bay Packers are hoping 2020 Pro Bowl cornerback Jaire Alexander’s injured shoulder will heal on its own rather than needing season-ending surgery.

Alexander was injured during the third quarter of a 27-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. LaFleur ruled out Alexander and center Josh Myers (finger) for Sunday’s game at Cincinnati.

... The Panthers have listed running back Christian McCaffrey as doubtful for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.