HOUSTON — The NFL players' union will be making a push for improved equipment and for more consistent compliance with the concussion protocol.
At their annual Super Bowl news conference Thursday, the NFL Players Association also insisted there will be no extension of the 10-year labour agreement signed in 2011. But the union would be open to a renegotiation before that deal expires.
"There's a need to up the research and what sort of equipment we can look at," said Bengals offensive tackle Eric Winston, the union president. "A new helmet, a new design to the helmet? It seems like the medical has come so far and with changing rules it has come a long way, but it doesn't seem we have with helmets and shoulder pads."
Winston, a 10-year veteran, wants the union to look into what technology is being used for equipment.
"How can we make that better?" he asked.
Winston also expressed concern about how the concussion protocols are administered, and several union members pointed out the Matt Moore situation.
Miami's backup quarterback was bleeding from the mouth yet allowed to return to the playoff game at Pittsburgh last month. The concussion protocol wasn't strictly followed, the league and union determined.
"We have to work with the teams because there has to be better adherence to the concussion protocol," he said. "There were a handful of times we investigated and that's too many. We have to get those numbers down to zero."
But Winston, Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith all praised a change in the way players are dealing with head trauma.
"There's definitely been a culture change," said Herzlich, who missed two games with a concussion this season. "There's more of an understanding of the dangers of concussions, more recognition.
"For the most part, it's working well. But Matt Moore, that's something that can't happen."
Before presenting the Whizzer White Award for community service to Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, Smith and other union representatives addressed several other issues.
—Smith scoffed at any notion of a CBA extension, saying "no one is going to slip an addendum that is going to extend this (CBA) another few years." When asked about a potential renegotiation, he cited such issues as Commissioner Roger Goodell's disciplinary powers, stadium construction and financing, and TV contracts as topics that would be in the forefront.
But he made it clear the players "are not looking at giving back money to change it."
—The union is looking into marijuana's potential use as a pain reliever. Smith said he would like to present a plan to the players association's leadership and to the league once the information gathering is done.
"We want to look at the issue of opioids, but we also want to make sure we're looking at the issue of how and to what extent players may be self-medicating if they can't get medication elsewhere," Smith said. "We will be looking and asking the people who have looked and researched the issue of cannabis: are there legitimate medical uses; under what circumstances could they be used; and what circumstances may it make sense that this union would support a therapeutic use exemption. We're not there yet."
—The players want to see more data regarding injuries and recovery times from Thursday night games before making it an issue for discussion with the league. But Herzlich drew laughs when he said, "As a player, it's not fun playing them."
"There's not enough time to recover," he added. "We think the idea is to get more prime-time games and that's fine as long as it's not a safety and health issue."
—Winston said he and his "brothers" in the union would stand firm by the side of any players who are affected by President Donald Trump's policies toward Muslim countries.
"We have their backs," he said. "I'll go stand with them. It's simple, but the idea we are starting to turn away from ourselves as a country ... I don't think that's who we are as a people."
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