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{ DeMaurice Smith, Domonique Foxworth, Dr. Lee Nadler & Dr. Ross Zafonte discuss player health & safety. Charlie Batch wins Byron Whizzer White Award. }
Author: FastScripts by ASAP Sports Posted: 2/1/2013

NFLPA Press Conference

January 31, 2013

 

DeMAURICE SMITH

DOMINIQUE FOXWORTH

LEE NADLER, M.D.

ROSS ZAFONTE, D.O.

CHARLIE BATCH

 

GEORGE ATALLAH:  Ladies and gentlemen, welcome.  Thank you for joining us today.  It's the 2013 NFLPA press conference from the Super Bowl in New Orleans.  We appreciate everybody's attendance today.  My name is George Atallah, we'll be discussing today player safety.  And we'll have plenty of time to answer questions at the end. 

We'll start with some background to start off.  DeMaurice Smith will provide a health and safety update on where we are in union activities and what type of service we have for the players in the last year, and where we'll go.  After that, we'll welcome our esteemed guests from Harvard University and talk a little about the $100 million dollar research fund that we are going to be collaborating with them on, hopefully.  Then we'll open it up to questions after that. 

So with that opening, I want to mention two things first and foremost for everybody in the audience.  I did a lot of work with a lot of people in this room throughout the year.  You know that as a union, we work very hard to protect players' rights.  We know that you have (all reported on the stellar work of) our legal team led by our general counsel, but we have many other members of our staff that work tirelessly on behalf of players to protect their rights, current and former players.  At the NFL's behest, under the direction of our President, Domonique Foxworth, we have players involved more than ever in all areas of our association, including communities like finance and investment, communications, and also on the business side in Players, Inc., we work to advance their interests. 

Our business has never been stronger.  Under the leadership of President Keith Gordon, our licensing rights are more valuable than ever and allow us to generate revenue for our players.  It's an additional way we can help our players and serve our leaders. 

Player marketing this year had 22 member licensees, that's the best we've ever had, and that shows the growth that we have as an association.  We also completed our second annual Collegiate Bowl. 

But the real reason we're here today is to talk about health and safety.  And with that, I'll introduce executive director DeMaurice Smith.

DeMAURICE SMITH:  What a quiet bunch.  Good afternoon, everyone.  First and foremost, I want to just say thank you to the people of New Orleans, for putting on a wonderful Super Bowl.  I can't imagine a city that's more special for the Super Bowl than New Orleans and for the fans and for the people we love here, the coaches.  You know that both the fans and the players are near and dear to the NFL Players Association over the past year.  It's very nice to be in New Orleans and not have to spend time at the courthouse or think about the new lawsuit they're about to file. 

On a serious note, for the players who were involved and their fans, was it a little bit personal for us given the connection between this city and the teams that are involved?  Yes.  And I'm never going to apologize for it.  Our job is to defend and represent our players, and there's never going to be a day where we or I will apologize for doing anything less. 

So, first and foremost, I can see my lovely parents once again in the room.  For the last four years they've made this trip down to the Super Bowl press conference just to see all of you in the sports press community.  So thank you very much for entertaining them.  And as we mentioned, our staff, because they are the best (in the world. So I can see in the back,) just to name a couple people, Chester Pitts who was in the fight with us.  Thanks for being here. 

(Cornelius Bennett) from our Executive Committee here in the front row, Eric Winston, former President, Kevin Mawae, Mickey Washington who now sits as a former player on our Executive Committee.  (Brian) Waters, member of our Executive Committee, of course, Charlie Batch along with our President Domonique Foxworth. 

Just for a few minutes, I want to talk about where we are in the state of football.  For now until at least the next few years this has always been called the annual state of the union address.  For the next few years we're going to call it the state of the players address.  Where we are in the issue of health and safety with respect to this game is something that we know has dominated the airwaves. 

And today we'll be talking about a partnership that we have with Harvard UNIVERSITY.  But most importantly, it's a partnership that was borne out of nearly three years ago when we started thinking about where the players wanted to be at the end of the collective bargaining process.  Certainly there was and will always be a tremendous focus when it comes to collective bargaining on what is the shared revenue between players and owners, and what the salary cap is going to be.  What’s the issue of Commissioner discipline. 

But the thing that I am most proud of from our players is that nearly two or three years ago when we started thinking about where we were going to be once we got a deal done, it was our players, and it wasn't me, who made a decision that they needed to take a hundred million dollars of their money and dedicate it to health and safety. 

