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NFL tries to battle concussion issues in league

5/22/2007 - NFL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The NFL wants to take better care of
players, both current and past, with a new system to encourage
whistle-blowers protecting those with concussions and by working
with other groups to coordinate medical care for retirees.

Commissioner Roger Goodell reviewed medical recommendations for
managing concussions with NFL owners Tuesday during their one-day,
spring meeting here. That includes protecting anyone anonymously
reporting doctors pressured to clear players or players pressured
to play.

Goodell, who has ordered teams' medical staff to a concussion
summit in Chicago on June 19, said it's critical medical decisions
override competitive decisions.

"The whistle-blower concept is there to ensure if anyone feels
undue pressure or sees undue pressure to return to play before they
are physically capable, we'll find that out on a confidential basis
and look into it," he said at a news conference concluding the
meeting.

On a day where owners decided to play the 2011 Super Bowl in the
Dallas Cowboys' new stadium, Goodell also told owners that the NFL
will be working with the players union, the NFL Retired Players
Association, NFL Alumni Association, NFL Charities and the Pro
Football Hall of Fame in an alliance to coordinate medical support
for former players.

That doesn't include any new money from the NFL, which helped
create the 88 Plan named for Hall of Famer John Mackey in the labor
agreement last year to pay up to $88,000 a year to pay for nursing
care or day care for ex-players with dementia or Alzheimer's
disease or $50,000 for home care.

"What we're trying to do with the alliance is make sure we pool
our resources and pool our efforts to make sure we're being
responsible in this area," Goodell said.

The commissioner also briefed owners on paring down the time in
takes to complete the first and second rounds of the draft. He
doesn't need their approval, but he consulted the competition
committee for suggestion, which favored shortening the amount of
time teams have to make a selection.

Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney also would like to see less time for
picks and said he doesn't think they need 15 minutes per selection
in the first round.

"You'll save a lot of time. You'll keep the people aware. Maybe
it's sad for us because we're always in on it. Maybe some of these
guys fall asleep after 15 minutes," Rooney said.

Goodell said interest in the draft has grown so much but he sees
the possibility for even more growth. He will be studying research
and talking with the league's partners about prime-time
possibilities and said he expects a decision by fall.

Player conduct remains a hot topic, especially in the town where
Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones has been suspended for the
2007 season for off-field conduct Goodell deemed detrimental to the
NFL last month.

Jones appealed that suspension in a hearing May 11. But a
decision is not expected this week because Goodell said he had been
busy prepping for the owners meeting.

Not so for Chicago defensive tackle Tank Johnson, who met with
the commissioner last week after a two-month stint in jail for
violating probation.

"I do not believe there's any information I'm still waiting on.
I might be able to move on that faster," Goodell said.

And yes, the league office continues watching the case of
Michael Vick and the questions of dog fighting on property the
Atlanta quarterback owned until recently. Goodell said he is
writing back to U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) who asked him to
act swiftly in a letter to the commissioner.

"I do share his concern. On the other hand, I want to make sure
we understand the facts before we make any decision on this and the
acts are still unclear," Goodell said.

NFL owners also made it clear that seats matter in awarding the
2011 Super Bowl, giving the league the chance to sell up to 120,000
tickets to the Cowboys' $1 billion stadium opening in 2009.