NFL, Players Association seek reduced offseason workouts in response to proposed 18-game regular season

The Washington Post's LaVar Arrington discusses his personal experience with concussions and offers his opinion on how the NFL is dealing with the recent rash of head injuries on Football Insider Live.
By Mark Maske
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 9, 2010; 12:14 AM

NEW YORK - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday he's hopeful the league will adopt new rules before next season to reduce the number of offseason workouts that teams are permitted to hold and restrict the amount of hitting by players in some practices during training camp, and possibly the regular season.

The proposed measures are designed to limit the number of concussions suffered by players. They have been endorsed by the NFL Players Association and have been discussed by representatives of the league and the union.

"Being in by next season? I would hope so," Goodell said to reporters during a break in a concussion-related NFL conference on helmet technology and safety at a New York hotel. "I know we've had a lot of discussions about them both internally and with the Players Association. I think there are some very positive things that can be done in that area."

The NFL has not made a firm commitment to a timetable for enacting the changes, which most recently have been discussed by the league and the union as part of their ongoing labor negotiations. The league proposed an 18-game regular season, and the union countered with a proposal that included reductions in offseason workouts and practice-field hitting. The current labor deal between the league and union expires after this season.

Goodell said it's inevitable that the reductions in offseason workouts and practice-field hitting will be enacted at some point. "I definitely think that's an evolution that's happening," Goodell said.

The union has raised safety-related concerns about the league's proposal for a regular season that's two games longer, which would be accompanied by a two-game reduction in the preseason. Goodell defended the proposal.

"What we're trying to do is improve the quality of what we're doing, but make it safer for our players," Goodell said. "And I think by looking at changes we're talking about in the offseason, in training camp and possibly during the season, particularly with the focus on rules, and taking those techniques that we think are dangerous out of the game, it can make the game safer for everyone who plays it."

Last season, the NFL modified its policies for the treatment of players who suffer concussions, barring any player with concussion symptoms from re-entering a game or practice. The league also now requires a player who suffers a concussion to be cleared by an independent physician before participating in a subsequent game or practice. This season, the league strengthened its enforcement of existing rules against hits to the head of defenseless players in certain situations.

Participants at Wednesday's conference discussed advancements in technology for helmets. Richard Ellenbogen, a co-chairman of the NFL's head, neck and spine committee, said there was agreement among the experts there about the need to do everything possible to eliminate helmet-to-helmet hits.

The other co-chairman of the NFL's committee, Hunt Batjer, and other committee members said they would prefer that the NFL not have an officially licensed helmet manufacturer after the league's current license with Riddell expires.

Under NFL rules, a player can wear any helmet model by any manufacturer, as long as the helmet is approved by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment.

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