I challenge each and every one of you to find a union in America that has done that.  It's the first time that it's happened, as far as I know, in the history of sport, and why?  Because a number of people want to portray our players as being myopically focused on how much they're willing to get paid or who is going to issue discipline.  It is these player leaders, it was this president, who made a decision to get paid less to invest in something that they knew would become more. 

For that, I am always eternally grateful.  Because, to be frank and to be blunt, each and every day when our young men outperform what's expected of them, is a day that I'm proud.

So it is in that narrative, it is in that tradition that they follow people like Cornelius Bennett.  It is in that tradition, it is in that history that they follow people like Gene Upshaw.  And it is certainly in that same tradition that we follow people like John Mackey.  So, for us, and for our leadership, our job each and every day is to make sure that we look beyond where we are, to look beyond where we are right now and focus on where we want to be.  And for that, I'm eternally grateful. 

So, today, in addition to talking about the grant and the project with Harvard, our hope today is that we move to something transformational.  That we move beyond just a conversation about safety that focuses on what the next fine is going to be, what the next hit looks like, whether or not there's going to be a kickoff.  The issue of safety in the National Football League is a bigger issue than the myopic issues that we sometimes are forced to talk about. 

Where we need to be is to engage in a transformational discourse of what it means to be involved in a sport where we know injuries are the necessary enforceable consequence of what happens.  We need to move beyond a world where we simply start to treat football or think about football as something that's just a guilty pleasure.  And we certainly can't ever, and we will never allow ourselves to get to a point where football is something that is practiced by a group, that some people refer to as gladiators.  That's not our mission. 

Our mission is that I know there are men in this league whose fathers played in this league.  We look at them.  We can see Tom Carter in the back room and know that his son is a star player at Stanford who is destined to come into this league.  Tom cares about what happens to safety, because he knows that he's going to make a better world for that young man. 

So our issue, our discussion hopefully today starts to move in a broader, bigger direction.  So while there are a number of things that we and Fox will talk about with respect to the Harvard project.  There are three isolated ‑‑ I shouldn't say isolated.  There are three discreet issues that we will continue to fight that are high on our radar screen. 

First and foremost, having Sideline Concussion Experts at every game.  I am aware that the league recently made an announcement at their press conference.  I wasn't there.  But I've heard that they have relented in at least some respect with our request to have Sideline Concussion Experts.  We have not seen the proposal.  But we asked for Sideline Concussion Experts, because this year you reported on a number of high‑profile instances where players were apparently concussed or at least had suffered a sub-concussive hit, and we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the sideline concussion protocol that we all agreed to was not given to those players. 

If we are in a world today in 2012 where we can see 8, 10, 12 players who have suffered a concussive event on the sideline, and we know that the sideline concussion protocol takes at least 7 minutes to give, if we then see that player put back in the game 45 seconds later, we'd know that the sideline doctors have failed to employ the very protocol that we agreed to use. 

So our solution for that is that we'd have a sideline concussion expert that was not paid by either team.  That that person would have one job of making sure that that sideline concussion protocol is in order, and if that person made a determination that that player should not go back in, that player's not going back in. 

That is something that I'm hoping the National Football League he has finally agreed to, but it's also something that we have committed ourselves to filing a grievance if we need to in order to get those Sideline Concussion Experts utilized in our game. 

By the way, the Sideline Concussion Experts have been endorsed by the American college of emergency physicians and the American academy of neurology. 

Second, earlier this year, we asked to engage in a credentialing for the first time of every medical and training personnel on teams.  What that simply means is that we the National Football League Players Association and player representatives want to make sure who are the individuals caring for our players in treating them, and this is important, treating them as patients. 

We ask the league to engage in this credentialing program with us, so that we would know the backgrounds.  We'd know whether or not any of them have had charges against them for malpractice, any judgments against them for malpractice.  We wanted to engage in a discipline process where we understood exactly who was providing our care. 

Unfortunately, the league did not agree with our credentialing process.  Once again, that is something that we hope they would change our minds on.  But, as you know, in probably somewhat a familiar refrain, we are prepared to file a grievance. 

Lastly, you know that we have had a rather high profile disagreement with the National Football League with respect to several teams who have forced our players to sign waivers of liability before a doctor would give them medical treatment in the form of dispensing Toradol.  I cannot think of a more repugnant practice than a doctor forcing a patient to waive liability before he gives them care. 

That is the subject of a grievance, and, again, while I hope that the league would make sure that the teams that have done that, that they would withdraw those, we're prepared to fight for the thing that's we need for our players. 

The last part before we move on to the Harvard study is this discussion about how we move forward on transformation.  During this year's players' meeting in March, three of the things that we want to discuss as player leaders are thinking that we want to discuss as commitments to the collective bargaining agreement. 

