Happy First Birthday to NFL ‘Player Safety’
It was just about a year ago that the NFL stopped the work stoppage and got with the NFLPA and ratified a new CBA. The NFL owners made a boatload of concessions to the Players Association that really seem to have challenged the coaching staffs to evaluate talent more quickly than ever. Of course, Rodger Goodell and his crew have made all of these concessions under the guise of player safety. Expect ‘Player Safety’ to be the next positive term to get turned into an annoying catch phrase by every play by play and color commentator. ‘Player Safety’ will be the new ‘Linebacker Mentality’ or ‘Smash Mouth Football’ only worse; you really do have to care about ‘Player Safety’ even when Don Criqui says it so many times during a game that you want to wrap a kitten around your fist and punch gradma in the face! The NFL and the NFLPA went all bipartisan on that particular issue though, pledging 50 million dollars (Dr. Evil voice optional) yearly to fund medical research. That is proof that both sides were willing to step up and face the facts that will inevitably show that football is a pretty damn violent game and that its participants pay a hefty price in the long term for having played it.
Most of the other (non monetary) concessions the league/owners made to the NFLPA center around lightening the practice load. Offseason OTA’s, that are voluntary by the way, have been reduced from 14 days to 10 days. There are no more two a day practices in pads at training camp and if there’s an afternoon walk through, the players do not even wear helmets. The new CBA also says no more than 15 practices before the first preseason game. In my opinion, the owners should have bucked this one and maybe negotiated a clause stating that doesn’t apply until a player reaches his third year. Coaching staffs really need to see how well a young player performs in camp. I understand that last year’s camp was cut short but the NFL now has two draft classes that are pretty much untested in training camp. Expect ten more years of this with the current CBA. The adage that “positions are won and lost in training camp” will be a thing of the past. Expect high draft picks to be stars and the starters in the future. There are some other new practice rules that were part of the CBA: teams will only practice in pads twice a week during the regular season up until the last five weeks of the season then players will only practice once a week in pads. The players all seem very happy with the current CBA and why shouldn’t they?
Well, one big old reason they shouldn’t be pissing their no pad wearing pants is Roger Goodell. The Player’s Association didn’t make any strides in diluting Goodell’s dictatorship. The Commissioner is still the first and last word in discipline. The rank and file may have overplayed their hand a little on the ‘Player Safety’ angle. The New Orleans bounty scandal has become whhaaay more about ‘Player Safety’ than the real issue: lying to the Commissioner three times. Over the next ten years you can expect Roger Goodell to make many, many decisions based on ‘Player Safety’. You may end up running out of kittens in the process.