While the NFLPA is busy figuring out the owners' proposal and whether they are going to vote on it, the NFL Management Council conducted a labor seminar Friday morning in Atlanta. This was planned in advance of the meeting and included up to four executives from each NFL franchise. Trent Baalke is definitely in attendance for the 49ers as I saw some footage of him walking around in the hotel in Atlanta.
The executives were briefed on the new rules in the owner-approved CBA, which cover everything from economics to roster requirements to practice rules. The rules have not been ratified by the players and a few of them seem to be open to enough interpretation and negotiation as to create some consternation on both sides.
For example, during the regular season teams will only be able to practice in pads one day a week. Additionally, during the final five weeks of the regular season teams can only practice in pads one day a week during three of those weeks. The biggest question mark right now is whether shells count as a padded practice or not. Shells involve wearing the underpads and helmets but not the full gear. In the link above Brian Billick raises the question of whether padded practice means no shells, no helmets, or what exactly. At around the 2:30 mark, Billick gives a solid rundown of a possible practice schedule over the course of season in previous years.
I suppose the argument can be made that fewer padded practices and fewer OTAs will mean fewer injuries. The problem of course is what kind of change we'll see related to in-game hits. Changes in practice rules would seem to help more with preventing more moderate injuries that build up over the course of season. That would have less effect on more "catastrophic" injuries whether it be concussions, torn ligaments, etc.
Along those lines, One issue that appears to still be on the table is related to discipline. There haven't been specifics but it sounds like the same concern from the past exists in terms of players wanting some kind of say as opposed to Der Kommissar laying down the hammer with impunity. That applies to the off the field conduct policy, but one has to wonder the impact on Goodell making changes to fines and suspensions as they relate to big hits.
Aside from levying more and more fines or turning this into flag football, are there ways to decrease the injuries? One could argue it's simply a matter of changing the culture, which takes time and these fines could help in that sense. On the other hand, is the game so inherently violent that things like concussions will always be a problem?