WASHINGTON -- It was an extraordinary moment. About 25 of the NFL's locked out officials in the union offices of the players, discussing health and safety issues relating to players on the field (looking out for concussed players). Ironically, safety measures they may never get to use this year as the lockout of the officials drones on.
Unprecedented and amazing to see. It was one of the more informative moments I've witnessed in two decades of covering the NFL. CBSSports.com was part of a small media contigent invited to witness the event.
The nearly two-hour meeting took place at NFLPA headquarters and was organized by union medical experts to provide information for game officials and show solidarity against the owners. Referee Scott Green, a veteran official who has worked Super Bowls, said this was the first time medical personnel addressed the officials.
First, in speaking with some of the referee union officials, they say the NFL is planning to use Division II and formerly retired officials as replacements. That, um, doesn't sound so good.
One of the issues players have with replacement refs is the belief replacements make the game far less safe.
Much of the meeting focused on how the league is moving to a point where game officials will have much more say in what happens to a concussed player. This, I think, is a good thing. A very good thing.
A lot of the meeting featured officials telling some highly informative anecdotes. One official said that sometimes during games when he revealed to a medical staff a player might be hurt, team trainers basically told him to shut up.
One official recalled an incident when Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hit hard in the head and clearly was out of it. The official said he watched incredulously as teammates picked up Rodgers off the ground and carried him back to the huddle (Rodgers could barely stand) where he continued to play. The official then went to Mike McCarthy to inform him about Rodgers' head injury. The official said McCarthy changed the play from a passing play to a running one but Rodgers stayed in.
Reported concussions (in large part due to awareness) are increasing. In 2008, There were 200 in 2008, 229 in '09 and 261 in '10, according to union medical experts.
Also, as concussion awareness begins to settle into the league's consciousness, players are starting to sit out longer. Players missed an average of 5.18 days to a concussion in 2008. That number increased to 6.38 days in 2009 and 9.17 days in 2010.
What's next for the officials? They wait and negotiate. They've scheduled a conference call with the media for Wednesday. I get the feeling this lockout might last a bit.