Quotes from NFLPA #SB50 Press Conference



Super Bowl 50 – Thursday, February 4, 2016


(DeMaurice Smith) “Thanks for everyone for being gracious hosts out in San Francisco. We look forward to a great week.

Since 1967, the Byron Whizzer White Award has been the highest honor that the NFLPA can bestow upon a player. This year’s finalists are Thomas Davis of the Carolina Panthers, Rashad Jennings with the New York Giants, Stephen Tulloch with the Detroit Lions, Delanie Walker with the Titans, Benjamin Watson with the New Orleans Saints. I want to read a little bit about the wonderful works that all the players are doing in the community and the truly outstanding service that these men have dedicated to their community over the course of their career. Rashad Jennings helps young youth in the area overcome educational challenges that impacted him as a child. The Rashad Jennings Foundation mission is to make school fun by providing tools and mentorship that guarantees individual success while promoting health and fitness. Mr. Tulloch is focused on improving education in Detroit. The Stephen Tulloch Foundation is making a positive impact in students across the Michigan area. The foundation has adopted 55 area schools, supplying them with computer labs and other necessary supplies. Mr. Walker launched his nonprofit to provide inner city and low income children with educational opportunities and resources. The Delanie Walker Gives Back Foundation host a college prep initiative as well as football camps and giveaways. Mr. Benjamin Watson, member of the NFLPA Executive Committee, also a finalist of the 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year, his Watson One More Foundation hosts events for families in need, including holiday gift giveaways. Ladies and gentlemen, this year’s winner: Mr. Thomas Davis. Thomas was the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He established the Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation in 2008. That organization hosts youth leadership academies, free youth football camps as well as back to school and holiday giveaways. This linebacker’s foundation focuses on benefitting underprivileged youth in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.”

(Kelly Davis) “Thank you guys so much. We just want to extend a huge thank you to the NFLPA and also to the family of Byron White. Thomas would have loved to have been here today but of course, he is preparing for Sunday. He just wanted me to tell everyone thank you as well. This money is going to go a long way to help with the things that we do in these communities in these three states and to also help expand our new leadership academy so that they can actually get their own building for the academy. We sincerely appreciate it, thank you guys.”

(Eric Winston) “First of all, I wanted to introduce and point out someone very pivotal in my life and everything here. She’s making her first Super Bowl appearance, my wife Jennifer. We’re all happy she’s here. I’ve always believed, and this is something when I first started, that my goal here during my time here as President was going to be to bridge and strengthen the bonds of our current players and our former players, our veterans and our rookies, and also the relationship between our administration and our members. Thanks to the work of these men standing in here right behind me and the many people sitting out in the audience, we’ve been tremendous strides in all of those areas. Our Collective Bargaining issues, we have not only grown stronger because of the four cases we’ve won and the precedence that they’ve set, but when it comes to the players issues, we always hold firm. Whether it’s an ongoing negotiation or anything else, those things will always stay the same. Their due process, transparency and independent arbitration, we will always fight for and will always strive to achieve.

