Tuesday, May 22, 2012

NFL Approves Mandatory Thigh and Knee Pads for 2013

The National Football League (NFL) has approved mandatory thigh and knee pads for the 2013 season, much to the chagrin of the players' union.

Competition Committee Chairman & Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay explained the League's decision to reinstitute mandatory pads after previously removing the provision from the NFL's Rules Book: "Some of us felt we were remiss that we took it out of the rule book—high school and college makes it mandatory—and in our mind that is how it should be and will be in 2013."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell supported the Competition Comittee's decision: "We have raised the issue of mandatory pads for at least three years now. I believe the technology has improved, the pads are far better than a decade ago, they allow better performance and are more protective. Every other level of football uses the pads."

According to Playing Rule Proposal No. 8A, players not wearing the mandatory thigh and knee pads will be sent off the field by an official if not detected during the pre-game uniform inspection: "It's the same as if he ran on without a helmet," said McKay. "It is a safety rule ... That is really the extent of what we did today.  We didn’t vote on anything else."
Meanwhile, the players' union offered their dissent: "Any change in working conditions is a collectively bargained issue," the union said in a statement. "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."

Executive Vice President Jeff Pash discussed the standard for safety in professional football: "To have something which is a safety rule and intended to enhance safety in the game at every level but the NFL; that is an anomaly that does not make sense. Our players should be wearing the pads, setting the example, showing younger players and athletes at other levels of the game that this is the right thing to do. This is the way to play the game and to keep yourself protected. We want to encourage that by players, by coaches, and by other people involved in the game."

Thigh and knee pads have been mandatory in Pop Warner, high school and college for years and had been mandatory in professional football before the Committee's previous removal of the rule; during the 2011, for instance, though thigh and knee pads were not required, the League encouraged players to wear the optional safety equipment.

The Committee expects a drop in concussions sustained by players that have resulted from collisions with unpadded knees and thighs.

News & Transcript: NFL EVP Jeff Pash, NFL VP of Player Engagement Troy Vincent & Falcons President & CEO & Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay at 2012 Spring League Meeting


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