One of them is whether or not we should move forward with the National Football League appointing a chief safety officer.

Virtually every major company in America has one individual who is responsible for the health, welfare and safety of the employees.  There is no chief safety officer for the National Football League.  We believe that it's the right time to engage in the discussion on whether the union and the league can agree on a mutual chief safety officer who can hear appeals of whether or not the safety and welfare has fallen below an acceptable medical care, and, if need be, that chief safety officer can impose performance to ready efficiency, and, if necessary, impose whatever damages are necessary under the circumstances. 

I believe it's a discussion that we should have with our players.  And if we have come to the conclusion it should be an amendment to the CBA, that's the way that we'll proceed. 

Second, it is time for us to seriously contemplate what are our players' rights at work?  I believe our players are entitled to the best medical care in the country.  I believe that our players are entitled to have medical professionals who have been selected because of their ability to provide the best care.  As you can imagine, I'm being relatively careful about what I say. 

I believe that we as players have the right to be taken care of if our players get injured at work.  If our players do get injured at work and do suffer continuous injuries after football is over, in the same way that every company in the United States adheres to workers' compensation plans, we should have a right to effective workers' compensation.  Our rights at work are important, and again it is going to be an issue that we discuss as a group of players in March. 

Finally, it seems to me that there needs to be an affirmative duty of safety from the National Football League to the players of the National Football League added to the collective bargaining.  If you would have asked me two years ago do I think we need an explicit duty of safety added to the collective bargaining agreement, I would have probably said no. 

But I have to say the lockout of the referees was one of the most deliberate disregards of player safety that I think has occurred in the National Football League since our inception.  So it seems to me that we need to move toward a world where there is an affirmative and codified duty of safety of the National Football League to the players. 

We'll have a number of questions later on, discussing this, and the RFP process and the Byron Whizzer White Award. But I'd like to turn the microphone over to President, Domonique Foxworth.

DOMONIQUE FOXWORTH:  Thanks a lot De. I feel like De took all the good stuff.  So I'll take the advice of Kevin Mawae, our former president, who told me earlier that I shouldn't be too thought out about what I'm going to say.  Just speak from the heart, which I do appreciate his advice. 

I have relied on him for a ton of advice throughout this process, and I couldn't anticipate how difficult and how challenging this job is to live up to.  The example set, I came in and as president, to live up to the expectations of the executive committee and the players.  The players are very demanding as I'm sure you've learned a lot from your leaders, and they’ve definitely demanded a lot from me.

It's difficult when you get a call from somebody three or four times your size to telling you to "get this shit straight" whatever the issue is.  It's one of the same calls or emails.  Unfortunately, I never received a call or email saying, "thanks, you got that shit straight."  But I know they're thinking it, so I appreciate it. 

It's definitely a challenge, and I'm happy to have everybody standing by me.  As George alluded to earlier.  I mentioned to the board right after I was elected that my goal was to increase player involvement.  We've really had an increase in player involvement, and the staff is just world class. 

I really appreciate the work that the staff has done.  I don't know if they appreciated me as much.  Since I'm not playing, and I grew up and live in Baltimore, I spend a hell of a lot of time in the D.C. office getting on everyone's nerves and making sure that they're doing what they're supposed to be doing and making sure that I understand. 

It's a lot about learning and not just about being the boss.  It's understanding what's going on and making sure that they're sticking to it.  I've really been appreciative, especially with the guys that are here, from Charlie, Brian, and Hasselbeck in the back.  I know that these guys have been helpful for me.  Where there's a project going on that I can't keep up on all the projects, they checkup on staff and make sure things are going well.  You've all been great, and I express my gratitude to De and the entire staff for doing a tremendous job protecting players. 

And I know I don't get those thanks calls and emails, so they probably don't hear it.  So from all of us players, I want you to know that we appreciate it and the staff appreciates it. 

As far as health and safety is concerned, I think that our goal and our purpose, our obligation for existing is to defend the rights of our players.  That's where it starts and that's where it ends for us.  That means health and safety and all the rights of our players.  I think that we've shown decisions as a body of players and as a staff that reflect that we understand that obligation. 

I often get questioned, and yesterday I spent a lot of time in the media den, and I got a lot of questions about why it's the league ‑‑ their number one focus, at least they say their number one focus health and safety, and we say our number one focus is health and safety, how come we have such a hard time moving the ball with some health and safety issues? 

And it always reminds me of something that my father spoke to me about.  You never really are concerned with what people say.  You're more concerned with the actions that they make.  That is the person that you're dealing with, and, in this case, the organization that you're dealing with. 

