Two major incidents took place last weekend in Washington that caught the attention of the NFLPA. The players association, led by executive director DeMaurice Smith, looked into the way in which Robert Griffin III’s knee injury was dealt with by the team’s coaching and medical staff, as well as the condition of the field in Landover, Md., for that game with Seattle.Ultimately, the union backed off. But Smith still has some broad concerns related to both matters.
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith joined Inside the Locker Room on ESPN Radio 980 in Washington, D.C., to discuss the Robert Griffin III injury situation, the progress they’d like to make in terms of medical treatment on NFL sidelines and the condition of the field in Washington last weekend. Finally, he shared some discomforting details regarding a team doctor the NFLPA is attempting to get ousted in San Diego.
On the NFLPA deciding against pursuing a full investigation into the way in which the Redskins dealt with Robert Griffin III’s knee injury in their wild-card loss to Seattle:
“Really, the issue is two critical points. One, any time an issue arises where we have a question about the standard of medical care applied to one of our players, I can tell you we’re gonna weigh in to find out the best information that we can. But two, what triggered it in this case was there was a sufficient — or at least it appeared to be a sufficient — amount of confusion about the level of review by the doctor, the decision by the coach, that we just wanted to make at least an informal inquiry to find out what happened. And we did, and we got the information that we thought that we needed.”
On progress he’d like to see made in terms of medical treatment offered to players during games:
“There seems to be, to me, to be a missing connection on a number of levels. And again, let’s just move beyond what happened last week during the game. We want a process where the players are treated as patients. And what that starts off with is ensuring that whoever is going to render aid to them or to give advice to the player about what happens, should fundamentally start off with knowing what’s going on. So whether it’s the extent to which a player is hurt on the field or to our issue about having a sideline concussion expert, we do believe that we should have instituted processes which increase the likelihood that medical professionals: A, know what’s going on with a player on the field, and then two, to your point, that they are in a situation where the right communication is happening with the right people in order to make the right diagnosis and the right decision.
But I do know enough that if one or two of those factors don’t start off going the right way, we know that we’re inevitably going to end up with having the wrong answer. What we want to insist on is a process that treats a player like a patient. And it seems to me that if you are in a scenario where we are in a replay booth, that an official can go look at and thousands of fans can see a replay in order to make a determination about whether or not a player has scored a touchdown or caught a ball in bounds or completed a first down, it’s ironic to me that in the National Football League a doctor cannot review video tape on the sidelines in order for that doctor to understand what potential injury a player may have suffered. And it seems to me that if we’re in the National Football League now headed into the 2013 season, where we can’t provide a doctor with an instant replay so that he can understand the trauma that a player may have suffered, we haven’t arrived at a system of doing everything we can to protect the players.”
On the condition of the field in Washington and the importance of preventing situations like that in the future:
“After that, on occasion, we will take a look at the manner in which fields are certified. Every year what we are gonna do is simply ask for all of the certifications for all of the fields on the last week of regular-season play. But the way that our player leaders and the way that this union now looks at everything, we look at it as a workplace safety issue. In the same way that somebody who works at a department store or somebody who works at a coal mine considers that mine or that floor or that factory their workplace, the field on game day is the workplace where our players work. And if they are in a scenario where that workplace is not as safe as it could be, I can promise you that this union and this leader of players is gonna weigh in and we will take whatever steps we think are appropriate in order to ensure that the National Football League is expending the resources to keep the workplace as safe as possible.”
On why price shouldn’t be a factor when trying to determine what type of field to install:
“I know I wouldn’t want my son playing on a surface that was determined to be the one that they’re gonna use simply because it was the cheapest.”
On the NFLPA trying to get the NFL to remove the Chargers team doctor from his position:
“The team doctor for the San Diego Chargers has been found liable of medical malpractice twice. We know that he was the subject of a DEA investigation. The question is, again, going back to your sons and your teammates, would you want that doctor to be the lead medical physician for a team that your son plays on? And the answer is no. And we’ve raised the issue of Dr. [David] Chao specifically as early as the beginning of this season, and the National Football League still hasn’t removed him as the team physician. Well, it just seems to me that our players deserve better.”