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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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Wizards release united statement in response to the death of George Floyd

Wizards release united statement in response to the death of George Floyd

While protests continue across the country following the death of George Floyd, the world's biggest sports figures, including Michael Jordan and LeBron James, have used their platforms to make it clear where they stand on the numerous social issues fueling the protests.

You can now add the Washington Wizards to that group. Early Monday morning, the Wizards posted a "united statement" on social media in response to Floyd's death and the protests that have followed.

Included in the post are four separate statements.

"We will no longer tolerate the assassination of people of color in this country."

"We will no longer accept the abuse of power from law enforcement."

"We will no longer accept ineffective government leaders who are tone-deaf, lack compassion or respect for communities of color."

"We will no longer shut up and dribble."

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans and Rui Hachimura were among players to share the same statements on Instagram.

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What if the Nationals faced the Yankees, not the Astros, in the World Series?

What if the Nationals faced the Yankees, not the Astros, in the World Series?

This week, NBC Sports Washington is taking a look at some of the biggest “What If” questions in Nationals history. First up, Matt Weyrich and Jim Scibilia examine what the 2019 World Series would’ve looked like had the Yankees faced Washington instead of the Astros.

The Houston Astros had a pretty brutal last few months of 2019.

They closed out the month of October by blowing leads in both Games 6 and 7 of the World Series, handing the Nationals one of the biggest upset victories in MLB history. In November, they were exposed for carrying out an illegal sign-stealing scheme that prompted a two-month investigation. Then, just before Christmas, they lost star pitcher Gerrit Cole in free agency.

Perhaps the only thing that could’ve made it worse? Losing to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series to fall short of winning the AL pennant.

In another timeline, the Yankees came back against the Astros in Game 6 of the ALCS before taking them down in a win-or-go-home Game 7. The matchup would’ve posed a very different challenge for the Nationals, who swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS before waiting four days to find out who they would be facing in the World Series.

The Yankees would’ve made their 41st appearance in the Fall Classic, an MLB record. Meanwhile, the Nationals were embarking on their first World Series run in franchise history—and D.C.’s first appearance since 1933. Even though the Astros posed a juggernaut-type threat as well, the Yankees’ history would’ve made the uphill battle appear even more steep for Washington.

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D.C. doesn’t get a lot of credit nationally for being a sports town, but there’s no better way for a fanbase to get in the spotlight than by facing a New York City team in a championship. How does the Nationals Park crowd fare against the Yankee Stadium faithful? What is each city doing to support its team? Have mayors Bill de Blasio and Muriel Bowser made a friendly wager on the outcome of the series?

As for the games themselves, the Nationals entered the World Series on seven days’ rest while the Yankees would’ve only had two days to prepare following their ALCS Game 7 win. Even though many debated whether they would be rusty after the break from playing, the Nationals jumped out to a 2-0 series lead against Houston; they would've been fresh and ready to take on a tired Yankees team.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone planned to use Luis Severino in Game 7 of the ALCS had they made it, which would’ve lined up the following pitching matchups in the World Series:

Game 1 – Masahiro Tanaka vs. Max Scherzer (with Corbin available out of the bullpen)

Game 2 – James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg

Game 3 – Luis Severino vs. Aníbal Sánchez

Game 4 – Yankees’ bullpen vs. Patrick Corbin

Game 5 – Masahiro Tanaka vs. Joe Ross (Scherzer woke up that morning with neck spasms)

Game 6 – James Paxton vs. Stephen Strasburg

Game 7 – Luis Severino vs. Max Scherzer

Just like the real Game 1 with Scherzer and Cole on the mound, this version would’ve featured a fantastic pitching matchup with three-time Cy Young winner Scherzer facing Tanaka and his 1.76 career postseason ERA. However, there was no Justin Verlander behind Tanaka like the Astros had behind Cole, pushing the advantage in starting pitching much farther over in favor of Washington.

Paxton and Severino combined to make five playoff starts last October and only once did one of them advance past the fifth inning (Paxton went six in ALCS Game 5). Strasburg, who won World Series MVP, would’ve been the difference maker with two matchups against Paxton while Severino would’ve been tasked with besting NLCS star Sánchez and Scherzer.

The most intriguing matchup, however, might have been Game 4. The Yankees entered the playoffs with one of the best bullpens in the majors, making it an easy choice for Boone to use his relief corps rather than give J.A. Happ or CC Sabathia a chance to start. On the other side, the Nationals would've been starting prized offseason addition Corbin. The runner-up for his services in free agency? The Yankees.

On offense, New York boasted an elite combination of star power and depth much like the Astros. Giancarlo Stanton would’ve been a player to watch, as his 34 home runs against the Nationals from his time with the Miami Marlins are his second-highest total against any team. Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu, Edwin Encarnacion and Gary Sanchez all presented power threats in the box as well.

Perhaps the two most fun players to watch in the series, however, would’ve been Gleyber Torres and Juan Soto. Both young stars from Latin America play with a flair and level of self-confidence that make them must-watch TV every time they step to the plate. Although each player had already built up a national reputation on their own, facing off on the World Series stage would’ve been a treat for fans everywhere.

Of course, the Yankees didn’t make the World Series, so we’ll never know what the outcome would’ve been had the Nationals faced them instead. But there’s no doubt such a matchup would’ve presented plenty of intrigue—both on and off the field.

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