The NFL Players Association has been down this road before.
Although the union is pushing for changes to the collectively bargained substance-abuse policy, it knows it will require some give-and-take with owners.
“That has not been our experience with the league or the Management Council unfortunately in most cases,” NFLPA assistant executive director George Atallah said in an interview with ProFootballTalk on Monday. “This is clearly one that falls into that health-and-safety space. We know exactly how players feel after the games, what their careers are like, and what their lives are like after they’re done playing football. It’s incumbent upon all of us to take the hard look and see how we can help players. And it’s a little bit challenging at times to feel like the only entity who cares about these players as human beings, as men, as family men, when they’re facing health and safety issues. And clearly we’ve made some significant advances over the last six-to-eight years, but on this particular issue I think it’s incumbent on the league office to — and pardon my pun — keep up with the Joneses.”
Over the past couple of years, players past and present have advocated for change to the substance-abuse policy, which is currently the most stringent among American professional sports leagues.
The union recently developed a pain management committee to assess an array of issues, including the potential use of marijuana in treating players’ football-related pain.
The NFLPA has planned to propose to the league a “less punitive” and more “therapeutic” approach to marijuana, but it has yet to be presented and specifics of the proposal have not been released.
“In my opinion, we should take a long, hard look at how we’re doing this and see if there’s a way, a better way to do it,” Stephen Jones told PFT last week. “What that is, I don’t have the answer. But we have a lot of smart people that can get in there and analyze something and really make some good decisions and see if there need to be changes.”
The current CBA expires after the 2020 season, but, like in 2014, players and owners could renegotiate the current substance-abuse policy at any time if both sides agree to do so.