Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr., and Bengals offensive tackle and NFLPA president Eric Winston each pulled back a chair and settled behind a large table covered by a black cloth. They were gathered last week at a resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the annual meeting of player representatives and the NFL Players Association. In a roundtable organized by ESPN, they came together to discuss issues facing the league. After some small talk, the discussion turned serious, touching on issues including medical marijuana, painkillers, Thursday night games, playoff expansion and the NFL combine. "Things are changing," Winston said. "You see a different sort of player that's playing in the league. Players are much more aware of the different things that are going on in the country, and technology has allowed guys to learn about financial concepts or legal concepts that they didn't know about or may not have been able to learn before. Players are much more aware, and I think that makes a league that's much more aware." The following are highlights from the hourlong conversation: Thursday night games: Earlier this year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said of the Thursday night games: "[The injury rates are] slightly lower than any other games. We've seen high-quality football on Thursday nights." The players said the issues with the Thursday games are bigger than just injuries. "It's bad, low quality," Harris said. "I'm sorry. Guys are feeling their way into the game. The real game doesn't start until the third quarter. The body's not ready, you're not physically ready to play at your peak performance. Mentally, you're going into the game where you might be playing blind. Guys are cramming mentally." Jenkins said the actual game isn't the problem. "It's not that we don't feel we can perform on the stage, because if you put us on a field and turn on the lights we're going to play. The part that they don't explain and can't articulate is what it takes for us to get ready for a Sunday night game, let alone a Thursday night game. There are a lot of people on their fantasy apps for a Sunday night game knowing someone is a game-time decision. Is he going to play or not? Now imagine what that is on a Thursday, where most times (during the week) we can't even practice because it would be too much on our bodies to even get to that game. Most guys are just walking through, practicing in baseball caps, trying to recover as fast as we can to get to that game. So if we don't have to put ourselves in that type of environment or risk, we'd rather not do that as players, because we already give a lot for this game to play on a weekly basis."
Medical marijuana, painkillers among issues discussed by roundtable
ESPN | Mar 19