I think the decisions and moves that we've made as an executive committee, and a staff and group of players, especially as a group of players, the thing that De touched on, the players decided to cut the hundred million out of the salary cap.  Hundred million dollars is a lot of money that will go a long way for a lot of players. 

Even before the lockout, a lot of players were concerned about helping our former players, and helping them to help this game evolve to a safer and more secure place as far as health and safety is concerned for our players.  So they were willing to devote their money to doing so. 

I only say that because I get somewhat offended and annoyed when members of the media ask questions about why we can't work better with the league on health and safety.  I think there's been a track record of us making what I believe to be smart, calculated decisions to improve this process, and some of the decisions that they make aren't the same. 

I mean, De touched on the referees.  I believe health and safety is on their list of Top 5 things when it comes in well behind increasing the bottom line, which, obviously, is a concern of ours.  We want to keep growing this game.  It's better for everyone, but above that is health and safety.  But Thursday night games is another example.  18 games is another example.  Fighting us on the SCEs, the sideline concussion experts, is another example. 

So I do believe that it is one of their priorities.  I just don't believe it's as high on their list as we'd like it to be. 

But I'll get off my soap box.  I'm sure George is going to be mad at that that I went into attacking the league at this time.  But it's a responsibility of mine that I take very seriously.  I think it leads us well into the hundred million dollars to Harvard.  I wanted to go through the process which we decided on using Harvard to help facilitate this research process. 

When we first came into this process, we found it to be very difficult to find an organization that was willing to do player‑specific research.  One that was also more efficient with the money that we were willing to spend.  So we kind of made a unique process that fit us, and we're really happy with the result of the process. 

We sent out RFPs to dozens of researching institutions.  We got back dozens of responses.  We took those and narrowed it down to about 11, I believe, that we requested full applications from UNC, Michigan, Tulane, Harvard, obviously, and a number of other institutions. 

From there we selected a group, a review panel of very well‑respected in their field doctors and researchers, including colonel ‑‑ I never know if I should call him Doctor Or Colonel, or Colonel Dr. Ling, I'm not sure.  But he's obviously one of the most well‑respected people in medicine.  He's one of the people on the panel.  Dr. Benjamin, Dr. Alessi, and Dr. DeAngelis make up the rest of the panel. 

From there they researched and studied the 11 applications, narrowed it down again to a smaller group.  That smaller group sent follow‑up questions to, and into a more deep interview.  And from there, they advised us to select Harvard as the best group.  We agreed.  We went up to Harvard, and saw their proposal.  And we're very appreciative and excited about the opportunities. 

I think one of the words that De touched on earlier, as I said, he stole all the good stuff, is transformative.  I think what we're going to do is transformative here.  The same way we know we have an obligation to our players; our players know they have an obligation to the greater football community and greater football world. 

As excited as I am about what this is going to do for the health and safety, total body health and safety of our players, and how I know it's going to improve their quality years of life, our players understand that is also going to improve the quality of life and the quality of care for players throughout college and high school, all the way down to Pop Warner and very young. 

So that is something that's not lost on our players.  I recognize that it's something that our guys take very seriously, and something that makes me very proud and something that they're interested in. 

Lastly, I did want to talk about what came of this process that was somewhat unique.  It's not a traditional grant process.  It's something that called long‑term cost reimbursement process that allows us a great deal of flexibility and control.  We're using an external advisory board made up of former players and doctors to make sure that we're always on the right path and we're reaching our deliverable milestones. 

As I said, the real defining factor and what's going to determine whether this is successful or not, and what we determine at the end of this process is whether we're able to increase the quality years of life of our players compared to the general population. 

It's something that is a very lofty goal, but it's meant to be transformative, and we'll work towards seeing that.

I'd like to end by saying (interrupting buzzing noise) that's pretty loud.  My wife is due next month, or excuse me, in two weeks.  I can't turn my phone off, but that wasn't me.  That's not my phone. 

Anyway, I just want to thank you guys for that, and from there, I think we're going to transition into inviting up the doctors from Harvard.  I'll let you handle that, George.  It was a long process, and we're rebuilding our relationship, especially Lee, because we got into it a number of times in the process.  Because we wanted it to be perfect, and they wanted it to be perfect.  So I'll let George introduce him.  I'm sure Lee doesn't like me.

GEORGE ATALLAH:  I'd like to welcome to the stage, please, Dr. Lee Nadler who is the dean clinical and translational research at Harvard Medical School, and the director of his Harvard catalyst program.  Dr. Ross Zafonte who is an Earle P. And Ida S. Charlton Professor and chair of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and chief of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.  We'll make all of these available to you. 

