NFL owners on Tuesday decided to mandate the use of knee and thigh pads as of 2013. But the NFL realizes that these matters ultimately must be resolved via discussions with the union.
The union has issued a general, non-committal statement regarding the situation.
“Any change in working conditions is a collectively-bargained issue,” the NFLPA said in a statement posted on the union’s website. “While the NFL is focused on one element of health and safety today, the NFLPA believes that health and safety requires a comprehensive approach and commitment. We are engaged in and monitor many different issues, such as players’ access to medical records, prescription usage and the situation with professional football’s first responders, NFL referees. We always look forward to meeting with the NFL to discuss any and all matters related to player health and safety.”
The message seems to be that the union doesn’t intend to address safety issues in isolation, but more broadly. And the use of the phrase “professional football’s first responders, NFL referees” represents a not-so-subtle reference to the possibility that the NFL will lock out the game officials and replace them.
Indeed, safety entails much more than wearing knee and thigh pads, and it’s important for the union to be mindful of all potential factors and issues that could make the game more, or less, safe for the players. For now, we can only hope that this isn’t a strategy for dragging feet regarding the issue of leg pads, in the hopes of finagling a concession simply because it’s known that the league wants to make thigh and knee pads non-optional.