Although the NFL player’s union is not happy about it for reasons discussed here, the NFL voted to make leg and knee pads mandatory starting in the 2013 season. While any change in working conditions is a collectively bargained issue and would need to be first discussed with the player’s union, the league can vote on it and apply it unilaterally because it is a playing rule according to the Chairman of the Competition Committee, Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay.
“We have a vote of the membership and can implement,” McKay said. “Some of us felt we were remiss that we took it out of the rule book — high school and college makes it mandatory — and in our mind that is how it should be and will be in 2013.. …It’s the same as if he ran on without a helmet. It is a safety rule…. We have some work to do with the union.”
But it doesn’t seem like there is any wiggle room from the league on this issue. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that while he understands the player’s concerns he sees no downside from the new rule, especially since equipment manufacturers get a whole year to improve pad technology before the rule goes in effect.
If a player does enter a game without wearing the leg pads, he will be sent off the field by an official. No word yet if a subsequent fine will be enforced.
The league did also approve to move the trading deadline from after Week 6 to after Week 8 and to allow one “marquee” player placed on injured reserve to return to practice after the sixth week of the schedule and to the lineup after the eighth week. That player must be on the 53-man roster after the final preseason cut.