NFL, NFLPA unveil new concussion protocol enforcement policy
Last year’s embarrassing failure of the Rams and the NFL to get quarterback Case Keenum off the field when he obviously had suffered a concussion resulted in no discipline for anyone involved. However, that failure apparently has contributed directly to the development of a new procedure for enforcing the concussion protocol with real discipline moving forward.
The joint agreement of the NFL and NFL Players Association announced Monday entails each party designate a representative “to monitor the implementation of the protocol and investigate potential violations.” The press release announcing the program explains that "[t]he investigation will not reach medical conclusions; it will only determine whether the protocol was followed.” After the investigation, the league and union “will review the findings to determine if a violation occurred and, if so, to recommend the proper disciplinary response.”
If the parties can’t agree on whether a violation occurred, the matter will be submitted to a third-party arbitrator. The arbitrator eventually will issue a report to Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, and the involved parties.
Ultimately, Goodell has “absolute discretion” to determine the penalties. Still, this process creates a high degree of transparency, making it much harder for situations to be swept under the rug.
A first violation can trigger a fine of up to $150,000. If Goodell finds aggravating circumstances, the minimum fine will be $50,000. Subsequent violations will result in minimum fines of $100,000.
The procedure also allows for the Commissioner to strip draft picks, if Goodell “determines that the club’s medical team failed to follow the protocol due to competitive considerations.”
That’s the provision that will get the attention of the teams. Fines are viewed a cost of doing business; lost draft picks directly affect the ability to do business.
Whether it ever comes to that remains to be seen. Regardless, it appears that something good finally has emerged from last year’s bizarre failure of the Rams and the league to protect Case Keenum.