NFL owners met in Atlanta on Tuesday and passed a couple of rule changes for the upcoming season involving new pads that will be required, an extension of the trade deadline and a new wrinkle in the rules regarding the Injured Reserve. The changes the league make sense in my eyes, but not all of the players agree with them.
First, the NFL owners voted to make knee and thigh pads mandatory. This rule change will start in 2013 so that equipment makers have time to tweak the current equipment.
The NFL contends that this is a playing rule and thus can be implemented unilaterally. The NFLPA contends this is a collectively bargained issue because it's a change in working conditions.
The NFLPA says:
"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. We are engaged in and monitor many different issues, such as players' access to medical records, prescription usage and the situation with professional football's first responders, NFL referees. We always look forward to meeting with the NFL to discuss any and all matters related to player health and safety."
Not all players are on board with the change. A couple of players have called the measure "dumb", "ridiculous" and a "P.R. stunt". For those players that say they won't wear them, the NFL reportedly plans an uniform inspection before every game to ensure that they are.
I'd like to see more information from the NFL on why this wasn't working before and why it should now be mandatory. Clearly, safety is a priority but the safety issue many players talk about these days involves head trauma, not other physical injuries.
Like seemingly every issue these days, we could be facing a battle between the NFL and NFLPA on this one.
Second, the NFL trade deadline was moved back from Week 6 to Week 8. The NFL's management council will now take the issue up with the NFLPA and barring any issues this will be implemented in 2012. It's the right move and I'd even argue that the deadline should be moved back even further if spurring activity at the deadline is the goal.
Some people have been using the Kyle Orton situation last year as an example of a reason to move the trade deadline back but even with the new trade deadline rules likely nothing would've changed with Orton's situation. He was waived by the Denver Broncos shortly after Week 11, three weeks after the new Week 8 trade deadline. The Bears put a claim in on Orton because they lost Jay Cutler three days before that. Maybe the Broncos would've decided to trade Orton back in Week 8 but at that point the demand wasn't nearly as strong considering the injuries to Cutler and eventually Matt Cassel. So the Orton situation specifically isn't the best situation of why moving the trade deadline back two weeks makes sense. It's really an argument to move it back another four weeks to Week 12.
I would argue the trade deadline should be moved back even further. To use the Broncos as an example again, they were 2-5 in Week 8 last year but they were still able to come back and make the playoffs (and win a playoff game) showing that even in Week 8, teams still have a legitimate shot to turn their season around. My ideal scenario with the trade deadline should be to give teams who have no shot at the playoffs a chance to trade away a player to a contending team. In my scenario, a trade deadline around Week 12 makes more sense.
Third, the NFL voted to make a tweak to the rules regarding the Injured Reserve. Previously, a player put on IR was immediately done for the season and unable to return to the team that year. The NFL's new rule now allows one player, who was on the roster in Week 1, to be placed on a temporary IR where he can return to practice six weeks later and to a game eight weeks later.
Ask the Ravens if this makes sense. Terrell Suggs tore his Achilles tendon and could return sometime around the midway point of the season. The Ravens could keep him on the opening day roster and use this IR exemption.
Not all players who are put on IR have legitimate season-ending injuries. Sometimes teams have to make the determination to shut a player down because he'll miss most, but not all of the season. This allows one player to come back later in the year.