A member of the NFL Players Association's executive committee who retired after a series of concussions thinks the league's approach to player safety is misguided.
"Generally what they've done is try to blame players for how violent the game has become," former NFL player Sean Morey told The Associated Press on Thursday, when the dissolved union's board of directors began its annual meetings.
"They had ample opportunity to look at the science and make practical changes and give coaches an opportunity to coach players, and give the players realistic expectations of how they should change the way they hit. And they didn't," Morey added.
He said rules changes being proposed by the league's competition committee — including adjustments to kickoffs — don't address the real problems of keeping players healthy.
"We don't have to alter the game in order to just show that we're being proactive," said Morey, who was in the league for nine seasons and made the 2008 Pro Bowl on special teams. "I think we just need to hold people accountable to manage injuries properly when they do occur, and just practice in moderation. We have to change the way we prepare for games."
League spokesman Greg Aiello declined to respond to Morey's comments.
Ray Anderson, the NFL's chief disciplinarian, said Wednesday that repeat offenders or players committing flagrant illegal hits will have a much greater chance of being suspended next season. No suspensions were handed down in 2010, even after the NFL's midseason emphasis on such hits.
At next week's owners meetings in New Orleans, the competition committee will suggest moving kickoffs up five yards to the 35, and bringing kickoff touchbacks to the 25. The committee also is proposing the elimination of blocking wedges on kickoff returns.
"The injury rate on kickoffs remains a real concern for us, and the players and the coaches' subcommittee," said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee.
Morey also said he didn't like that players had to try to get changes to off-season and in-season practice schedules through mediated labour talks that broke off last week.
"At the end of the day, why should we be negotiating for our own health and safety? It's unfortunate. We've had to provide every solution to their problem," said Morey, who retired last year. "We're trying to do what's best for the game. We're trying to make the game safer. We're trying to make it safer for future generations and for active players."