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NFLPA's Smith: player safety an ongoing challenge

NFLPA's Smith: player safety an ongoing challenge

CARSON, Calif. (AP) DeMaurice Smith has a difficult job.

As the Executive Director of the NFL's Players Association, it's Smith's job to strive to keep his players healthy.

Smith spoke at The Home Depot Center on Friday for the NFLPA's Collegiate Bowl, which will be played Saturday.

Player safety was the topic, and Smith knows there's more work to do.

``In 2009 when I took this job the head of the league's concussion committee was a rheumatologist,'' Smith said.

New rules have been implemented to improve safety, but he acknowledges that his job is an ongoing challenge.

``From our perspective, there will never be a time in the National Football League when members of this union, and in particular, me, will be happy and content with where we are on the issue of health and safety,'' Smith said. ``Our role is to make sure we are constantly challenging and imploring the National Football League to do a better job.''

While the league has been cooperative in implementing and enforcing safety standards for play on the field - such as stiff fines and suspensions for helmet-to-helmet contact - Smith said the greater challenge he has faced with the league has come off the field - in the front offices, trainers' rooms and doctors' offices.

``We as a union have an obligation to keep the players' employers accountable,'' Smith said. ``If any one of you gets hurt at your job, we call that a workplace accident and you have the opportunity of availing yourselves to workers comp protections. ... Yet in the NFL, we have our teams engaged in a systematic effort to deny our players workers' comp.''

Smith said that not every team has been reluctant to comply with some of the union's requests.

``There are teams in the NFL that do an incredibly good job of protecting their players and doing things that are smart,'' he said. ``Our challenge as a union is to have proper rules, and that we insist on levels of accountability that are applicable to everyone.

``But the fact is, at times there is a wide disparity between the way they approach issues like wellness, like workers compensation, like informed consent.''

Smith said he understands that there is a mentality prevalent in the NFL in which players will go to great lengths so they can play on Sundays.

``I tend to give the same speech that I give to every team when we see them,'' Smith said. ``We talk about a third to a quarter of the individuals in that locker room are going to be in need of a major hip, knee or joint replacement by the time they are 60 years old.

``They hear that the reported injury rate in the NFL last year was 4,500 reported injuries, while we only had about 1,8000 active players. We also tell them the injury rate in the NFL is 100 percent.

``So it's making sure the players understand the business model they're in. We are pretty blunt with them, telling them that the business model is one that asks them to trade their physicality and their mental ability in exchange for compensation.''

Smith said a snag in a potential agreement in testing for Human Growth Hormone is the league's unwillingness to use a system similar to what Major League Baseball has implemented.

``Our issue with HGH is a rather simple one,'' Smith said. ``If the NFL players are going to be held accountable to a standard, if the league is going to use a standard by which they are going to conclude that a player has unlawfully taken HGH supplements, we want to know what the standard is,'' Smith said.

Smith also mentioned field conditions, coming off complaints about FedEx Field in Washington and the knee injury to Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.

Smith said the condition of all NFL playing fields - or what he calls ``workplace safety issues'' - will be a top priority for the union in the next two years.

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.