In February, Fralic heard that Tagliabue was considering a steroid policy that would be tougher than the present program, which calls for a player to be tested once a year, in training camp. Fralic called the commissioner to say he would help in any way he could. Tagliabue asked Fralic what elements he thought would be important to a new policy; Fralic urged random testing, including off-season testing. When Tagliabue asked how much notice players should be given before testing, Fralic said, "Five minutes. You should walk in the weight room, produce the jar and tell the player to fill it."
In April, Fralic and some NFLPA leaders met with Tagliabue to discuss a revamped steroid-testing plan. When the NFLPA's Allen raised doubts at the meeting about the integrity of the league's testing under Forest Tennant, its drug adviser at the time, Fralic said sarcastically, "Let me get this straight: Are you for steroids or against them?"
Says Fralic, "I've had problems with the NFL and the NFLPA because [steroid testing] is being treated as a bargaining chip and not a moral issue. The most important thing to do is to figure out a way to get it out of the game. Let's not ignore the problem and shove it aside because we're arguing how to test and we say it can't be done properly. They [NFLPA leaders] can only come up with reasons why it can't be done."
"If Bill said that, he knows better," Allen says. "We have no disagreement that the sport should be rid of steroids. The disagreement is that before you can support the testing, you've got to have faith in the testers."
Because the NFLPA claims it is no longer the players' bargaining agent, it cannot sue to stop the league from enforcing a new steroid-testing plan. Individual players would have to file suit. The likelihood is that Lombardo will oversee a plan under which players would be tested as many as seven times a year: once in training camp, in any of four blind tests during the season, as a member of a playoff team, and once in the off-season. It's probable that any positive test results prior to 1989 would be wiped off the record. The first positive test probably will result in a 30-day suspension, with the second positive test considered grounds for suspension for the rest of the season and all of the postseason.
"The way [Fralic] puts it is the way I put it," Tagliabue says. "If you use steroids, you get a competitive advantage. And if you use them, you force the other guy to use them. That's why it threatens the integrity of this athletic competition as much as it does the 100-meter dash. Bill is very forthright about it, which helps. He's willing to come up with constructive suggestions that produce a solution, rather than ones that promote confrontation."
As a player, Fralic promotes confrontations. One pro scouting report says he's at his best in a one-on-one blocking situation. The second player chosen in the 1985 draft, Fralic has been voted by the players to start in the Pro Bowl three times, despite the fact that he's not well liked by some of his peers. He has brawled with San Francisco 49er nosetackle Michael Carter and Washington Redskin defensive end Charles Mann, and he broke his right pinkie in 10 places when he punched 49er defensive end Pierce Holt in the chest. When asked recently how they felt about Fralic, Carter responded with a four-letter word and Holt chose not to comment. "I don't think I'm doing my job if the guys I'm blocking like me," Fralic says.
Some 49er and Ram players have grumbled that Fralic makes the Pro Bowl on reputation. But Newberry is not one of them. "I think he's a great player," Newberry says. "He comes off the ball strong and doesn't give an inch. Our job is hand-to-hand combat, beating the other guy physically. Bill's very good at that."
Scouts like Fralic's grittiness. In the first game of his career, against Detroit in 1985, Fralic was blocked at an awkward angle and heard several joints crack in his neck and shoulder. He went to the sideline, took three Tylenol pills and didn't miss a down. He has played with pinched nerves in his neck ever since.
Fralic is no different off the field. When he sees a problem, he confronts it. Two years ago, he went to work for an insurance company and saw other employees being laid off because of declining business. Fralic decided to sink some of his money into a new company, and then he hired some of the displaced workers. That's how Bill Fralic Insurance Services Inc. was born. Also, during the 1987 players' strike, Fralic was on the picket line just 20 hours after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.