Other members of our Harvard team that are here with us today.  They are here to help us protect and improve the health of our members.

William Meehan, director of the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention and director of the Sports Concussion Clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital.  Dr. Alvaro Pascual‑Leone, HMS associate dean for clinical and translational research, professor of neurology, and director of the Berenson‑Allen Center for Noninvasive Brain Stimulation at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. 

And also, Herman Taylor, Professor of medicine and attending physician in the division of cardiovascular diseases and internal medicine from the University of Mississippi Medicine Center. 

I'm glad I got through that without stumbling.  With that, I really want to try to turn it over to Dr. Nadler to talk a little more about the process.  Thanks. 

DR. NADLER:  Well, listening to Fox over here, the words that came to my mind for us as we started this is this was a real privilege.  I've been a doctor and researcher for a little over 35 years at Harvard, and never did I see such a challenge and I ran a lot of organizations.  Here was a group of people really interested in their own health and demanded us to be transformational. 

It was late June when we first saw this, and what actually happened was we realized they had six questions that no one institution could answer.  We weren't even sure if you used all of our 12,000 faculty and 30,000 trainees that we could answer their questions, because we realized that what they were doing was the whole athlete, their whole life.  That meant everything. 

It wasn't just an injury of a knee, or a single concussion.  It was what Fox said.  It was the quality adjusted years of life that was our objective.  So we did what the NFLPA did.  We pulled a team together and kept moving from place to place.  Everybody wanted to come alone at Harvard.  We pulled them all together. 

I will tell you, we've never worked harder.  Night after night, week after week, and do you think these guys are easy on us, as soon as we put the first application together, they teed up a harder one.  And they limited the number of pages.  I loved to write a lot, so they gave us three and a half pages for the first application.  Then they gave us 12 pages for the second application to do everything that would be transformative.  Then finally, they gave us 17 questions. 

I've led a lot of teams at Harvard over my life and led a lot of different things, but this team came together for us.  All over the schools, our law school came in, I've never seen it before.  What touched us most was that it was the players interested in their own lives, but interested in the kids of this country who play football and play every contact sport.  Every mother will wake up better off some day when this work is done because they care about the people.

So the players through caring about people and what's transformative here is a cultural change in America of a union caring about the country’s people.  For me, that was transformative. 

ROSS ZAFONTE:  I think that this is a remarkable opportunity.  We are humbled by this opportunity.  It is a chance for us to respond to a very tough set of questions.  By doing so, we can try to define what happens with this illness. 

So what is our plan?  Our plan is really to help define what really happens.  What makes someone relatively well, and someone relatively unhealthy?  How can we identify with specific factors that go into that?  Who they are?  How many exposures they've had?  What position they played?  How many years they played?  What other things went on in their life? 

By garnering that information over a period of time, we can do some important things.  One, we can enhance our ability to prevent injury.  Two, we can make better diagnoses, or, three, we can mitigate early injury or enhance, what we call resilience, or ability to tolerate an injury.  Then, lastly, for those who sustained an injury, we can define that better pattern to treatment. 

So we hope to accomplish ‑‑ we will accomplish all of this because we've been able to bring in all of those from Harvard, our collaborators beyond, and we have a partnership with the NFLPA.

GEORGE ATALLAH:  We're going to start taking some questions from the audience.  But I want to put up a slide on where the hundred million dollars is from, and then we'll open it up to the floor for your questions.

DR. NADLER:  It's very important to understand how we're going to do this.  And it is in partnership with the players, because we're going to go out to the players and former players of this country and find a thousand of them that will partner with us. 

We're going to see them where they live.  We partner with the research centers of minority institutions and with our clinical and translational science centers.  We're going to talk to them and their families.  We're going to do histories.  Histories of what medications they took and injuries, but we're going to do tests and cardiovascular, neurologic, psychiatric, orthopedic, locally. 

We're looking for and what we're really searching for is a hundred players that are healthy and 100 players who are unhealthy ‑‑ I meant, 1,000 each.  100 on each side, to be able to find the extremes.  The people who take the same position, the same number of years, but they're really different.  Because once we have that, we can bring those players to Boston and work with them to do studies that have never been done, to be able to do science that's never been done and to unravel the mechanisms of what happened. 

Once we know that, we'll achieve the transformation, and it's a partnership.

Q.      You say you're looking for 1,000 players.  Are we talking retired, active or a combination? 

DR. NADLER:  I think in the beginning we're going to take those who are retired.  I've seen people, some of whom have played the same position for the same number of years.  One of whom is medically well.  Another of whom has cognitive problems, mobility problems, problems with their joints, all sorts of issues.  How do we define who is healthy, as we say, and who is unhealthy?  So we're going to get that thousand from the former players.

