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NFL takes strides to change culture

Remember when Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison crushed Cleveland quarterback Colt McCoy last year on an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit?

That's a glancing blow compared to the public-relations beating the NFL is taking.

More than 2,000 former players have filed lawsuits claiming the league was negligent in handling their concussions. Damning audio surfaced of ex-New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams telling his unit to injure San Francisco 49ers players during the postseason. Even former stars like Kurt Warner have expressed hesitation about letting their own children play because of the long-term damage it may cause.

But after being pummeled from all angles on health and safety matters this offseason, the NFL is starting to fight back.

The first media briefing from the league's spring meeting in Buckhead, Ga. trumpeted NFL efforts in trying to change the culture of an inherently violent game as well as helping some former players better deal with the often difficult transition into post-football life.

Team owners and management spent most of Tuesday morning being briefed on new medical initiatives. Speakers on those topics included former U.S. surgeon general David Satcher and NFL vice president of player engagement Troy Vincent.

During the news conference, Vincent declared that "the days of, 'Tough it out. Get up. Suck it up,' are over."

Not so fast.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell continues to receive player resistance in his attempts to alter what Vincent described as a misguided "macho" approach to handling both the physical and emotional issues that come with being in the league. That group, as well as a sizeable number of fans attracted by the NFL's brutality, wants the league to continue featuring the kinds of hits and practices that helped lead to the concussion-related lawsuits threatening its financial stability.

The push-back against Goodell doesn't end there. NFL owners voted Tuesday to make thigh and knee pads mandatory for the 2013 season. The vote goes against the wishes of players, who prefer not to use them even if it may make them more susceptible to injury. The NFL Players Association plans to file a grievance claiming that the initiative violates the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

For their involvement in a Saints bounty program that allegedly targeted the opposition, Goodell levied seven suspensions "to protect player safety and the integrity of our game." Four of those players have filed appeals, with one suing Goodell directly for defamation while claiming not enough evidence was provided to justify such punishment.

Vincent, too, knows that comments from other players about the NFL becoming soft further undermine Goodell's endeavors. Harrison -- the first player ever suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit after concussing McCoy -- is particularly outspoken. Besides calling him a "crook" and "a devil" during a 2011 Men's Journal interview, Harrison mocked Goodell at Super Bowl XLV by suggesting that the NFL should "lay pillows down where I tackle (players) so they don't get hurt when they hit the ground."

When the Men's Journal article surfaced, Vincent said he called Steelers player development director Ray Jackson to suggest "there has to be a better way" for Harrison to express himself.

Maybe the suicide of linebacker Junior Seau will enlighten Harrison and those who feel the same way about Goodell's initiatives.

Seau's death and the unknown circumstance behind it continues to hang over the league like a dark cloud. Speculation has centered upon potential brain damage from football-generated concussions -- none of which were ever documented on injury reports during Seau's 20 NFL seasons -- and anxiety brought on by the personal, professional and financial adjustments that come when exiting the league.

Legal counsel Jeff Pash announced that the NFL will be doing more research into player suicides, helmet improvement and ways of developing an "intervention program to make sure we have more effective outreach for our retired player population." To that end, NFL officials met last week with members of the National Institute on Mental Health, the Veterans Administration and related private agencies.

"It allowed us to become a partner in a broader subject," Vincent said of Seau's suicide. "NFL players are not exempt from those things in normal society."

Normalcy, though, is a relative term for NFL players. They are well aware of the risks and rewards that come with playing the sport.

Some will leave wealthy and with relatively minor health problems. Some will be broken physically, spiritually and financially. Most will fall somewhere in between.

But if the NFL has its way, all future players will have this in common -- a better chance of avoiding the problems from prior generations that Goodell must now handle.

Source: Yardbarker: Pittsburgh Steelers

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Roethlisberger “still confused” how Haley will change Steelers’ offense


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Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger says any notion that he’s angry about the decision to bring in Todd Haley as offensive coordinator, replacing Bruce Arians, is misguided. But Roethlisberger doesn’t completely understand what will change in Pittsburgh, either. Roethlisberger said on the Rich Eisen Podcast that he hears others saying that Haley will turn the Steelers…

Source: ProFootballTalk » Pittsburgh Steelers

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Change in horse-collar rule had very limited support

Giants co-owner John Mara, a member of the Competition Committee, recently explained to Michael Eisen of Giants.com the ongoing efforts to make the game safer.  Many believe, probably accurately, that the NFL has been significantly influenced in this regard by a rash of lawsuits arising from the days when the NFL wasn’t doing much to…

Source: ProFootballTalk » Pittsburgh Steelers


Mike Tomlin: Rooney didn’t make me change offensive coordinators


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Eyebrows were raised around the NFL this offseason when the Steelers fired offensive coordinator Bruce Arians (a firing they falsely claimed was a retirement) and hired Todd Haley to replace him. Answering questions about that move for the first time on Tuesday morning, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said that was his decision and did…

Source: ProFootballTalk » Pittsburgh Steelers

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Tomlin expects Roethlisberger to evolve, not change

The Steelers may be in the process of putting together a new offense, but coach Mike Tomlin said there is one thing he doesn't want to change: the swashbuckling style of the quarterback that will trigger that offense.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Replay, OT, IR rules could change

The NFL’s owners will gather for the league’s spring meetings starting on Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla., and when the sessions are over there could be new rules governing overtime, instant replay...

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

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Ward: I wouldn’t change it for the world


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With the passing of time comes change. It’s inevitable. Some may fear change but no one can avoid it. Change can come suddenly and have an immediate impact, or it can happen gradually over the long...

Source: Pittsburgh Steelers : News

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Winds of change: Steelers cut another fan favorite, leader

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The Steelers' March Massacre, three days of bloodletting for their fans, came to an end Friday when James Farrior was told his services were no longer needed.

Source: post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL

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Winds of change Steelers cut another fan favorite, leader

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The Steelers' March Massacre, three days of bloodletting for their fans, came to an end Friday when James Farrior was told his services were no longer needed.

Source: post-gazette.com - Steelers/NFL

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Former Steeler Jeremy Staat embarks on ride to change lives

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Jeremy Staat, who had a brief career with the Steelers before joining the Marine Corps and serving in Iraq, is calling his trek the "Wall-to-Wall Cross Country Bicycle Ride." With 66 scheduled stops that include seven military bases, he and Wesley Barrientos, an Army veteran of Iraq, hope to bring attention to veterans' issues.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

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