The National Football League announced its first crackdown on anabolic steroids Tuesday, suspending 13 players who tested positive, including Mark Mraz of the Raiders and the Rams’ Vernon Kirk.
The 13 players were suspended and placed on the non-football illness list for a minimum 30 days, which will force them to miss one exhibition and three regular season games.
Mraz, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound defensive end, is a graduate of Glendora High who attended Utah State and was a fifth-round selection of the Atlanta Falcons in 1987. He played 11 games in Atlanta last season and was signed by the Raiders as a free agent.
Mraz left the Raider facility before the announcement and couldn’t be reached.
“I talked to Mark this morning,” Raider Coach Mike Shanahan said. “He was aware of the new rule, on the first of April. At the same time, he informed me he hadn’t been on it since that time.”
Whereas Mraz was expected to make the Raiders’ final roster, the Rams’ Kirk, a 1989 ninth-round draft choice from Pittsburgh, was not. At 6-2, 250 pounds, Kirk, was considered a smallish tight end by NFL standards.
“It’s a huge mystery to Vern and everyone else,” Ram Coach John Robinson said. “He’d not be the guy you’d think of as a steroid guy. He said he had pneumonia at the time and was being treated by a physician in Pittsburgh and one here. He’s going to retake the test, but he is under suspension.”
The other players suspended around the league included only one prominent player, former Pro Bowl guard Ron Solt of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Other than Solt, who is recuperating from operations on both knees, perhaps the best known player in the group is Maurice Douglass, a backup defensive back for the Chicago Bears who spends the off-season as an exotic dancer.
Those suspended for steroids came from eight of the league’s 28 teams, with three from the Buffalo Bills and two each from the Green Bay Packers, the New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers.
Most seemed to fall into the category defined by U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan, who in turning down the players’ union request to stop the suspensions, said that the crackdown “could be fatal to a marginal player.”
In fact, Jet Coach Joe Walton said of his two players, running back Vince Amoia and wide receiver Bobby Riley: “I don’t think either had much of a chance to make the team.”
Others suspended include: running back Sean Doctor and his brother, Tom, a linebacker for Buffalo, and a third Bill, linebacker Matt Jaworski; offensive linemen Mike Ariey and Keith Uecker of Green Bay and running back Keith Henderson and nose tackle Rollin Putzier of the 49ers.
The NFL initially said Monday that “less than two dozen” active players were involved, indicating that about 24 players was correct.
However, between Monday and Tuesday, the remaining players on the list were cut by their teams, according to league spokesman Jim Heffernan.
The accuracy of the testing was immediately challenged by the NFL Players Assn.
Staff writers Chris Dufresne and Mark Heisler contributed to this story.
STEROID SUSPENSIONS The 13 players placed on the non-football illness list Tuesday for a minimum 30 days for violation of NFL’s substance-abuse policy by testing positive for anabolic steroids:
PLAYER TEAM POS Sean Doctor Buffalo FB Tom Doctor Buffalo LB Matt Jaworski Buffalo LB Maurice Douglass Chicago DB Mike Arley Green Bay OT Keith Uecker Green Bay OT Mark Mraz Raiders DE Vernon Kirk Rams TE Vince Amoia New York Jets RB Bobby Riley New York Jets WR Ron Solt Philadelphia G Keith Henderson San Francisco RB Rollin Putzier San Francisco DE