HOUSTON — NFL Players Association president Eric Winston pressed the league Thursday for a better adherence to a recently revamped concussion protocol system in which the league and players union jointly determine whether proper assessments are made during games.
“Even though it’s a handful of times we’ve had to investigate, we have to get that number down to zero,” said Winston, who added that there were four investigations into concussion protocol during the 2016 season, with one more case pending. “It doesn’t matter what time of the game it is, the docs and trainers and the teams have to be there for us.”
The league and players union found that Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore should have been removed from the field and sidelines during a playoff game against the Steelers last month after Moore was hit in the helmet. He was allowed to go back into the game, but the league and union determined that he should have been taken to the locker room for further evaluation.
“We’re out there competing, [the NFL medical staffs] have to be the ones that step in and strictly adhere to the concussion protocol,” Winston said.
Winston said he believes there has been improvement in addressing concussions during games, but that more progress needs to be made so that the players can “protect us from ourselves.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said the union is looking into the possible use of medical marijuana to address pain issues, including concussion symptoms, with current players. Many former players who have used marijuana to treat pain report positive results, but Smith said he is not yet ready to offer a definitive proposal.
“We want to look at the issue of pain comprehensively,” he said. “We want to look at the issue of opioids, but we also want to make sure we’re looking at the issue of how and to what extent players are self-medicating if they can’t get medication elsewhere. We will be looking and asking the people who have looked and researched the issue of cannabis, are there legitimate medical uses, under what circumstances could they be used and what circumstances may it make sense that this union would support a therapeutic use exemption. We’re not there yet.”
The NFLPA said it expects the salary cap to significantly increase for the 2017 season, from the 2016 figure of $155.3 million per game. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday the cap could increase by as much as $15 million, to more than $170 million. That represents nearly a five-fold increase from the first year the league instituted a salary cap in 1994, when the cap was $34.6 million per club.
The NFL is entering the seventh year of its 10-year labor agreement with the union, but Smith said he does not expect to agree to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement. He did say there could be a renegotiation, but the players association frequently has complained that Goodell wields too much disciplinary power under terms of the current deal.