Matt Vensel is in his first year at the Star Tribune after covering the Ravens for the Baltimore Sun for six years. He is a Pittsburgh native and a Penn State grad. Follow him at @mattvensel.

Mark Craig has covered the NFL for 23 years, and the Vikings since 2003 for the Star Tribune. He is one of 44 Pro Football Hall of Fame selectors. Follow him at @markcraignfl.

Master Tesfatsion is the Star Tribune’s digital Vikings writer. He is a 2013 graduate of Arizona State and worked for before arriving in Minneapolis. Follow him at @masterstrib.

NFLPA less than thrilled with league's thigh and knee pad mandate

Posted by: under Vikings Updated: May 25, 2012 - 8:57 AM

Earlier this week, NFL owners voted in favor of installing a rule that would require all players to wear thigh and knee pads beginning in the 2013 season.

We know what you're thinking. The concussion epidemic in the NFL is threatening to destroy the very fabric of the league as we've long known it. Lawsuits against the NFL are piling up at a rapid clip. Former players are dealing with serious brain damage and depression. Junior Seau's recent suicide has shaken players, past and present, leaving many to wonder whether the risks of playing football are worth it.

The long-term future of the game is iffy. The negative publicity is cascading over the NFL. Yet now, in an effort to heighten player safety, the NFL is worrying about knee and thigh pads?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he wants players to consider the improved technology of such pads. Goodell also noted that in a recent conversation with Nike's CEO, he learned that NBA players today are wearing more padding on their upper legs than NFL players.

"There is something wrong with that," Goodell said. "We need to put that protection in."

As usual, Goodell's presence and tone made it seem as if sometihng major had been accomplished with the rule tweak. Yet at a press conference Thursday in Washington, D.C., DeMaurice Smith shrugged at the change. The executive director of the NFL Players Association, Smith wondered aloud whether the NFL was thinking too small with its initiatives. Intentionally.

"I understand the position that the league took and announced the other day on hip pads and thigh pads," Smith said. "It does seem somewhat ironic to me that there have been discussions about hip pads and thigh pads and I certainly don't remember one conversation about how we can develop a better mouthpiece or whether we should have more helmet standards in the National Football League. If the league wants to focus on hip pads and thigh pads right now, I think I understand why."

Asked why the union and the league haven't had more serious conversations about better mouthpieces or increased helmet standards, Smith shot back.

"Ask them," he responded. "Of course we have [raised that issue]."

Smith's inference: in an effort to slow the assault on the dangers of today's game, the NFL is using this new knee and thigh pad rule change to divert the conversation, to create a distraction -- at least temporarily -- away from the far more serious issues than have been grabbing headlines in recent months. It is the union's job, Smith noted, to make sure the big-picture safety discussions aren't derailed.

"Look," Smith said, "when has there been a day when we haven't talked about player health and safety? When I got this job [in 2009], the head of the NFL's concussion committee [Elliot Pellman] was a rheumatologist. It was the players union who took the issue of helmets and concussions to Capitol Hill. It was the players union who built upon the discussions from GQ when they had the article aboue Dr. Omalu's [concussion] studies and asked hard questions about why did the National Football League seek to prevent Dr. Omalu's study from being published. It's the players union who urged the teams to decrease two-a-day practices and to decrease helmet-to-helmet concussions. Because we now know it's not only the big hits that cause problems with players. It's exposing them to repetitive contact that results in either head-to-head or head-to-ground contact."

With a relationship that is growing increasingly prickly, Smith wants Goodell and the league to know that the NFLPA will not slow with its push to protect players across the board.

"I'm proud of our union that we have stood up to make a stand," Smith said. "I know every now and then when the league announces something like hip pads and thigh pads, everybody just wants to talk about hip pads and thigh pads. But the fact is that we have committed ourselves to changing the conversations. And changing that conversation not only includes issues like hip pads and thigh pads. What we have tried to do is confront the National Football League with one simple thought change: that a game can be profitable and fun but a game can also be safe. And as long as we have those kind of discussions, that actually improve the health and safety of our players and make their lives better after they leave this game, that's what we need to do."


Oakland - J. Lester 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Carolina 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Colorado 8:00 PM
Los Angeles 9:30 PM
San Jose
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis NoonX34-6
Sep 14 - vs. New England NoonX30-7
Sep 21 - at New Orleans NoonX20-9
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pmX41-28
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings do against Atlanta?

Weekly Question