For our current players and our former players, we have increased a lot of transition services to our members through well-funded programs. We have now more than 2,000 members that have transitioned off the field and into the trust, placing them in different jobs, getting them career training, getting them healthy off the field and into careers. We’re very excited about that. That continues to grow and is turning into something that’s incredible. Players, Inc. had more appearances here for our guys than ever. We’re expecting all-time revenue through them so it will allow us to do more than we ever have. A lot of you know that we’ve also launched Ace Media this year to produce a lot of content, to help out with a lot of the things that the players want to do. Just this week, we’ve been doing tech tours. We’ve been taking our members and our reps to all of the big tech companies, whether it was Uber or a venture capital firm. Today we toured the campus of Facebook. These things aren’t just field trips. They aren’t just to go out and see the big, shiny computers and see the screens and what they’re doing. It’s to get out of this football bubble that we’re sometimes in. Hopefully that will inspire some of our guys and that will lead to their next career, to their next transition. It’s been a lot of fun. We are going to go see Twitter tomorrow and EA Sports. I think our guys are getting a lot out of it. They’re having a lot of fun exchanging ideas, trying to build some synergies and we’ve certainly enjoyed it. We appreciate all that they’ve done to help us. Our leadership in our locker rooms is as strong as it’s ever been. We’ve got a lot of veterans helping rookies with issues like financial preparedness. Our benefits… we’ve got 99 percent of our guys enrolled in 401k. That’s something I’m very proud of. I know it’s something our executives are proud of. We tasked DeMaurice and the staff with a lot. We demand a lot out of them. We ask them to come up with strategies that not only can be used at the bargaining table to advance our initiatives but to help us after we’re done playing. We want to thank all of our staff here for everything that they do. We have a tremendous amount of respect for you guys and respect for what you do. We appreciate all the hours, all the legwork and everything else you put in. All of us up here wouldn’t be here unless we were standing on the shoulders of others. They sacrificed so much to make sure this is a little bit better than when we got here. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re going to try to make this a little better than when we found it and pass it on to the next generation. During this press conference, we’re going to address your questions but all of us are going to speak. We’re going to make sure everybody speaks and that you hear from all of us up here. It’s been a collaborative effort. We’ve been trying to make sure everyone is heard and everyone gets to pass along the ideas that they feel. I think that’s helped. We’re proud of the work we’re doing. We can only hope that the history will look fondly on what we’ve been doing and making sure that the business of football is better for these guys. Everyone here is focused on the 50thanniversary of the Super Bowl, but I’d be remised if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that we’re heading into the 60th year of our anniversary in the fall. We look forward to commemorating moments in the fall and with that, I’ll pass it along to our Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith.”

(Smith) “First and foremost, I always like to start off with thanking the people that make this happen. To our wonderful staff, I’m blessed to have the most incredible, dedicated group of people who truly love our players. They’ve done a tremendous job. Certainly, thank you to the executive committee for coming in today. They push me, I lean on them. We truly do rest on the shoulders of the people that came before us. 60th anniversary. For us, it boils down to something pretty simple. When we are fighting the battles for players’ rights, we talk about the union and we talk about anniversaries, but every now and then, we forget that each and every milestone and battle that we have was fought for by a man, by a woman, by a family in the National Football League. When we talk about our history, our stride, our gains, Bill Radovich was a real man who had a real family. Folks like Reggie White, a real man, real family. Men like Ben Utecht who were fighting battles for neurocognitive benefits. Real men. That’s our job. I know that there is always going to be a lot of questions about the cases we handle, how we represent our players, but let’s make one thing clear: we don’t apologize for what we do as a union and we never will. On behalf of the players of the National Football League, I want to say thank you to our staff, to our wonderful leaders and lawyers in the back of the room. Going forward, there are just five or six things I want to focus on. On the issue of player rights: obviously, this year there has been a tremendous amount of … I wouldn’t say anything new about the battles we have in the courtrooms and the players, but we look at those issues not as isolated or sometimes interesting lawsuits as much as we look at those issues as how do we vindicate player rights? When a Federal Judge asks the question, somewhat sarcastically, but certainly poignantly that he wonders whether the Commissioner knows that we have a CBA, it’s the job of our union to remind the league that we have a contract. That contract protects our rights. That contract requires them to do certain things. When that contract between the players of the National Football League and the owners of the owners of the National Football League is violated, we have a sacred, time-honored, historical and moral duty to fight for our rights. Whether it is Greg Hardy’s case, the Tom Brady case, the bounty case, our job is to vindicate the validity of the contract we have with the National Football League. We make no apologies for it.

As we go forward – issues of the salary cap – we are estimated, and we will, again, as we have done the last two years, make a projection about where we think the salary cap will be – usually that coincides right around the time right around the time of [the NFL] combine. As you know, the last two years have resulted in at least $10 million increases in the salary cap. Conservatively, we believe that trend is going to continue. That, however, does not include what is part of our player compensation package, and that’s benefits. Benefits last year amounted to about $37 million per team. That number will go up, as it always does. So, we will estimate a conservative compensation package [of] nearly $200 million. So, that is something that we focus on. I know the press likes to spend a lot of time talking about the cash side of it, but when we talk about the pensions and we talk about health care, neurocognitive benefits, the ability for our players to go back to school, the right that they have in the National Football League once they vest to get a defined pension. Those are things that we hold just as dear as what the salary cap cash will be. Moving on to just a couple of issues about the salary cap: As you know, we are heading into the last year of the rolling four-year tranche that requires every team to spend at least 89 percent of the salary cap in cash. As we head into next year, there are only two teams that are now below the 89-percent mandatory cash spending: That is the Oakland Raiders and the Jacksonville Jaguars. Our rough estimate right now is that Oakland is approximately $41 million under and Jacksonville is approximately $28 million under. We will be looking at where all of these teams fit or fall at the end of next year to make sure that they comply with the [rules] of the collective bargaining agreement.

