GREEN BAY - As soon as the three letters are mentioned - H-G-H - the player laughs. Human growth hormone? In the NFL? Come on. HGH use is rampant, this NFC starter says.
"It's like clockwork nowadays," he said, estimating 10-15 players on each team use the banned substance. "Not tested and it's easy to get. Nowadays, dude? In 2013? (Expletive) yeah. I'm just being real."
When the NFL and NFLPA ended their labor dispute in 2011, they agreed that HGH testing was needed. The problem was acknowledged. Two years later, the problem still has not been addressed. The NFLPA claims it wants a fair process. The league has yet to do much beyond tough talk.
What's certain is that HGH is prevalent and the pressure to fuel one's body with performance-enhancing supplements runs high. As long as there's no stringent HGH testing in place - with clear, steep consequences - its use will continue.
While many current players insist they want testing, they want a clean game, they want doubts extinguished, the truth remains clouded.
This NFC starter has heard all of the off-season talking points. He calls such rhetoric "nonsense."
Considering the presure players face, he says HGH should not even be an issue.
"I say, just let guys do it," he said. "This is our career. We're putting on for fans. I say . . . HGH isn't anything. I say, do it. . . . You're going to get hit hard regardless whether you're clean or not clean. It's just a matter of how hard you get hit. I don't care who's taking it. A hit is a hit."
A growing athlete
One reality cannot be ignored. Players in the NFL are getting bigger, stronger and faster.
Emphasis on bigger.
Through his five decades in the league, Gil Brandt has seen exponential growth. In 1983, the former Dallas Cowboys vice president of player personnel points out, the biggest tight end drafted was Tony Hunter, out of Notre Dame at 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 236 pounds. In this year's NFL draft, 19 tight ends average 247 pounds. Fourteen are 6-foot-4 or taller.
In the trenches, offensive lineman have transformed from husky to gargantuan. At the NFL scouting combine in February, two offensive linemen weighed less than 300 pounds. Two of 58. And they were both a Snickers bar away, too. One was 298 pounds, one was 299. In 1979, Brandt says the largest player drafted was Oklahoma's Sam Claphan at 272 pounds.
This isn't a reversible trend. The size of players in the NFL will only increase.
"I would imagine so," Brandt said. "The kids are getting bigger. Everybody's getting bigger today."
Of course, advancements in training, nutrition and technology are all - perfectly clean - factors. So is a good old-fashioned work ethic. But the advent of human growth hormone aids this trend. HGH increases lean muscle mass and can potentially help with rehab and recovery, which allows athletes to train harder.
In years past, HGH - which is made in the pituitary gland - was extracted from humans for humans to, for example, help spur growth in young children. Now, it can be used synthetically. Even though it's illegal without a prescription in the United States, HGH is fairly easy to obtain in the black market.
Mounting pressure
For many teammates, each off-season was steroid season. When players reconvened at Dallas Cowboys headquarters,