Lost in the aftermath of the NFLPA’s decision to sue the NFL for collusion occurring in 2010 was the debate regarding the question of whether players should be required to wear thigh pads and knee pads.
By way of summary, the NFL decided on Tuesday that thigh and leg pads will be required as of 2013. The union believes it first must agree to the change, and plenty of players have griped about it.
During a Thursday press conference held outside NFLPA headquarters, executive director DeMaurice Smith briefly addressed the leg-pad controversy.
“I understand the position that the league took and announced the other day on hip pads and thigh pads,” Smith said, via Mark Maske of the Washington Post. “It does seem somewhat ironic to me that there’s been discussions about hip pads and thigh pads and I frankly don’t remember one conversation about how we can develop a better mouthpiece or whether we should have uniform helmet standards in the National Football League. If the league wants to focus on hip pads and thigh pads right now, I think I understand why. . . . On a day when they want to talk about hip pads and thigh pads, I’m well aware of the discussions that we haven’t had.”
Actually, the NFL should be talking about developing a better mouthpiece and establishing uniform helmet standards. But if the NFL were to mandate the use of mouthpieces and specific types of helmets, the players would react even more loudly than they are to the issue of leg pads. Many players don’t and won’t wear mouthpieces, and plenty more refuse to embrace new helmet designs and technologies.
It therefore wouldn’t be a surprise to see the NFL take De Smith up on his offer, which could back the union into a corner and, if the NFLPA resists, demonstrate to the media, the fans, and all potential jurors in the pending and future concussion cases that players have little or no regard for their own safety, health, and well-being.