A couple of words about benefits: Eric [Winston] mentioned that we have achieved a 99-percent participation by our players in our 401K. One other great piece of news was that our 401K program was rated best in the country this year, and that’s due to two things and only two things. One: The vision of our players to fight for that benefit, and the skill of our staff to make that 401K program the best in the country. And for that, [we will] have the eternal thanks of players for the rest of our lives. And thank you very much for the staff. [The] last couple of issues: Health and safety. Some of you know that we sent a field tester to the Pro Bowl recently to test the field for the Pro Bowl game. That was triggered by [an] earlier reporter where another sport refused to play on the field out of safety concerns. We take our obligations to protect our players extremely serious. So, we took it upon ourselves to send a field tester. He passed the field before the game. … But once again, that’s our obligation and a manifest of our obligation to our players. Eric mentioned Players Inc., and that is the engine that drives our train. This year we’re estimating revenue to be in the area of about $160 million. As you know, we use a portion of that fund to run the union; we use a portion of that fund to run Players Inc.; and we kick the remainder of that fund back to our players in the form of royalty checks. … That gives us the ability, as we have had at least a couple times in our history – I think just a few, whether they be lockouts or strikes … While no one who is certainly a fan of football wants those things to come, we rest it on the shoulders of the people who came before us who had the vision of not only creating Players Inc. as our subsidiary, but also having the vision to use that to run the union in the effort that we can keep our dues money to fight our battles. And last, I just want to mention a couple of words about the trust: Coming out of the last collective bargaining agreement, one of the most significant programs we were able to create was a program funded to provide transition and help for our former players. We believe that the day they leave the field they still are members of our community, and we have a duty not only to honor them, but to take care of them. We now have over 2,000 former players enrolled in the trust. That provides healthcare, job transition and really any sort of program that allows a player to regain his life with the hope – with the hope – that their lives after football are actually better than the lives they had in football. And with that, that’s the end of my prepared remarks. I’m sure there are going to be some questions about something.”

(on if the NFLPA has a program that makes players aware of the health of their brains before, during and after their careers)

(Smith) “We take our obligation as a union that teaches as much as seriously as we take our jobs to fight when we have a partnership, for example, with Web M.D. to notify our players about concussion protocols. When we [go to] team meetings and work very hard to talk to players about the importance of taking care of themselves. The reason why we created the Matthew White Committee in the first place was because the job, the head of the league’s concussion committee, was a rheumatologist. So, when we create our own concussion committee, that’s designed not only to engage in research and to make smart decisions about our partnerships with Harvard, for example, but it’s to do a better job of advising our players about what’s going on. And when we have players who now step up and self-report, we take that at least as positive news that players are now empowered not only to know what’s going on, but to take steps to protect themselves.”

(on if there is an actual baseline to determine what players’ brains look like before, during and after their careers)

(Smith) “We have player baselines now. But I guess what I’m saying is what we don’t do … Our job is not to provide healthcare. Our job is to make sure that the National Football League is accountable for providing health care to our players.”

(Matt Hasselbeck) “One thing that we’ve fought for and we’ve tried to do is change the culture of our game. Forever, when I got into the game, it was a ‘no-no’ to be honest with the medical professionals on the sideline. Like you felt like you were a wimp if you were honest with your team doctor, trainer or a teammate or coach if something was wrong with your head – really any injury, but especially your head. Through a lot of discussion and really education I think what we’ve learned as players is it’s partly our job – it’s everybody’s job – but it’s partly our job to take ownership of changing the culture in our locker room and to educate the younger guys. And sometimes you educate the older guys, and sometimes that’s a coach that also played the game. But it’s our job to be honest with the medical professionals and let them do their job. And we fought hard for independent doctors on our sidelines that aren’t affiliated with the team doctor. We fought hard to improve relationships with our athletic trainers and with our team doctors. And these things are important and they’re important to us obviously because we played in the NFL, but I think for me personally, I think it’s even more important to us because whatever we fight for, we know that it trickles down. That it trickles down to college, and these college kids, they don’t have someone speaking up for them.

