So much else has gone wrong in this woeful season of St. Louis Cardinals football, why not throw in a drug-testing controversy to go along with the ones on why the offense, defense and special teams haven't been anywhere near as good as advertised?
The Big Red has been a big bust after finishing 9-7 last year and coming within a field goal of going to the playoffs. This young but very talented team, with Pro Bowl players in quarterback Neil Lomax and Roy Green, was picked by most as a team that would contend for the NFC East title. Instead, the Cardinals are 5-10 going into Saturday's regular-season finale against the Washington Redskins.
Coach Jim Hanifan's job is in jeopardy, the attendance at the last few home games has been as disappointing as the performance, and owner Bill Bidwill has not entirely ruled out the possibility of moving the franchise, especially if a domed stadium is not built here.
Then, today, team management fined a "very substantial number" of Cardinals players, according to player representative Joe Bostic, for refusing to have a urinalysis to check for drugs, as part of the postseason physical examination.
Players took portions of their postseason exam Wednesday morning, at which time they were asked to take the urine tests. The majority of the 45-man roster refused and, and upon arriving at Busch Stadium today, each objector received a letter advising him of a $1,000 fine, to be deducted from the season's final paycheck. The letters, which many players tacked above their locker in a modest show of defiance, gave the reason for the fine as, "Insubordination, which constitutes conduct detrimental to complying with Club's request for a complete postseason physical."
The NFL Players Association has filed a grievance in New York over the testing, which, according to sources, is likely to be tried by many of the 28 teams.
A union official in Washington suggested that such testing is prohibited by the National Football League collective bargaining agreement. But, in New York, a spokesman for the NFL Management Council, the owners' bargaining unit, said that under its interpretation of a section of the agreement, the club was within its rights.
The management spokesman said the owners had sent a letter to the union, protesting what it said was the player representatives' advising players not to take complete postseason physicals.
According to Bostic, the basic agreement between the players and owners, which ended the 1982 strike, forbids any spot-checking in the postseason exam.
In Article 31 of the agreement, on players' rights to medical care and treatment, Section 7 addresses testing: "The club physician may, upon reasonable cause, direct a player to Hazelden (the treatment facility in Minnesota), for testing for chemical abuse or dependency problems. There will not be any spot checking for chemical abuse or dependency by the club or club physician."
Cardinals public relations director Michael Menchel said the team would have no comment other than that testing is part of the postseason physical. Bostic said he wasn't surprised by the team's action and isn't against testing, so long as it is agreed to through collective bargaining.
"We see this as undermining our 1982 agreement," Bostic said after practice today. "We stayed out for 56 days in '82. And if it was worth fighting for in '82, then it's worth protecting now. If we let it erode now, it won't be worth anything. As early as last year, when they voted on decreasing the roster from 49 to 45, we tried to offer (more drug testing) as a bargaining chip to keep the roster at all above 45. But they said no.
"We're not trying to hide anything," Bostic said. "There's nothing wrong with testing and we're not trying to protect drug users. But, like any group that collectively bargains, we strive to uphold the intent of the agreement, and the interests of our union and its rank and file.
"It's easier for a team that's 5-10 and was picked to do well," Bostic said. "But that shouldn't matter. It's what is right and wrong. Teams with great records are going to do the same thing.
"In a way, I'm happy we are first, because we gave them (players on other teams) a lot of strength to draw off of."
The drug testing controversy is only one aspect of the Cardinals' poor season.
Last season, both Green and running back Ottis Anderson caught more than 70 passes. This year, mainly because of injuries, Green, although still the team leader in receiving, has caught just 46 passes, only four for touchdowns. Anderson, who injured a toe against Pittsburgh in Week 7, has only 23 catches, and has run the ball only 118 times for 481 yards.
"It's a combination of many things, including myself," Lomax said. "My personal performance has not been up to par. It's been a whole accumulation of problems, situations and distractions. The offensive line, me, the receivers, everybody. When there's a sack, it's not always the line's fault."
The Cardinals are three shy of a team record, set in 1961, for sacks allowed. The line was expected to be improved when Luis Sharpe re-signed in August after playing with the USFL's Memphis Showboats. But, as Sharpe is the first to admit, he didn't play like a former Pro Bowl player.
"It's been a very long year," Sharpe said. "I don't think my body's been this physically beat up in the four years I've been a pro . . . I'm glad it's over."
The Cardinals have moved the ball well, but not when it counts. Inside the opponents' 20-yard line, the Cardinals have scored in only 28 of 41 opportunities, compared to a 45-of-48 mark for opponents inside the St. Louis 20.
"The most discouraging and most disturbing thing offensively," said Hanifan, "has been the lack of production inside the 20. And often it's a snowball effect, one thing building on another."