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Union head takes on NFL on player safety issues

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Union head takes on NFL on player safety issues

NEW ORLEANS (AP) So much for labor peace in the NFL.

Less than 18 months after the league and players ended a lockout by signing a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and union president Domonique Foxworth used a Super Bowl news conference to lay out a series of complaints about safety issues Thursday.

Smith began by threatening to file a grievance if the NFL refuses to institute a system to verify the credentials of all medical personnel on the 32 teams. He mentioned three amendments the NFLPA wants to make to the new CBA, including the appointment of ``a neutral chief safety officer who can hear appeals about acceptable levels of medical care.''

He called the NFL's lockout of its officials at the start of this season ``one of the most deliberate disregards of player safety that I think has occurred in the National Football League since our inception.''

All in all, it sent a clear message that the union and owners have significant differences about how to improve players' health and safety.

Even when the sides do agree, they can't seem to agree.

The union has been pressing the NFL to put independent neurological consultants on sidelines during games to help diagnose and treat concussions, something league general counsel Jeff Pash announced at a news conference earlier Thursday he expects to begin next season.

But Smith would only acknowledge having ``heard that they have relented, at least in some respect, to have sideline concussion experts. We have not seen the proposal.''

Pash did say that ``details need to be worked through'' with the NFLPA.

The NFL is facing concussion-related lawsuits from thousands of former players. In a series of interviews about head injuries with The Associated Press in December 2011, 31 of 44 players said they wanted the league to have independent neurologists at games.

At its media session Thursday, the union presented the results of an internal survey that it said showed a majority of players are not satisfied with the way their team manages injuries and that most do not trust their team's medical staff. The union would not say how many players participated, however.

``The league, their No. 1 focus - at least they say their No. 1 focus - is health and safety. And we say our No. 1 focus is health and safety,'' Foxworth said. ``How come we have such a hard time moving the ball on some health and safety issues?''

He mentioned the use of replacement officials, the NFL's desire for an 18-game season, the increased slate of Thursday night games and the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation as examples of items that have driven a wedge between the players and the league.

``All those things are happening, and our players see it,'' Foxworth said, ``and they lose trust.''

Still unresolved, too, is implementing blood tests for human growth hormone, something the CBA paved the way for but has not yet started. Pash said the league recently made a new proposal to the union that he thinks will lead to HGH testing next season. But Smith disputed that, saying the league still will not agree to the sort of independent arbitrator that Major League Baseball's drug-testing program has.

Said Smith: ``Why should football players take less due process rights than baseball players?''

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/HowardFendrich

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'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

'It's a house divided': The Redskins-Cowboys rivalry is affecting these 'Skins' families

Zach Brown is a fearless player. Turns out, Zach Brown's dad is pretty fearless, too.

That first statement is one you can confirm by watching the Redskins linebacker play each time he takes the field, often times hurt.

The second statement, on the other hand, was confirmed earlier this week in an interview between Brown and JP Finlay about the Washington-Dallas rivalry.

"It got under our skin, knowing we got swept by them [last year]," the defender told Finlay after a weekday practice. "You just hate to go back home and hear them talk so much trash."

The leader of the brave "them" who actually taunt a 250-pound LB following a loss? Oh, just Brown's father, who's a diehard Cowboys supporter.

"My dad was giving it to me," he said while looking back on the 2017 season. "I said, 'Don't worry about it. Next year's gonna be a different movement.'"

"I'm gonna talk trash at the end of this season," Brown added. "It's a house divided."

Adrian Peterson knows what Brown's talking about. The Texas native even went as far as to break down exactly how his own house is divided.

According to him, 75-percent of his family are all about the Cowboys, 10-percent are looking for him to put up good numbers in a 'Boys victory and the final 15-percent have converted to the burgundy and gold.

Rookie corner Greg Stroman can relate as well. The Virginia kid who'll be making his debut in the series he's very familiar with said his grandma and her relatives fall on both sides of the matchup.

Stroman does have one advantage over Brown and Peterson, though. Unlike the two veterans, he was able to get his entire family's rooting interests in order for Sunday, at least.

"They all bought in now," he said.

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Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors

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Three things to watch for in Wizards' first matchup with Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors

John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and the Toronto Raptors on Saturday night. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Once again, we await word from head coach Scott Brooks on the status of Dwight Howard. Howard, who missed all of the Wizards' preseason with a piriformis injury, was a gametime decision for the opener on Thursday. He ended up not playing, but appeared very close to finally making his debut.

Saturday night could be a different story, though we won't know until shortly before gametime. The Wizards' training staff will evaluate him pregame and make the call. If he can't go, Ian Mahinmi will get the nod as starter like he did against Miami.

Need more Otto

Though it wasn't the reason why the Wizards lost to the Heat, it certainly stood out in the box score how Otto Porter Jr. went without a three-point attempt in the opener. Porter finished third in three-point percentage last season with a 44.1 clip. He simply has to be more involved in the offense.

It will be interesting to see what adjustment the Wizards make to create more opportunities for Porter, and how Porter responds. All parties involved insist it is a mix of several factors, including a need for Porter to simply be more aggressive. That won't be easy against a tough Raptors defense, but expect Porter to get up plenty of threes in this one.

Leonard is out

This game was set to be the first matchup between the Wizards and the revamped Raptors, who added perennial All-NBA selection Kawhi Leonard in the biggest trade of the offseason. But Leonard, it turns out, will not play.

Toronto is resting Leonard, who played in only nine games all of last season due to a quadriceps injury. It's understandable, given the Raptors played the night before against the tough Boston Celtics.

With Leonard out, All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry will be a big focus. They also got guard Danny Green in the Leonard deal and he's off to an excellent start. He's averaging 12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 steals while shooting 50 percent from three so far. Getting him in the trade was a very underrated move by Toronto.

 

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