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NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

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USA TODAY Sports Imahes

NFL revamping players' pain management and prevention programs

NEW YORK -- The NFL and the players' union have two new agreements to address player health in the areas of pain management/prescription medications, and behavior well-being.

The joint agreements, announced Monday, are designed to lead to advancement and understanding of dealing with pain and to improve potential treatments. The league and union also will add to programs already established in education, prevention, and overall behavioral health throughout the league.

"I was hired two years ago and when I was hired I was asked about areas of concern," said Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's medical chief. "And I said these were two areas I saw from my knowledge of someone taking care of athletes for over two decades. I felt a real need there."

"We've been working together with the players' union to come up with something that would work proactively for both. We have the same goal, to take care of the whole player and in a holistic way, and to focus on prevention."

Among the stipulations in the pain management area will be formation of a committee of medical experts appointed by the league and union that will establish uniform standards for club practices and policies in pain management and the use of prescription medication by players. The committee also will conduct research concerning pain management and alternative therapies.

That committee will receive periodic reports from a newly developed prescription drug monitoring program that will monitor all prescriptions issued to NFL players by club physicians and unaffiliated physicians.

Each NFL club must appoint and pay for a pain management specialist before next season.

All this builds on the programs in place.

"We've had an electronically submitted health record for each club in place for a number of years," Sills said. "Medical providers enter the prescriptions they have given to the players. Periodically, our medical advisory committee and the NFL Physicians Society would issue white paper guidelines around strategies. The important change here is obviously it creates a committee tasked with overseeing our educational efforts -- the best practices around pain management."

All 32 teams now must retain by the start of training camp a behavioral health team clinician focused on supporting players' emotional and mental health and well-being. The old bromide of "toughing it out" when someone has such issues has long been discarded, Sills said.

"This is not novel to the NFL or to sports," Sills added. "It applies across all levels of society at all age groups and walks of life, and we know these are issues we need to address."

While the NFL and NFLPA have had previous joint programs in these health areas, Sills and NFLPA President Eric Winston note these initiatives are a major step forward in medical care.

"These agreements are positive developments for our membership as they will provide new and important resources to help players and their families," Winston said. "Our union has always advocated for advancements in health and safety and we think this work with the NFL is another important step to improve care for NFL players."

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One crazy stat that connects Dwayne Haskins with Cam Newton, but also Mark Sanchez

One crazy stat that connects Dwayne Haskins with Cam Newton, but also Mark Sanchez

The Redskins selected Dwayne Haskins with the 15th overall pick of the 2019 NFL Draft. While his record at Ohio State was impressive, Haskins didn't log many starts. 

Washington head coach Jay Gruden talked about Haskins back in March during the league meetings, before the Burgundy and Gold drafted the quarterback, and said that because he played just one year in college he would need significant time to learn the NFL game. 

"You would like a guy to play more than a year to see how he’s developed over the years. Haskins has a unique skillset. He’s big, strong and can really throw it," Gruden said. Then, "Is he going to be ready for the first year?"

After OTAs and minicamp, it's obvious Haskins has all the talent needed to play quarterback in the NFL. He's made touch throws and he's rifled balls into tight windows. At the same time, he seemed confused in spots about play calls and struggled with the speed of the pass rush. 

All of that is normal for a player with just 14 starts. But it's that number, the one year of starting experience in college, that makes one statistic stand out about Haskins. 

That's some serious company, both good, bad and ugly. 

As a rookie in 2011, Cam Newton went 6-10 with 35 total TDs and 17 interceptions, not to mention a Rookie of the Year trophy. His running prowess made up for average numbers in the pass game. The more important comparison for Redskins fans is that Newton eventually developed into an NFL MVP and got the Panthers to the Super Bowl. 

For Mark Sanchez, the rookie numbers and the career comparison aren't as kind. Sanchez threw 12 TDs and 20 INTs in 15 games as a rookie, though he was at the helm as the Jets got to two straight AFC title games. Still, for his career, Sanchez threw more INTs than TDs and could not keep a starting job after his rookie contract. 

Trubisky is a different deal. He's only started 26 games since being the second overall pick in the 2017 draft with a record of 15-11. He's thrown 31 touchdowns against 19 interceptions, and run for another five scores. It's hard to describe Trubisky's game. At times he's terribly inaccurate, but in other spots, he looks like a future Pro Bowler. 

Newton is the sure thing, Sanchez is the poor outcome. Trubisky is still to be determined. 

For Haskins, it's not good company or bad company. With only 14 starts at Ohio State before the Redskins drafted Haskins, it's just the company he's in.

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One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

One analyst sees Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice having to split carries as a 'potential problem'

In theory, Adrian Peterson and Derrius Guice working out of the same backfield should be an enormous boost for the Redskins this season.

In theory, Peterson's presence should allow Guice to slowly ease his way into the NFL during Washington's early contests, and in theory, Guice's availability should help Peterson stay fresher for 16 games since he won't have to be the one handling every carry.

But NBC Sports and Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio doesn't exactly see the Redkins' running back situation playing out so peacefully. The NFL isn't a third-grade classroom; sharing isn't always caring.

"This is going to be a potential problem for the team because Adrian Peterson is not accustomed to giving up touches," Florio recently told NBC Sports Washington.

"When he was in New Orleans for not very long in 2017, he realized he wasn't getting the ball the way that he did in Minnesota," he continued. "He wanted the ball, he ended up being traded to Arizona where they had an injury need that made him the guy. Last year an injury need in Washington made him the guy."

Of the team's 339 rushing attempts by non-quarterbacks in 2018, Peterson was responsible for 251 of them. That means he was shouldered with 74-percent of the overall workload. 

During mandatory minicamp in early June, position coach Randy Jordan laid out his preferred ratio for Peterson and Guice now that they're together. What he wants sounds a lot more even than how last season's breakdown ended up looking.

“They are both different, but they are both explosive,” he said. “The thing is ideally you would like to see a 50/50, 60/40 [split]." 

Florio, however, is wary of how that could upset the future Hall of Famer.

"He wants to be the guy," Florio said. "Derrius Guice is going to — if he plays like he did before we saw that ACL tear last year — he's going to potentially eat into those touches and Adrian Peterson will not be happy about it and he will not be bashful about saying so."

While at the Ashburn podium following an offseason practice, Jay Gruden admitted that Peterson seems like a player who improves as his usage increases, but he ultimately explained he doesn't believe fewer carries will hurt Peterson. And you'd love to believe him.

Many offenses have thrived using multiple options on the ground, and it's an approach you're seeing more and more in pro football. Peterson and Guice can attack defenses in different ways, they have different strengths and they could each ease the burden on one another along with Chris Thompson, who you can't forget about.

Yet these are also two threats who are used to being the primary piece of their units. They're used to 20-plus touches and finding their rhythm at their own pace. So while Gruden, his staff and Redskins fans are focusing on the positive possibilities of a Peterson-Guice duo, Florio is less bullish.

"The more touches Guice gets, the more frustrated Peterson will be, because he knows he's only got so many years left to play football," Florio said. "He wants to get as many carries, as many yards as possible as he climbs higher and higher up the all-time rushing list. That's going to be a challenge for the team in 2019."

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