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Owners pass new safety rules

Knee and thigh pads mandatory

Associated Press / May 23, 2012
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The NFL made thigh and knee pads mandatory equipment for the 2013 season, something the players’ union was not pleased with.

Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said Tuesday at an owners meeting in Atlanta that because this is a playing rule, the league can apply it unilaterally.

“We have a vote of the membership and can implement,’’ McKay said. “Some of us felt we were remiss that we took it out of the rule book - high school and college makes it mandatory - and in our mind that is how it should be and will be in 2013.

“We have some work to do with the union.’’

McKay said the league will meet with NFL Players Association representatives on the issue, something they have discussed in the past.

But the NFLPA argued that the move should be negotiated.

The pads rule would not go into effect on the field until next year so manufacturers can work on safety and comfort.

Commissioner Roger Goodell couldn’t see any negatives to adding the thigh and knee pads.

Former All-Pro safety Troy Vincent, now an NFL vice president, explained why there could be pushback from the players.

“It’s psychological. Less pads you are faster, skinnier, that’s just the way I was introduced to the [pro] game,’’ he said. “It’s a culture shift. They will adjust.’’

Meanwhile, Goodell expects evidence in the Saints bounties case would be made public after all the player appeals and grievances have been heard. Release of any documents also could be delayed by Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma’s defamation lawsuit against Goodell after the commissioner suspended Vilma for the entire 2012 season.

Additionally, linebacker Scott Fujita, suspended three games for allegedly contributing “a significant amount’’ of money to the bounty program, said he did not participate. “That is not true,’’ said Fujita, who now plays for the Browns.

The owners also voted to move the trading deadline from after Week 6 to after Week 8, and to allow one “marquee’’ player placed on injured reserve to return to practice after the sixth week of the schedule and to the lineup after the eighth week. That player must be on the 53-man roster.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft likes the adjustment because he knows firsthand how devastating an injury to a star player can be.

“It’s good because I think it keeps the excitement in the game,’’ Kraft said. “I know when we lost Tom Brady there was a feeling he could have come back at the end of the year.’’

Goodell said the league is closer to a decision on what to do with the Pro Bowl, which he called “not a competitive game’’ last January. He wants more discussions with the players about how to improve the quality of the game, but dropping it entirely still is possible.

“The issue is we recognize it is an All-Star Game, but we also believe fans expect more from an NFL game,’’ he said. “If we believe we can achieve that, we want to give them every opportunity to do that.’’

Only New Orleans, site of next year’s Super Bowl, and Honolulu are being considered if the Pro Bowl is held. Expansion of the international series in London could come as early as next year, Goodell added.

Kraft on Welker

Kraft spoke to the NFL Network about Wes Welker’s status, saying: “Well, we’d like to see him be a Patriot for life, but it takes two sides,’’ Kraft said. “We’re just happy he’s back in the system. He’s a wonderful young man, and a special guy. I think both sides would like to do a deal, but it requires intelligence and putting our team first.’’ . . . An arbitrator upheld the NFL’s salary cap reductions on the Cowboys and Redskins for this season and next. Stephen Burbank ruled Tuesday in favor of the league and dismissed the grievances by both teams. The Redskins lost $36 million over two years. The Cowboys lost $10 million for overloading contracts during the uncapped 2010 season despite league warnings about such maneuvering . . . Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain apologized for bringing bad publicity to the team following his recent conviction in Alabama for assault and other charges stemming for allegedly threatening to kill a man and firing a gun next to his head.

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