"A credible commitment to player health and safety has to include more than a group of owners voting to recommend playing more games."
-DeMaurice Smith, NFLPA Executive Director
The NFL will discuss an expanded playoff format during annual meetings in Atlanta on Tuesday, and there's been talk that the league could vote to approve such a change without consulting the NFL Players Association. On Monday, NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith made it clear that consultation with the players is absolutely required for something like that to pass.
"A credible commitment to player health and safety has to include more than a group of owners voting to recommend playing more games," Smith said. Certainly, it's hard to argue with him: the NFLPA fights for players' rights, and this is a tough, tough game these guys play. Simply adding in more games is a huge deal. Regardless, the NFLPA might not be directly opposed to more games, and instead used the opportunity as a bargaining chip in a current dispute regarding workers' compensation.
The NFLPA wants the league to address a recent bill put into Louisiana legislature that is heavily backed by the New Orleans Saints. Said bill would calculate workers' compensation benefits for any injured professional athlete in the state based on earnings at the time of injury, as opposed to future earnings. NFL players are typically paid each week of the regular season and sporadically throughout the offseason. An injury in OTAs would appear to draw fewer benefits with workers' comp than an injury during the regular season.
Smith noted that 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." Perhaps the NFLPA would drop the dispute regarding the postseason if the league actually acknowledges the bill going through Louisiana legislature.
"That's the expectation."
The Cleveland Browns will have wide receiver Josh Gordon available for organized team activities this week. Head coach Mike Pettine said that he expects Gordon to be there and be available, and that he hasn't heard anything from the NFL about Gordon's potential suspension.
Gordon has failed multiple drug tests with the NFL and it's rumored that he'll be suspended for the entirety of the 2014 regular season. That suspension will likely be "indefinite," which means Gordon would have to apply to be reinstated by commissioner Roger Goodell. Gordon was a breakout star last season and his potential loss is a huge blow to the Browns. But on the off chance he isn't suspended for the whole 2014 campaign, Gordon will get some time to work with both Brian Hoyer and rookie Johnny Manziel at OTAs this week.
"It's not avoiding an elephant in the room. It's moving forward."
-Jim Irsay, Indianapolis Colts owner
Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay made his first public comments on Monday since a March drug arrest and subsequent stint in rehab. Irsay said that he plans to make a pitch at the NFL spring meetings on Tuesday for Indianapolis' bid to host the 2018 Super Bowl (Minneapolis and New Orleans are also in the running), but also neglected to talk about his aforementioned arrest.
"It's not avoiding the elephant in the room," Irsay said. "It's moving forward." Irsay noted that he's still in rehab -- physical rehab this time -- and made it very clear he won't be answering any questions relating to the drug use or the arrests. The NFL has not announced any discipline for Irsay for his arrest, something that is still drawing criticism, given the harsh stance the league has taken on players in violation of any substance abuse policies.
"I am honored to be a part of such a legendary organization. Proud to be a Green Bay Packer!"
-Colt Lyerla, Green Bay Packers
After inviting him to take part in a minicamp on a tryout basis this weekend, the Green Bay Packers have signed tight end Colt Lyerla to a contract. Lyerla is one of the most talented tight ends to enter the NFL this season, but multiple off-the-field issues killed his draft stock, and forced him into a tryout prior to signing a UDFA contract. Lyerla's sudden departure from the Oregon football team early last season was just one of his issues.
But he's an incredibly athletic player with a lot of upside. He joins a Green Bay team that is desperate for a starter to emerge at the position, but he'll still have to fight his way onto the roster, as noted at Acme Packing Company. Lyerla will need to prove he can show the maturity required to play in the NFL -- it seems likely the Packers will have him on a short leash when it comes to off-the-field incidents.