Q.      Doctor, when you talked about going to other schools you mentioned law school, and pardon my ignorance, but what does a law school have to do with this process? 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  That's a great question.  One of the things that we sometimes overlook as we think about safety and wellness are the ethical implications of what we do.  Johan Huizinga, you know I'm a philosophy major, wrote what everybody considers to be the work on sport.  And there are two fundamental things about sport that he says define sport.  The two things are people want to play, the people want to watch. 

It is not until you add this issue of being paid to play or paying to watch that a number of interesting ethical legal issues start to arise. 

So whether it's the ethical obligations of the employer to the employee, the ethical obligations of a team to its player, the hippocratic oath implications of the doctor to his patient of conformed consent, whether they are ethical, philosophical or legal issues, those are things that are important to us. 

So, one of the reasons we hired for the first time an ethicist to help us graph this RFP was because after you move beyond the issue of watching sport and playing sport, once you get into that paradigm of the financial issues that are around it, a number of issues that we typically don't talk about arise. 

I'm convinced that if we don't at least engage in the discussion of those, we can get a number of great things and actually find out the answer and perhaps not know how to use it.

Q.      DeMaurice, in Detroit, Calvin Johnson had said for about three weeks that he had a concussion and continued to play with a concussion.  After three weeks unfortunately he had suffered nerve damage as a result of that concussion.  The team then issued a press release to say none of that stuff had ever happened.  Is that an instance where you talk about players' safety where you feel like maybe the concussion sidelines tests have failed the player? 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  No, I don't think that we're ever really in a world, and perhaps I misunderstood the question, I don't think we're ever in a world where science or medicine has failed the player.  If we can pull up the slides on the survey that we conducted among our own players and how they feel about their own medical staff, their general managers and their teams. 

The issue for a player is going back to a discussion.  The issue for a player is always that juxtaposition from the sport that he plays to the fact that he gets compensated for playing it, and that you have team doctors employed by the teams.  And those team doctors have interesting relationships with the teams. 

I know all of you are fans of Hard Knocks, of course.  If you remember the Hard Knocks show with the New York Jets, you saw an instance during one of those shows where a team doctor was standing with a player who was going through an MRI.  That player's MRI results pop up.  Then the whole country is privy to a conversation between the doctor and the GM and the coach about a player's MRI results. 

Who among us who are not football players would allow our private doctor to do an X‑ray of us and then come on national television and talk about it?  So, to me, the issues of what happened in Detroit, I'm sorry, I'm not familiar with that particular issue, to me, the real issue is this.  We took a survey of our players.  We've done this at least on three occasions.  I like surveys of our players, because rather than deal with issues anecdotally, we try to figure out what our players are signing on and helps us to think about what we need to do with our resources. 

So we've asked a number of our players to engage in a limited survey.  1 being the score of very good, 5 on the scale of being very bad. 

The first category of how do you rate your GM?  For right now, let's momentarily skip over that.  The second question, how satisfied are you with your teams overall management?  63% of our players said that they were not satisfied with that.  Next slide. 

First question on this line, do you trust your team medical staff?  78% of the players, no.  Now the only scary part is that the only place where that might actually be news is for people who don't play football. 

Second category, how do you rate your team's training staff?  43% said ‑‑ here's the overall takeaway for us, all the things that we can do that are connected with this study to hopefully improve these numbers.  But the game has seen and the game as played, also, for us, as a component of a working relationship between the players and owners.  And it is to that that we dedicate ourselves to issues like credentialing, Sideline Concussion Experts, and reforming our workers’ compensation system.

Q.      You mentioned (Indiscernible) negligence. 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  No, I didn't say negligence.  Let's be clear.  I wouldn't put that up with recklessness.  Negligence is when you stand back and things that are not, perhaps not foreseen happen.

Q.      (Indiscernible)?

DeMAURICE SMITH:  In San Diego there is a team doctor named Dr. Chao who is currently the San Diego team doctor.  Who has been found libel for medical malpractice twice.  Twice.  The same doctor was the subject of a DEA investigation.  He's still the San Diego Chargers team doctor. 

Now, I'm not a doctor.  I don't even play one on TV.  But it seems to me that the players in the National Football League deserve to have a doctor that's not been fined for medical malpractice, and that's what we're asking for.

Q.      Did you guys conduct the survey or have an outside group do it?  What was the sample?

DeMAURICE SMITH:  We did it internally. We'll give it to you.

