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Smith Takes On Player Safety In Annual Address; Calls For CBA Amendments
Published February 1, 2013
DOCTOR'S ORDERS: The NFL on Thursday emphasized that team physicians should still retain ultimate control over whether a player returns to action. That appears to conflict with the NFLPA, as Smith said that the decision should reside with the neurologist. At a player safety press conference, believed to be a first at the Super Bowl, NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash said the neurologist would be an adviser to the team physician, and disagreed the league had “conceded” the issue. The NFL in the past has resisted the move of having doctors independent of the teams on the sidelines. Pash said he expected the neurologists to be on the sidelines for the '13 season (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). In N.Y., Ken Belson noted working out the "details of how outside doctors would be selected, paid and deputized has been difficult." Team doctors, who are "around the players during the entire season, are considered to be in the best position to determine whether a player has sustained a concussion." Adding an extra doctor on the sidelines could "provide a useful check, but also create confusion" (NYTIMES.com, 1/31).
BOUNTY SCANDAL A HOT TOPIC: In New Orleans, Larry Holder notes it "took only about 20 seconds for Smith to reference" the bounty scandal, as he called the NFL's "pursuit against the four previously suspended players 'personal.'" Smith said, "For the players who were involved and their fans, was it a little bit personal for us given the connection between this city and the team that they love? Yes. And I'm never going to apologize for it. Our job was to defend and represent our players. And there's never going to be a day where we or I will apologize for doing anything less." Foxworth said that the league's "handling of the bounty scandal displayed to him how challenging it's become to anticipate how the league will handle player issues." He said, "It would be reasonable to think that they would value regaining their employees' trust. But I mean there's no indication that they are going to work in that direction. I hope they do" (New Orleans TIMES-PICAYUNE, 2/1).
GIVE & TAKE ON HGH: Foxworth said that the NFL and NFLPA are "close to an agreement on HGH testing," and Ravens Owner Steve Bisciotti "said the same thing to a small group of reporters." USA TODAY's Mike Garafolo reports in a game of give-and-take, the "give for the NFLPA is to allow HGH testing, but the take they'd like to have is independent arbitration for penalties levied across the board, not just for HGH-testing issues." The union also "wants a more standard scale and definition of why players are fined as much as they are for on-field conduct, such as illegal hits" (USA TODAY, 2/1). Foxworth said, "The league, their No. 1 focus -- at least they say their No. 1 focus -- is health and safety. And we say our No. 1 focus is health and safety. How come we have such a hard time moving the ball on some health and safety issues?" Foxworth "mentioned the use of replacement officials, the NFL's desire for an 18-game season, the increased slate of Thursday night games and the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation as examples of items that have driven a wedge between the players and the league." He said, "All those things are happening, and our players see it and they lose trust" (AP, 1/31).
18-GAME SCHEDULE STILL ON TABLE: NFL Exec VP/Football Operations Ray Anderson said that an 18-game schedule “is still on the table," but it is "going to be discussed at length” with the NFLPA. Anderson: "There are legitimate questions about the impact on safety. As we continue to look towards ways of making it better and safer that debate will continue. But yes, it’s still something that will be discussed” ("Costas Tonight," NBC Sports Network, 1/31). But NBC’s Hines Ward said, “Players are starting to realize how serious concussions are, so I don’t even know why this is still on the table. I think Roger Goodell should just veto the proposal.” Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio: “It’s impossible to reconcile player safety with adding two more weeks of games” (“PFT,” NBC Sports Network, 1/31). NBC Sports Network’s Michelle Beadle said it is “shocking” the NFL is still pushing an 18-game schedule, but “we know it’s money.” NBC Sports Network’s Dave Briggs: “It’s hard to imagine that you argue that we’re trying to protect player safety but we’re going to expand. ... The NFL doesn’t come off real well in this argument” (“The Crossover,” NBC Sports Network, 1/31).
LOT OF WORK STILL TO BE DONE: NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer said following the NFLPA's press conference, “The thing I came away with today listening to both the players’ association as well as the league is the great divide that still exists on player health and safety issues. They know how important it is, but there are so many details still to be worked out” (NFL Network, 1/31). Anderson referenced President Obama's statement last month about not wanting a son to play football and said the “challenge we have as a league is to make sure that we are doing everything we can with regard to player health and safety so that we can mitigate some of those types of concerns that parents reasonably and rightfully have.” Anderson: “We have a platform for player health and safety. We’re going to lead in that effort aggressively and we’re going to do it without being apologetic or defensive about it” (“Costas Tonight,” NBC Sports Network, 1/31).