A congressional committee criticized the NFL's research into equipment, particularly helmets, questioning if player safety is indeed being given top priority in an "infected system that needs to be cleaned up."
At a Manhattan forum yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee also expressed dissatisfaction with how the league is dealing with retired players now suffering from traumatic head injuries.
Reps. Linda Sanchez, D-Calif., and Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., questioned Drs. Richard Ellenbogen and Hunt Batjer, the new co-chairmen of the NFL's head, neck and spine medical committee. Sanchez and Weiner wondered why Ellenbogen and Batjer do not have stronger roles in gathering data about equipment.
Weiner asked: "Shouldn't the question be what's best for the players, protection for the noggin that's of the highest quality?"
Ellenbogen and Batjer were hired by the league in March, and Batjer said they will become "heavily involved" in collecting information on helmets.
Batjer stressed that the league is using experts in the field to analyze information from recent testing of current helmets and those being developed. Batjer said he is comfortable with that system.
But Weiner emphasized that because the NFL has a licensing deal with equipment manufacturer Riddell, it creates "a credibility issue that has been compounded over time, and it's your job to unravel it."
Batjer said he and Ellenbogen intend to fix past problems and make the game safer.
Ellenbogen outlined a six-point approach by the NFL to deal with head trauma. Under the program, the league will build a database that will log every concussion for each player; study the effects of concussions on retired players; improve equipment, notably helmets; advocate for athletes in all sports; advance the understanding of concussions; and revise and continually improve the return to play criteria for athletes.
"I assure you the NFL will be a leader in this area," he said.
* NFL owners will pick the site of the 2014 Super Bowl during meetings today in the Dallas area. It will be either Miami, Tampa or the new $1.6 billion Meadowlands stadium that will become home to the Jets and Giants next season. That stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., won't have a roof and a February Super Bowl would probably be a cold one. The league actually has a rule requiring a minimum expected temperature of 50 degrees in the host's area or a stadium with a roof, but it was waived for this bid.
* The Supreme Court rejected the NFL's request for broad antitrust law protection, saying that it must be considered 32 separate teams - not one big business - when selling branded items like jerseys and caps.
The high court reversed a lower court ruling throwing out an antitrust suit brought against the league by one of its former hat makers, American Needle Inc., which was upset that it lost its contract for making official NFL hats to Reebok International Ltd.
* Chiefs coach Todd Haley and various players refused to comment on an "ESPN the Magazine" story last week involving wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who said teammates arranged for women they met on social networking sites to meet them at a hotel during a road trip to San Diego in 2007, Bowe's rookie season.
Calling it "importing," Bowe said the women were flown in 3 or 4 days in advance and took up the entire floor of the hotel. He said the women knew just about everything about the players.
Outside the team, the story has caused quite a stir around Kansas City, a juicy plotline for an ordinarily run-of-the-mill part of the offseason.
"Dwayne and I did have a long conversation and from this point on, we'll leave it that, that it was discussed, handled internally and we're moving forward," Haley said yesterday. "We're worried about making progress as a team as we go forward and that's what's really important to me now."
* Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson is no longer relying solely on his uncle for contract advice. Johnson said he has hired Kennard McGuire as his agent, but his uncle Andre Melton will remain a trusted adviser.