NFL passes new pad rules for players

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ATLANTA (AP) - The NFL made thigh and knee pads mandatory equipment for the 2013 season, something the players’ union was not pleased with.

Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said Tuesday at an owners meeting that because this is a playing rule, the league can apply it unilaterally.

“We have a vote of the membership and can implement,” McKay said. “Some of us felt we were remiss that we took it out of the rule book _ high school and college makes it mandatory _ and in our mind that is how it should be and will be in 2013.

“We have some work to do with the union.”

McKay said the league will meet with NFL Players Association representatives on the issue, something they have discussed in the past.

But the NFLPA argued that the move should be negotiated.

“Any change in working conditions is a collectively bargained issue,” the union said in a statement. “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 pads rule would not go into effect on the field until next year so equipment manufacturers can work on safety and comfort.

Commissioner Roger Goodell couldn’t see any negatives to adding the thigh and knee pads.

“We have raised the issue of mandatory pads for at least three years now,” he said. “I believe the technology has improved, the pads are far better than a decade ago, they allow better performance and are more protective. Every other level of football uses the pads.”

Former All-Pro safety Troy Vincent, now an NFL vice president, explained why there could be pushback from the players.

“It’s psychological. Less pads you are faster, skinnier, that’s just the way I was introduced to the (pro) game,” he said. “It’s a culture shift. They will adjust.”

Goodell pointed out something a Nike executive told him recently: NBA players are wearing more pads from the hips down than NFL players.

“There is something wrong with that,” Goodell said.

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