LANDOVER, Md. — Step One in the NFL's new anti-steroid program: Separate the boys from the girls.
In an attempt to stem the use of steroids among high school athletes, the league launched a $1.2 million education program Tuesday. Working through eight NFL teams, the program is expected to reach 20,000 students in 40 high schools during this school year.
"Everybody wants to gain their edge and be the best and do whatever it takes to win," said Washington Redskins safety Pierson Prioleau, who answered questions from students during the official launch at the team's stadium. "This program is going to show them that there are positive ways to win."
The effort is actually two programs: ATLAS for boys and ATHENA for girls. In addition to steroids, ATLAS focuses on alcohol, supplements and illegal drugs, while ATHENA has an emphasis on eating disorders and body-shaping drug use.
"They have different reasons for using substances," said Dr. Linn Goldberg, co-creator of the programs at the Oregon Health & Science University. "A young woman's use is often related to diet, losing weight. Also it's related to depression. Boys don't have that. Theirs are more risk-taking, sensation-seeking."
"It's a serious concern," said Michael Haynes, the NFL's vice president of player and employee development. "It seems like more kids are taking chances with their lives."
Participating teams in the education program are the Redskins, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers.
ALEX SMITH, ROB MORRIS UPDATE: ESPN.com was reporting Tuesday that former University of Utah quarterback Alex Smith was seeking a second opinion related to a right shoulder injury suffered in last Sunday's 49ers' loss to Seattle. If the second opinion is confirmed, sources say Smith would choose to have the corrective surgery right away and would likely miss the remainder of the season.
ESPN.com also was reporting that former BYU linebacker Rob Morris underwent surgery Tuesday to repair a left knee tendon he injured during the Colts' victory over the Broncos last Sunday. The Web site reported Morris will likely be lost for the season.
VICK TAKES CLASS IN RESPECT FOR ANIMALS: Michael Vick was attentive and inquisitive during an eight-hour class in empathy and animal protection at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals headquarters, a PETA spokesman said Tuesday.
"He was asking questions, following up on points we were making, taking notes," Shannon said. "He seemed to be putting an honest effort into trying to get something out of the course."
Shannon said Vick told him "he wished he had gotten to take a course like this five years ago."