NFL team owners approved a rule change Tuesday that will require players to wear knee and thigh pads during games, beginning in the 2013 season.
The one-year delay in implementation of the rule allows time for the league to receive input from players, according to the NFL.
The owners approved the measure during a one-day meeting in Atlanta.
League officials have called the rule a safety measure designed to reduce the number and severity of injuries suffered by players. But the rule could be challenged by the NFL Players Association.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference after the owners’ meeting: “It’s a decision that we are not implementing for this season in part because we want to work with the players. We want to work with the Players Association. We believe the technology has improved and in fact the pads are far better than they were even a decade ago. They’re more protective. They allow better performance.”
Goodell said the league has raised the issue for at least three years and discussed it with the union as recently as this past spring. “The CEO of Nike recently told me when they introduced the new uniforms that NBA players are wearing more pads from the hips down than NFL players,” Goodell said. “There’s something wrong with that. We need to put that protection in.”
The players union issued a written statement Tuesday contending that “any change in working conditions is a collectively-bargained issue. While the NFL is focused on one element of health and safety today, the NFLPA believes that health and safety requires a comprehensive approach and commitment.”
The owners also gave the league’s Management Council authority to negotiate with the union about a two-week delay in the annual NFL trading deadline, which would move it until after the eighth weekend of the season.
And they authorized the Management Council to work with the union on a proposal that would allow players to be activated from the injured reserve list under certain conditions. Currently, a player who is placed on the IR list is ineligible to play for the same team for the remainder of the season.
Those two changes could be implemented by the Management Council without further approval by the owners.