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.

Quick Links

Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

Week 6's Redskins game marked another successful celebration of the THINK-PINK! campaign

During the Redskins-Panthers Week 6 matchup, the FedEx Field end zones ditched their usual gold trim for some pink instead. As it turns out, burgundy and pink go quite well together.

The reason for the change was to celebrate the Redskins Breast Cancer Awareness game as well as the 20th anniversary of Tanya Snyder's THINK-PINK! campaign.

Mrs. Snyder started the movement two decades ago by passing out 8,000 handmade pink ribbons at the team's stadium meant to remind people that early detection of breast cancer can make a major difference.

Now, her campaign has gone league-wide and is the reason you see so many players wearing pink in October, fans waving pink towels in the stands and other awareness-raising initiatives throughout the NFL.

"Very, very, very proud," Snyder said while handing out ribbons before the Washington-Carolina game. "We're not finished, but we are making a difference with early detection. So I'm beaming." 

For more information on Snyder and the NFL's breast cancer efforts, head to And for more details about the events held at FedEx Field during Week 6, check out the video above.


Quick Links

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

Dwight Howard practices for first time with Wizards, raising likelihood he plays in opener

On Monday, for the first time since 2018-19 training camp began, the Wizards were complete.

Dwight Howard, who missed three weeks due to a strained piriformis muscle, participated in his first full practice with his new team. The 32-year-old signed a free agent deal with the Wizards in July, but had yet to take the court due to the injury, which began bothering him shortly before camp began on Sept. 25.

Howard had a setback on Oct. 6 and saw a specialist in New York. He received a pain injection on Tuesday and on Saturday began shooting again.

After clearing that hurdle, he was ready to be a full-go with his new teammates.

"It felt pretty good. I really gotta catch my wind and learn some of the offense. But other than that, it felt pretty good," Howard said of Day 1.

Howard practicing on Monday gives him two more days to work with before the Wizards open their season on Thursday at home against the Miami Heat. Both he and head coach Scott Brooks say it's too early to tell if he will be available.

"We'll see how it feels. I will do everything I can to make myself available for all 82 games," Howard said.

Howard not only has to play himself into game shape, he has to develop chemistry and timing with his new teammates. He missed all five of their preseason games.

If Howard can play, that would certainly be a positive turn of events for the Wizards. As of the end of last week, it seemed highly unlikely he would be ready when the regular season began.

But Howard turned a corner and now appears to be coming along quicker than once expected. 

"It was probably our best practice of training camp," Brooks said Monday after finally getting Howard into the mix.

"He has a natural feel. His IQ was pretty high, I was impressed with that. He picked things up."

Howard signed a two-year contract worth $11 million to join the Wizards in July.