Q.      Now? 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  Oh, sure.  Yeah, sure. His question was how many players did we utilize in the survey?  Did we do it outside?  We did it internally.  George can provide the sample size.

Q.      My question was about credentialing?

DeMAURICE SMITH:  I already butchered philosophy, and my Professor is rolling over in his grave right now.  The credentialing question? 

Q.      Yes, how did you go about that? 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  Again, the doctors here are probably in a much better position to talk about credentialing.  But our standpoint is we want to know who is providing the care for our players.  So, for us, it would start with what we get from the National Football League.  The name of the person, where they went to school, who they are affiliated with, what their practice area is.

We want to do a deeper dive. We want to know if, for example, there's been any complaints against the doctor for malpractice.  We want to know if there are any judgments against them.  We want to know more detailed information about how the teams have selected their doctors. 

Here's my concern, and, again, I'm being careful about phrasing the question.  A number of the physicians in the country have financial relationships with the team where they are quote unquote, sponsors of a training facility or have some other financial relationship. 

We want to make sure that our players are treated as patients.  In order to know at least at the initial stage who are the best people to provide that care, we need to engage in a detailed credentialing of who those are that are credentialed.

Q.      So you want a final say on who the team doctors are? 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  This is one of those areas, Jim, where, contrary to popular belief, I do try to find middle ground most of the time.  Instead of us engaging in a role where we have final say or they have final say, I like the process just to start with what do we know?  And then we can go from there. 

But our view and America's view, is that the employer has an obligation to the employee to provide as safe a workplace as possible.  And the reason that we added the field conditions the reason why during the next year we'll have discussions about amendments to the collective bargaining agreement is, again, we engage in this discussion of this partnership to transform where we are. 

But at the same time, we want to make sure that the issue of accountability remains an issue that we can rely on.  It's the same reason why we've formed a partnership with Pop Warner football.  I know Mary Fitzgerald is here in the crowd.  But the reason why we partnered with Pop Warner football is simply a number of our players played Pop Warner football. 

So if we can engage in a practice so that the rules or the decisions that we come up with, the protocols that we come up with or things that can be replicated on a college and youth level, then people like Domonique Foxworth, who played Pop Warner football or the two people here that are sitting here played Pop Warner football, who went to the Pop Warner Super Bowl, (Foxworth interrupts – indiscernible).  But, if we, now you know everyone has a little window into what my life is like. 

But if we are able to do what we do here and that has an impact on College Football, and we know that has an impact on youth football, we know that.  We do.  Pop Warner eliminated two‑a‑day practices, the same way we eliminated two‑a‑day practices. 

If we can come up with protocols to keep our players safe, that's a good day for the NFL Players Association.  I know it's a great day for NFL players.

Q.      When you look at those numbers and you see trust issues that exist, and just based on the competitive nature of the game, how sometimes player safety can run counter to the team’s interest to win.  What can be done? 

DOMONIQUE FOXWORTH:  I don't think we should get to a point where I can't trust anyone outside.  I think a healthy level of distrust is probably necessary.  De was kind when he read it because he chose not to put the fours and fives together.  If you put them together, it's over 90%, which I think he spoke to 78% of bad, but if you group bad with very bad, you get over 90 in categories. 

With our conversation, we had a meeting with the league last Friday, I made it very clear to them that it's very difficult for both of us to collaborate and to do our jobs and move the ball on a lot of issues because of the level of distrust that's been created, frankly, by actions that they've taken. 

Being in New Orleans is a perfect place to talk about some of the actions that they've taken that have caused our players to lose trust for them.  Not that it was extremely high before, but it's low now.  And the other things that I talked about in the 18 games and the referees, and all of those things that are happening and our players see it, and they lose trust. 

So when they give us a proposal and I take a proposal back to the executive committee or our players and say this is where we are, the main thing that comes up is our players want something.  They need some safeguards in every single aspect of our agreement.  They want safeguards because they don't feel they can trust that the league won't exploit any power.  So that brings me to the point of mutual arbitration. 

Our guys hate it.  We have mutual arbitration for some of our issues, but we don't have mutual arbitration in all of them.  And we saw what happened when we need to have mutual arbitration.  It led us to a point where we had to bring in an arbitrator that was neutral, And even he found the actions were overstepping the bounds. 

So I think that speaks to the point of the distrust between the players. 

Q.      (Indiscernible)?

DOMONIQUE FOXWORTH:  That's a tough question.  I think absolutely.  I don't know that you would pose that question to anyone else outside of the players.  I know you personally.  I think you're a good guy.  So I assume that you're not implying that somehow our players are not capable of protecting themselves. 