And for these high school kids, they don’t have someone speaking up for them. There’s spring football and hitting for high school kids and even Pop Warner kids. I mean, we’re pro football [players], we grew up playing football and all these other sports. But there’s no voice for these people. And so that’s part of the reason why I think we’ve fought so hard on health and safety – on not just concussion things. We had a field catch fire in the stadium this year. We’ve got guys tearing their ACLs because they didn’t rope off the field. There’s other things that go on – [DeMaurice Smith] mentioned the Pro Bowl. The U.S. Women’s Soccer team decided, ‘This isn’t good enough.’ They spoke up [and] had the courage to do so, and so those are things that we talk about. The lockout, it wasn’t about the money. It was in a sense, but there are other things that are important to us. And that was a time when there was a deadline, there was meetings and we decided to fight for things like, again, honestly, most of us up here were older guys at the convention, but we’re not necessarily, ‘These things aren’t going to benefit us as much as they’re going to benefit the next generation of guys.’ And we do that because of the guys that came before us – the guys that we mentioned, the guys that never get mentioned, the guys that have had to go on strike when they needed to, the guys that came before that.”

(on the league not releasing its data from PSI research that could potentially prove Tom Brady’s innocence)

(Smith) “I think the issue for the union is to continue to defend the player and to prepare for the second-circuit hearing. Issues of PSI and how they collected it and what kind of job that they’ve done is up to them. If we think the information is important, at some point we’ll demand it. But the process we’re in right now is fighting and vindicating the collective bargaining agreement, and that’s what we’ll focus on.”

(on how imperative the NFLPA feels that college players should have a union just as strong as its own)

(Smith) “I think that we were at dinner last night … talking about some of the issues. We’ve talked about whether the … I know that the issue is whether they get paid, [which is] how the NCAA would love to frame the issue. The reality is – whether it was the Northwestern players or the players at Missouri – they all just sought the opportunity to use collective action to engage their – I’ll call them ‘employer’ – but the engage their school. And when you are, for example, still suffering from a rule where if a young man gets selected and takes a scholarship at a university [and the] coach leaves, the new coach doesn’t like the kid, well the kid is punished because he can’t leave without sitting out a year. We still don’t have a system that mandates if you get injured in college, that the university is going to pay your medical bills once you leave. I don’t think that we have a real system where everybody has comfort that you’re insuring that people who are spending 40, 50 hours a week at a facility are actually getting the education that they’re supposed to get. Well, none of that has to do with whether they get paid or not. So, at the end of the day, we would like to see, I think, to speak in royal ‘We,’ we’d love to see the NCAA adopt a lot of the concussion protocols and protections that we have. So you ask yourself, ‘Are they not as smart as the doctors in the NFL?’ Well, no. ‘Are they getting different advice from neurologists?’ Probably not. The only reason that we have been able to achieve the changes in the National Football League is because there’s a union there to fight for them.”

(on what concerns the NFLPA has for CTE not being covered under the current concussion settlement)

(Smith) “We think of the position obviously that we don’t represent the people in the concussion settlement, negotiate it – we’re not a part of it. The two things I think that are interesting to discuss is the fact that the settlement doesn’t cover people who … The only provision that’s provided for people who have CTE is if it’s found postmortem. One of the things that we recently found out in a paper that was published in Nature Magazine as a result of the players’ partnership with Harvard is a very early technology that has possibly developed a drug that could inhibit or reverse the effects of CTE in live mice. One of the issues that I think that paper raises is, ‘Could we be in a world where there is a treatment for CTE,’ and people who sign onto the settlement wouldn’t be covered for that treatment. I don’t know the answer to that and certainly not in a position to advise or give legal advice to people about whether they opted with the settlement or not. But that paper is something that we are proud of. It resulted from the partnership of the players, and I think that it raises interesting questions.”

(Winston) “To expand on that, and I think to try and answer your question a little bit better as well, you know Dee [DeMaurice Smith] mentioned the Harvard study. That’s something else that came out of our 2011 CBA and we are starting to see strides with it. We’re taking this holistic approach to try and treat guys and try to help guys kind of find these cures, treatments, or preventions, everything that goes along with this. It’s hard to try and visualize what’s going to happen in five years, ten years. The one thing, I think, is that we are trying to take those measures to address the problem. I think that is the one thing, and once we address that problem and we get to that problem, now we can figure out how to treat it. I think that’s just what I wanted to make clear. For the legal issues on it, you can go back to Dee on that.”

