2) The Players running the union need to come together and develop more transitional programs for the players. The majority of the players running the Association have their act together, are making good money and may be at the peaks of their respective careers. Thus, they don’t necessarily fit the “at risk” profile and may be a little out of touch with the plight of retired players and their teammates who struggle with basic off field decisions.
Let's form a committee of retired players and professionals (who don’t have an axe to grind), who can help develop a transitional program out of the league and in to a stable life. I would also like to see a team of retired professionals (accountants, lawyers, investment advisors, entrepreneurs) who would act as auditors and/or advisors for players. They can help review their finances and fiscal habits. They can help players spot fraud, bad investment advice, and let a player know when they are headed down a self-destructive path.
3) When a player walks out of the door of his last team after being cut and/or retired, there is usually not an invitation to return anytime soon. There is not a fraternal infrastructure that gives players access to come and go from the team that they gave everything to. Al Davis was one owner who did open his door to his loyal Raiders and would help them if they needed it. He would make them feel like they belonged and that they were a Raider for life. He would give them jobs and even money out of his own pocket. Jerry Jones also does a good job looking out for his Alum. Some owners have created an extended family atmosphere that helps players feel like they are still part of the team. Believe it or not this can be very important to the emotional health of a former player.
I would like to see owners give more access to retired players (who maybe played for 5 years or more) and get them involved. Let them use the weight room, give them season tickets, let them come to some designated practices and/or offseason workouts. Take them on one road game once a year. Make them feel like they are a part of something. Many college football programs excel in this area. I think NFL teams can emulate something similar.
4) The Players and the union did one heck of a job limiting the amount of contact practices with the last CBA thus helping to protect the body over the course of a season and a career. This should reduce some concussions but we have a long way to go in preventing head traumas. When it comes to head traumas, players can be their own worst enemy as none of them want to miss playing time or risk being cut. Let’s provide more ongoing education about the body and especially the brain. Coaches need to help create an environment that limits head to head hits and promotes talking about head injuries where players don’t feel like they are risking their livelihoods.
I’m sure that if each team allocated $500,000 per year towards building life skills platforms, hired more support staff for players, and created more resources; I believe they would see immediate dividends. You would see players making smarter decisions off the field resulting in less suspensions, fines, and positive substance tests and arrests, all of which are embarrassing to league. If players take better care of their bodies while they are playing they will have less physical ailments on the back end. The bottom line is that everyone involved in football, including the agents, needs to do a better job right now in preparing these young men for a rude awakening that awaits them after their last game has been played.
Follow me on Twitter: @Jackbechta
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