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Originally published January 31, 2013 at 8:26 PM | Page modified January 31, 2013 at 10:49 PM

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NFL players' union blasts league over safety issues

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith called the referee lockout "one of the most deliberate disregards of player safety that I think has occurred in the National Football League."

By The Associated Press

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NEW ORLEANS — So much for labor peace in the NFL.

Less than 18 months after the league and players ended a lockout by signing a 10-year collective bargaining agreement, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and union president Domonique Foxworth used a Super Bowl news conference to lay out a series of complaints about safety issues Thursday.

Smith began by threatening to file a grievance if the NFL refuses to institute a system to verify the credentials of all medical personnel on the 32 teams. He mentioned three amendments the NFLPA wants to make to the new CBA, including the appointment of "a neutral chief safety officer who can hear appeals about acceptable levels of medical care."

He called the NFL's lockout of its officials at the start of this season "one of the most deliberate disregards of player safety that I think has occurred in the National Football League since our inception."

The union has been pressing the NFL to put independent neurological consultants on sidelines during games to help diagnose and treat concussions, something league general counsel Jeff Pash announced at a news conference earlier Thursday he expects to begin next season.

But Smith would only acknowledge having "heard that they have relented, at least in some respect, to have sideline concussion experts. We have not seen the proposal."

Pash did say that "details need to be worked through" with the NFLPA.

Foxworth mentioned the use of replacement officials, the NFL's desire for an 18-game season, the increased slate of Thursday night games and the New Orleans Saints bounty investigation as examples of items that have driven a wedge between the players and the league. "All those things are happening, and our players see it," Foxworth said, "and they lose trust."

Notes

• Unhappy with the hard artificial turf at Tulane University's baseball field, the Ravens finished practice Thursday on the grass field at the Saints' facility instead. They'll be sharing the facility with the 49ers, who are already training at the complex

• Donald Driver announced his retirement after a 14-year career with the Packers that made him the team's all-time leader in catches and receiving yards. Driver, who turns 38 in two days, played his entire career in Green Bay.

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