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NFLPA's Smith: player safety an ongoing challenge

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm •  Published: January 18, 2013

CARSON, Calif. (AP) — DeMaurice Smith has a difficult job.

As the Executive Director of the NFL's Players Association, it's Smith's job to strive to keep his players healthy.

Smith spoke at The Home Depot Center on Friday for the NFLPA's Collegiate Bowl, which will be played Saturday.

Player safety was the topic, and Smith knows there's more work to do.

"In 2009 when I took this job the head of the league's concussion committee was a rheumatologist," Smith said.

New rules have been implemented to improve safety, but he acknowledges that his job is an ongoing challenge.

"From our perspective, there will never be a time in the National Football League when members of this union, and in particular, me, will be happy and content with where we are on the issue of health and safety," Smith said. "Our role is to make sure we are constantly challenging and imploring the National Football League to do a better job."

While the league has been cooperative in implementing and enforcing safety standards for play on the field — such as stiff fines and suspensions for helmet-to-helmet contact — Smith said the greater challenge he has faced with the league has come off the field — in the front offices, trainers' rooms and doctors' offices.

"We as a union have an obligation to keep the players' employers accountable," Smith said. "If any one of you gets hurt at your job, we call that a workplace accident and you have the opportunity of availing yourselves to workers comp protections. ... Yet in the NFL, we have our teams engaged in a systematic effort to deny our players workers' comp."

Smith said that not every team has been reluctant to comply with some of the union's requests.

"There are teams in the NFL that do an incredibly good job of protecting their players and doing things that are smart," he said. "Our challenge as a union is to have proper rules, and that we insist on levels of accountability that are applicable to everyone.

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