NFLPA could fight playoff expansion, wants better workers' comp

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

If the NFL wants more playoff teams, the union argues that it needs to step up health benefits for injured players.

The NFL will be discussing an expanded playoff format during its annual spring meeting in Atlanta on Tuesday. The Players Association would rather focus on a workers' compensation controversy brewing in Louisiana.

For starters, the NFLPA is perturbed that the league has not included it in discussions to increase the number of playoff teams to 14, which could be approved on Tuesday. USA Today Sports reports that the league has not contacted union leadership about the topic.

"A credible commitment to player health and safety has to include more than a group of owners voting to recommend playing more games," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.

"The players have not seen a press release from the NFL indicating that they were going to take up the issue of better workers' compensation benefits or increased injury protection benefits in light of their desire for extra playoff games."

It would seem that the union intends to use the expanded playoff issue to usher in a beefed-up benefits program by arguing more games means more chances for injury, which means greater need for health benefits. In actuality, this could be more of a negotiating ploy: we'll concede expanded playoffs if you'll concede the workers' comp issue.

Specifically, the NFLPA would like the league to address a recent bill put into the Louisiana legislature by the New Orleans Saints that Smith claims would "substantially decrease workers' compensation benefits." The bill, known as HB 1069, would calculate workers' comp benefits for any injured professional player in the state based on earnings at the time of the injury, as opposed to future earnings. It passed in the Louisiana House last week and is scheduled to appear in the Senate committee soon.

"Player leadership has consistently made it clear that we do not consider any issue, let alone issues that affect player health and safety, in a vacuum," Smith said. "We have seen the NFL owners and the league support rollbacks in injury care benefits and loss wage benefits in Louisiana, California and Arizona."

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