(Mark Herzlich) “Just a little more about the Harvard research study, This past spring, Zach DeOssie along with myself went to meet with the doctors and the administrators of the study and we sat down and talked about a lot of the pilot studies they are doing through the funding that we have given them. Some of it is, yes research of CTE and brain trauma, but there are also many other things that we as players experience and the former players experience that is a big issue. One of the other things that we have really kind of pulled in, a physical kind of innovation that is coming about from it, is the technology, this new sort of brace device where you wear a knee brace or an elbow brace and it has this kind of fabricated, wire mesh that only allows movement in a certain area. So, if it senses that you are about to snap your ACL, or you are about to hyperextend your elbow, it will lock up and it will prevent injuries. Which is very kind of cool, and is not only something that is going to help our players, but also as it was talked about, the high school players because it will be available to everybody. You talk about how do former players get the information that they need or even the awareness that this type of stuff is out there. Part of this Harvard research study…in the name you think, okay study; they are researching different ways to help us. Well, how do they know what we need? A big part of it is the former players participating in a survey in this study that provides the Harvard group with information about what ailments they are suffering form now, what symptoms they are suffering from now. So we will have gathered this large population study in order to adjust the pilot programs if need be. We have allocated sparingly right now. It is out there doing the work, but we still have money left to do other subjects if the studies find that out. That’s one thing too; if you are a former player, participate in this study. That’s one of the things that we have found that was difficult; there is no database dating back all the way to the beginning. Who are the people who we need to reach out to? We don’t have updated addresses or anything. If you are watching this if you are a former player and you have not filled out the survey, contact the [NFLPA]. Not only is it going to help you, but really, as we have talked about, the only reason we have the things we have today in the union is because the people before us set aside their time, their money, their health, their careers for us to have the things we have. So, this is going to benefit people who play in 10 years, who play in 20 years. We will be able to better help them physically with their health. We will obviously let you know as things progress with the study in different areas, but there are a lot of really cool innovations from some really smart people. They have the purpose in mind of helping the players accomplish what we as the union want to accomplish. It is not only just, we give them a whole bunch of money and say, ‘hey go figure out whatever you want to figure out.’ It is very encompassing on our part.”

(on the status of the negotiations with the NFL as to modifications of player discipline process)

(Smith) “We have had a number of conversations and those conversations are ongoing. I am cautiously optimistic that we can reach a resolution on a number of those issues. The frame continues to be the same; we believe that a collectively bargained change to the system is good for everybody. If we are unable to reach a change, then our job as a union is simply to protect the player and fight the cases as we have done in the past. Look, at the end of the day, it gives nobody here a tremendous amount of pleasure gearing up for another court battle. There are a number of issues on the horizon, whether it be stadium expansion, health and safety, other issues related to the group of brethren that are directly inhibited by this issue. This is an issue that we can resolve. That is the stair step, or that is the pathway for us to have a better partnership.”

(on whether there is a process in place where the players can share in the relocation fee that the Rams will pay to move the Los Angeles)

(Smith) “I don’t know the answer to that. I mean, we share revenue, so if it is an amount that is paid into the general revenue fund, then we would get our share.”

(on ACE Media and the future of revenue for Players Inc. in terms of the player content)

(Winston) “Right now, it would have to be somewhere within that range of content. I think it is a very exciting endeavor. Right now we are still in the infancy stage of Ace Media and where that is going to go. I think our first show is launching soon, or our first partnership is coming up soon. We are looking forward to that. The one thing from the business realm, you have the license fee model that the trading cards and things of that nature, Madden, use. I think with the technology and such, you almost want to hedge your bet; you want to make sure there is another vertical. I think that is just good business practice. But on top of that, I think what we have seen and what everyone else has seen is this appetite for player content. This appetite not just to see the guys within the white lines, but to see what they are doing outside the white lines. That’s what ACE Media is aiming to bring. Like I said, I am excited to see what happens with it and where it will take us next.”

