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Saints, NFL Players Association trade statements in legal dispute

Injuries and workers' compensation are at the heart of multiple statements released by the New Orleans Saints and NFLPA on Friday.

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Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints and the NFL Players Association engaged in a back-and-forth on Friday after the Saints supported a change to workers' compensation legislation in Louisiana. NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith released a letter to agents on Friday, warning potential free agents against signing with the Saints due to their support of a bill, HB1069, according to

The bill would calculate workers' compensation benefits for injured athletes based on their earnings when they're injured, and not their earnings over the course of an entire season on average. In Smith's letter to agents, he warns that the bill will work to "bar or reduce workers' compensation benefits for professional athletes."

"Last week, the Saints organization again sponsored legislation that would substantially reduce workers' compensation benefits for players injured at any time other than during the 17 weeks of the regular season," Smith said, "In other words the bill, if passed, seeks to provide a lower benefit for a player injured in OTAs, minicamps, training camp or even postseason."

Player contracts are typically paid out on a week-to-week basis during the regular season, though pay is also distributed at various points in the offseason, but at a presumably lower rate. This is where the bill would be lowering what injured players receive. Smith ended the letter asking agents, "Please advise your players of the potential consequences of the Saints' efforts should they sign with the Saints."

The primary argument coming from the Saints, in a statement released by a lawyer representing the team, is that the courts have been on their sides in multiple cases, according to Tom Pelissero of USA Today. The Saints argue that multiple cases since 2006 have concluded that these compensations should be calculated based on the wages of the injury only. "Importantly, this law is not new, and in fact first arose from a professional athlete claim filed in April 2000," they said.

New Orleans' lawyers say that HB1069 "in no way reduces any eligible workers' compensation benefits to any potential free agent or current professional athlete in Louisiana." At this point, that statement hinges on their beliefs that any further cases regarding this will be settled in the same way as the cases cited above. They say that HB1069 is "now being sought for passage to stop the needless litigation and annual lobbying efforts of the NFLPA to circumvent the established case law."

The Saints also claim that the NFLPA has "inappropriately and unprofessionally discouraged free agents from coming to Louisiana."