Joe Theismann played college football at Notre Dame in the 1960s, he played professional football in the 1970s and 1980s, and he’s been following the game closely ever since. Sadly, it’s difficult to remember a time when the relationship between the league and its players was as bad as it is today. It seems there’s a new acrimonious story coming out every week, if not every day, in which the league and its players are at odds.
Is this relationship ever going to get better?
“You sure hope so because let’s face it: there’s a ton of money at stake for both sides,” Theismann said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “But you have to understand something. In the last collective bargaining agreement, the NFL Players Association decided not to press the issue to take away the powers from the commissioner’s office, so who do you blame? Do you blame the commissioner for continuing to make decisions that he feels is in the best interest of football, or do you blame the Players Association for taking money and giving up something (so important)? They could have stayed out over one issue. They basically could have stayed out and said, ‘Look, we don’t believe that it’s fair that the commissioner makes all the decisions. And also here’s an appeal. We just don’t think that’s the way it should be. It’s not fair to the players.’ But they didn’t.
“So I believe that the relationship gets blown out of proportion to a degree, only because of what we see in the public eye today (with) social media,” Theismann continued. “We live in a different age today. There were things that Paul Tagliabue and Pete Rozelle did from a discipline standpoint that people never knew about because you didn’t have access to so much information like people do today. I think Roger has led the National Football League to places where you never dreamed it would go from an economic standpoint and the safety of the players.”
Still, while many people believe the NFL is too strict with many of its policies, Theismann, 66, believes it hasn’t been strict enough – at least in some areas.
“Here’s my big issue,” he said. “I don’t believe that our policy regarding players staying in the league is tough enough. I think if you commit an offense three times, you forfeit the privilege to be able to play professional football – and I call it a privilege. There needs to be a line drawn in the sand that says, ‘If you do this, you’re not going to be able to play the game of football.’ And then you go get yourself some help off the field. We’ll put away a fund for you, part of your salary. If a guy is an offender or a multiple offender and he’s looking at a third possible time, we’ll take some of your salary and earmark it to help you become a better person. Forget about the better football player. Let’s make you a better person. I think that’s where the league has failed the players to a degree. It’s too lenient in some cases.”