(on whether there is a timeline on the results from the medical research for a product to come to fruition, ie. the brace to prevent injuries and the CTE research in mice)

(Smith) “The Harvard project was designed to do a couple of things. One, to partner with what we felt was the best research and medical entity in the world. Second, to engage in research that could provide tangible benefits to our players as soon as possible. So, whether it is the ACL brace, or the CTE study; they have made a tremendous new project about growing your own ACL that is in product trials right now. So, whether it’s issues of decreasing exposures ot concussions, doing a better job of understanding what is going on with the biometrics of the leg or the bodies of our players, those are things they rolling out with all the time. There is not just one final, ‘TA-DA’ where the curtains part and we have four or five products that we drop onto the public. The idea here is to be actively engaged as advisors to the research that they are doing, let the science lead us in the direction that it needs to go. The idea is for these things to start rolling out as they do. Whether it is the ACL study that is in trails right now, or the paper that just came out in Nature, we are excited about the things that are coming out right now.”

(Herzlich) “More specifically, basically people applied for these slots as a pilot program to get those grants. There were a bunch of people who came to a very large selection group and then a very specific selection process. Part of that selection process and the identification of what could possible move towards a beneficial product, is the fact that there are timelines that they have to come back and re-report how their studies are going, how their findings are shaping up. If they come back and say, ‘you know what, we thought this might work and it is just not doing the things we though it might do,’ that’s when it is presented back towards the panel at Harvard and they would take that and, obviously they tried, but we are going to cancel the funding on that and use it for a new study. It’s not like we are saying they have until the end of CBA to find out how this brace is going to work. They have to report back to us six months, a year, two years out. We wouldn’t want something to go long unless there was progress being made. These are the things that kind of worked its way through. There have already been pilot studies where they started looking like they would be good, but they had to be shut down and [the funding] was moved to somewhere else, merely because the idea wasn’t possible via science or we found out there were big hurdles in the road. We’re not giving free reign to them. They have to check back and report their progress.”

(on what the NFLPA is doing to make the public more aware about on field safety concerns, specifically plays like the one with Antonio Brown in the Steelers-Bengals game)

(Smith) “I think that when Matt [Hasselbeck] was talking about the role that we have in setting the standard and then pushing that standard down towards colleges and high schools, we have signed on to the legislation that I believe has now passed in 12 or 13 states that does a better job of protecting high school students. I think the work that we do with the Mackey with committee and with Harvard, we have just as much an obligation to push those studies as we do to make the success of those plays null. When it comes to the issues of college players and high school players, I think we have a duty to make sure everyone knows what we are doing in the National Football League and using that as the standard. Our job as players in the union is to not do these things in secret, but do a better job of making sure that everybody knows we have these standards and we have these standards because we were able to fight them and we believe that they are scientifically fact, scientifically based and something that keeps athletes safer.

(on what the NFLPA can do in the short-term to reduce aggressive player hits that lead to concussions)

(Benjamin Watson) “I saw the hit (on Steelers WR Antonio Brown) that you’re talking about and it’s very difficult as a player or as a fan of the game to see those types of hits because you know the damage, as least as a player, that’s taken in the short-term. Football is a game that is a contact sport. That’s what drives a lot of the game, that’s part of what’s exciting about the game. You have 11 men going and you have those things and there’s contact, but we implement and we push for health and safety in the form of rules as well. So, as you’ve seen over the last few years, you’ve seen rule changes, you seen the types of hits that players can deliver. You’ve seen the zones where a player can make contact have changed, and over time – We were all worried at the beginning that it was going to be impossible for players to hit within a certain strike zone and protect each other. But over time, you’ve seen as this league unfolds how players have changed the way they tackle each other. You’ve seen it even on the collegiate level and, like Eric (Winston) said, everything trickles down. We’ve seen on the collegiate level how the players are tackling differently or using their head in different ways. I think that the public enjoys the game of football because of all the things I just said, but they also want to see that players are respecting each other and that referees are calling the game a certain way and that certain hits are illegal. Nobody wants to see anybody hurt.

The greatest thing as a player is, and this is something that you may not see, but the greatest thing as a player is when someone gets hurt, there’s a tough hit, a bad hit and you see guys on both teams coming together. You see guys on both teams come together and caring about each other because nobody wants to hurt anyone. We play a violent sport. It’s a contact sport, but none of us want to go out and mercilessly hurt anyone. We always as a beacon, and as players on the field, push for the safety of other players. We are for guys being successful, being healthy, providing for their families, having fun playing the game and doing all those things. We’re all for that for each other even though we compete very hard. So, the great thing as a player is, and I think that the public will see and has seen, is that when these sorts of things happen, you see guys come together because none of us want to see that sort of thing happen.”

