In recent years, Roger Goddell has come under fire for the totalitarian manner in which he handles disciplinary issues. That criticism is deserved. But to be fair, shouldn’t the players association be criticized for allowing this to happen?
The easy answer is yes. The actual answer is more complicated.
“Listen, there’s nothing we can do about that now,” Drew Brees said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Honestly, there were so many issues to be dealt with in that past CBA, and the problem with the CBA negotiations is from a player’s perspective, we’re just trying to make it as fair as possible for both sides – whereas the other side, you feel like the league is trying to basically crush the players, trying to take back as much as they possibly can from the players at all times. From a player’s perspective, we’re always just striving for a fair deal. So that was, at the time, kind of a non-negotiable point. There were so many other things we were striving to get in regards to player health and safety. Player health and safety was our No. 1 priority in those CBA negotiations. Hence, the changing of the practice rules during training camp. Hence, a lot of the modifications to Plan 88 and a lot of our retirement and medical benefits. (We were) just trying to help guys out that came before us that were in dire straits that we’ve seen in regards to a lot of the concussion issues.
“So that was our main priority,” Brees continued. “It was not focused on this judge, jury, executioner role for the commissioner, which obviously was very, very important to their side. But I don’t think we ever thought that it would get to this point. We thought that there would still be some level of transparency and a level of communication and collaboration when it came to making some of these decisions, as it should be. I think the way we look at this from a player’s perspective is that this is a partnership with the NFL between the NFLPA and the NFL. It should be a partnership. It should be a collaboration. We shouldn’t always be at odds with each other. Even though when you get down to the collective-bargaining agreement, it is negotiation between league and union. Still, there’s just some common-sense elements to it that somehow went by the wayside a long time ago, which is unfortunate.”
When Brian Jones played in the NFL in the 1990s, he said the relationship between the players and the NFLPA was “acrimonious.” Brees said that is not the case today.
“I think the PA has done a fantastic job in representing players and in doing their very best to try to help some players as well,” Brees said. “Again, that was our No. 1 priority from the last negotiations was player health and safety – not just for the guys moving forward, but reaching back and trying to help the guys that came before us.”