In addition to an extensive conversation with FOX Sports this week about HGH testing, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith also addressed a few recent issues related to the union he hasn’t discussed elsewhere in recent months.
Smith was asked about some conclusions being drawn following the run of season-ending injuries in training camp, particularly those aimed at the revamped offseason and in-season schedules under the new collective bargaining agreement.
A point of pride for the union following the negotiations for the new CBA that was ratified in 2011, the reduction in contact as well as workout and practice time was designed to reduce the wear and tear on players’ bodies.
Some have wondered if it’s had an adverse effect by making players more susceptible to season-ending injuries, such as ACL tears.
"The only thing I can say to that," Smith said, "is any conclusion that is not based on hard statistical and statistically relevant evidence is reckless."
In other words, the jury is still out and only after further investigation will Smith and the union comment on such claims.
Over a dozen key players have already been lost for the season with major injuries, including a run of ACL tears that began with Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and continued with Denver Broncos center Dan Koppen, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Danario Alexander, Green Bay Packers left tackle Bryan Bulaga, New Orleans Saints wide receiver Joe Morgan and others.
According to a recent report from USA Today, citing an analysis conducted by Edgeworth Economics, ACL injuries are on the rise — up from 13 in the 2004 preseason to 24 last year, with this year’s early run of injuries (the Eagles have already had four) threatening to push that number even higher.
Smith said he’s not alarmed — at least until the yet-to-be-compiled facts indicate he should be.
"Having spent time looking at both injury reports and statistical analysis for things like (HGH) population studies," Smith said, chuckling while mentioning such a hot topic, "the reality is you have an obligation to look at the data and make sure the data is representative of the issue you’re looking at, to look at all of the data in order to make the best decisions for the health and safety of all of our players."
Smith said the union will investigate the recent run of injuries and also indicated the impact of Thursday games on players’ bodies is still on their radar.
"We look at the information, not only by position but by age of player, and try to figure out what his offseason workout schedule was," Smith said. "All of this is to say we try to do a very good job of the statistical analysis of the data we have, and if it leads us to the conclusion that is there, the only thing we insist on and I insist on is that we follow the data."
Stiffer penalties for DUIs?
Smith addressed a recent report from FOX Sports’ Alex Marvez stating the NFL and NFLPA are close to an agreement on stiffer penalties for DUIs. Smith didn’t confirm the details of the negotiations on the issue and instead chose to speak on the prevention of such situations rather than the ensuing punishment.
"What we want is for our players to not engage in bad behavior and to be engaged in practices that are safe for them and for other members of the community," he said. "When it comes to the issue of driving while intoxicated, the overall goal is to prevent that from happening. Discipline is only one aspect of that. We are working to do a better job of identifying the factors that go into helping both players and everyone else to make the right decisions about their own personal safety and the safety of others in their car and of the community in general. It seems to be our goals should be to maximize those players making right decisions and to decrease the chances of them making poor decisions."
The NFLPA has a safe-driving program it offers all of its players. Smith indicated the union will explore possible tweaks to the program.
"We look at everything," he said. "Whether it’s an issue of education, whether it’s an issue of discipline or of providing other resources for players, we’ve tried combinations of those things and our goal is to continue to work with those combinations. If we can learn other factors that help people make decisions, to do it."
Smith, Jay Z in violation?
Smith declined to comment in detail on the ongoing investigation of agent Kim Miale’s recruitment of New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, who met with Jay Z before signing with Miale and Roc Nation Sports. The NFLPA is trying to determine whether Miale is in violation of the "runner rule" because of Jay Z’s speaking with Smith. The two were pictured in an Instagram photo before Smith signed with Roc Nation.
Miale has met with NFLPA representatives but a decision on whether the runner rule was violated has not yet been made by the union’s committee for agent regulation and discipline.
Defending the CBA
A Boston Globe story this summer quoted anonymous agents taking shots at Smith and the union for what they perceived as a defeat in the negotiations for a new CBA two years ago.
Smith and other NFLPA leaders have cited increased cash-spending minimums for teams, player-safety issues and other elements of the new CBA as victories for the union in the negotiations.
"We don’t respond to people who don’t have the courage to use their name," Smith said. "The economic analysis of the deal in Year 1 (of the CBA, 2011) showed our players were getting 54 percent of all revenue, which is the highest percentage that has gone to players in history. The mandatory spends of the salary cap are the first ever in existence. All teams have to spend up to the mandatory spending requirement, which is good for our players and our players have a longer offseason for their bodies to heal. In-season, we know that by reducing the amount of contact, insisting on sideline concussion experts and holding doctors accountable … have made our game and our players safer.
"Why would any of our player leaders respond to an anonymous agent, given those facts?"