(on if the NFLPA is considering modifying the NFL’s offseason program)

(Zak DeOssie) “I’ll take this one. Zak DeOssie, New York Giants. Yeah, in regards to changing the offseason, I mean, it’s a collectively-bargained issue. So, yeah, you can make your argument that young players could benefit from more time in the facility. The younger guys might want it, but the older guys and our general counsel or the five of us, what we have established in 2011 with our collective bargaining agreement is that, you know, less time on the field, less time in the meeting rooms is essential for us and our career goals. If we want to open that up and collectively bargain in the future to give those younger guys more time or experience with coaches, more time to learn and become better football players, that’s a possibility. But it’s only going to be collectively-bargained and as we stand as a union, we don’t feel that we’re in a position where we need to change that right now.”

(Winston) “This has been kind of a popular issue as well. I’d like to kind of put out a thought of kind of the long terms. If you think that if you study 70 hours, it’s better than studying 50 hours, I think there’s a certain fallacy that’s been running now out there. If a young guy has just got a chance to be there every single day, he’d just be a little bit better and he’d be ready to play. I know this just from my personal standpoint, I don’t buy that. That’s part of the game that I actually led maybe as a young player was when I got away from the stadium, when I got away from the facility, I was able to regroup. I think that regrouping period we found was necessary, not just for health and safety reasons, not just for mind reasons, but it allows them to go back and finish it and get the degree.

I think that also allows them then to go forward and be able to put their best foot forward, maybe in football or whatever. But if you keep denying them that access, if you say, ‘Oh, well, if you’re here every day, you’re getting better,’ I don’t buy that argument. I know that that argument’s out there that, you know, we’re not able to teach these young guys. You know, then you’ve got to change as a teacher. If you can’t teach a young guy in 30 minutes and you know you had 20 minutes, then you’ve got to regroup your teaching skills. So, I think for some reason the emphasis has always been put on the players to learn something rapidly instead of the teachers to teach something differently. I think you see certain teams that have rookies that for some reason play well every year, year in and year out. There’s something to that and they’re being taught a little bit different way. So, like I said, I just wanted to speak to that issue because I see that working out. I don’t necessarily think that if they spend 15 weeks there instead of 12, that they’re all of a sudden going to be a lot better.”

(on if the reduced contact in the offseason program has resulted in a decline in the quality of the game)

(Winston) “So, two things there. The thought would be is that if we hit more and we ran more we would be less apt to injury? The second part was about quality of play. Listen, I think with anything I agree the fans vote and the fans have been voting unanimously that it’s better than ever, right? So, you know, I look at the game and I guess I don’t see a difference. Maybe that’s because I’m in the middle of it and I’m not watching it from afar and I don’t see every game out there. But it’s the same thing, ‘O-Line play’s been bad this year, there’s not enough good quarterbacks.’ There’s always going to be that argument of the quarterbacks aren’t good, so like I said, I really, truly believe that a lot of that is a cop-out from a lot of the teams. It’s an easy way out instead of having to face up to some hard truths.”

(DeOssie) “Let’s keep in mind we’re all working under the same, certain conditions. No one has a competitive advantage. You have rookies that have – All the rookies across the board have the same amount of time in the meeting rooms, so the product on the field, like Eric said, has been fantastic. It keeps getting better and that’s our main concern.”

(on Steelers WR Antonio Brown saying he feels as if players ‘want to kill him’ on the field during games)

(Watson) “What I said before was that as a unit and as a group and as players as a whole, we are not out to injure. With that being said, in any population you have outliers. You have people who push the envelope. You have people with wrong wishes. It’s not just football, you can play any sport. You can just go to any occupation and you will see that as well. So, what Antonio had to say, that must be how he felt in that game. We all watched that game, we know the certain players who he’s talking about, so as part of it we acknowledge the health and safety of everyone. So, when you had a guy who feels that way about a specific player, he may have reason to say that or a reason to feel that way. But as a group, what I’m saying is that we are not players who are out to injure. We’re out to win and we’re out to play the game like it’s supposed to be played. We play the game very hard and hit between the lines. There’s also a desire to follow the rules as they’ve been laid out.”

- SB 50 -