I think that all people are flawed and are susceptible to having emotions around their decisions, which is why we want to put in place things like SCEs and have protections for our players and allow them to make the right decisions.  In case when they aren't clear of mind and can't make the right decision, the safety nets that we put in there will catch them. 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  Albert, there are four sort of indisputable postulants that I would love to have the league embrace.  First of all, the game of football has risk.  Second, that injuries are a necessary and foreseeable consequence of the business we're in.  Third, if you are injured by playing football, you will get the best medical care; and, fourth, if you have lingering medical conditions because of issues that you suffered at work, your employer will take care of you. 

Is there a person in this room that disagrees with any of those four?  So the question is starting now, let's see how long it takes for the league to embrace those four.

Couple of things before we move on Tom Mayer is here, and I want to thank him for all the work he's done.  Tom has been our director for a number of years and we couldn't have done it without him. 

Moving on, by the way, everyone today, it's Jackie Robinson's birthday.  I know there are great things about what we do.  But every now and then, you have a man like Jackie Robinson who is obviously a hero to many.  But what most people forget is that backfield at UCLA, Kenny Washington, Woody Strode.  Kenny Washington a player in the National Football League.  Again, most importantly, came into the National Football League he in 1946 after a ban on African‑American players in football. 

So you look at that backfield and you look at Washington, and you look at Jackie Robinson, you know that here in 2012‑2013, 66 years since the most recent integration of the National Football League.  There are a number of issues that we intend to weigh in on with the NFL coaches and the hiring practices.  We can talk about that later, but that is something that is very near and dear to us. 

CharlieBatch, would you come on up. 

DeMAURICE SMITH:  Every year the NFL Players Association recognizes a player that goes above and beyond to perform community service in their team and their city and their hometown.  This year, Byron "Whizzer" White Award winner is Charlie Batch. 

Charlie, is a two‑time Super Bowl champion, his hometown right outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is Homestead, Pennsylvania.  Charlie founded the Best of Batch Foundation in 2000.  It deals and helps kids who come from underprivileged backgrounds.  Charlie each and every year runs probably one of the best basketball tournaments in the country to benefits those children. 

Obviously, I feel strongly about our selection today, because, not only does he follow a tremendous tradition of outstanding young men, but seated right next to him, former NFL Man of the Year Brian Waters, both of them are members of our executive committee.  They're the people I look to to lead our players and provide vision and leadership. 

So on behalf of the NFL Players Association, I just want to extend my personal thanks, and I'm proud of you.  Charlie, congratulations for being the winner of the Byron "Whizzer" White Award. 

GEORGE ATALLAH:  What you're looking at is a $100,000 dollar check going to the Batch Foundation as a result of this honor.  Charlie? 

CHARLIE BATCH:  Wow, thank you.  This is truly an unbelievable blessing.  I thank God.  I had no idea that this was happening.  Really, I can't do this by myself.  Looking at the names of the Byron "Whizzer" White Award and I'm just like wow.  And looking back standing here, as a Pittsburgh Steeler, looking at names like Andy Russell, Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, and now to be mentioned on this list is truly a blessing. 

Thank you to the NFLPA for voting me for this prestigious honor.  Thank you to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, and the Rooney family for supporting me and believing in my dreams.  And I can't forget my loving and better half, LaTasha. 

She is here, and literally, without you, none of this could be possible. 

So I thank you, all the volunteers.  I really do appreciate it.  Again, thank you to everybody who made this possible.  The money that we receive will go towards our foundation. 

Not many people know why I started my foundation, but in 1996, my sister, Danielle was 17 years old, and she was caught in a cross fire between rival gangs and she was shot in the side of the head and died instantly.  As she was walking down the street, the guy she was with used her as a body shield.  At that moment I said if I was ever in a position to give back, I would. 

1998 is when I got drafted into the National Football League.  In 2000 started my foundation, 2002, my foundation goes back to Pittsburgh, And we teach to uplift community kids through sport and education.  We use sports to draw the kids in, and at that point we help them education wise as we choose.  We touch over a thousand kids throughout the calendar year.  We have reading and literacy programs. 

Our foundation raised over $1.2 million dollars thus far, and we continue to keep going.  So I know this money is definitely a great start for us to build a state‑of‑the‑art education facility back in Pittsburgh. 

Wow.  That's all I can say, because anybody who wants to follow what we do throughout the calendar year can go to Batchfoundation.org, and that will give you an idea of what we do throughout the calendar year.  I welcome everybody in Pittsburgh to please stop by and see what we're doing. 

So thank you to everybody that voted for me.  This is truly a prestigious honor, so thank you. 

 

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