Cowboys Player Death Raises Question of Safety Net

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In Major League Baseball, designated drivers are available to players and fans through the teams, and the players have access to a confidential program that will take them wherever they need to go.

In the NFL, some teams rely solely on the NFLPA’s program, while others have an additional system. In Cincinnati, the Bengals pay a company to make two drivers available when an employee calls. One drives the caller home, and the other follows in the employee’s vehicle.

Glavin said some players hesitate to use that kind of program because they don’t want others driving their expensive vehicles. Either way, the program hinges on a player making the first move.

“We can’t make them make the phone call,” Glavin said.

Last summer, the NFL held its 15th annual rookie orientation, which includes a number of life skills sessions. For the first time, separate sessions were held for the AFC and NFC to make the groups smaller, and current and former players were brought in as speakers, including Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick and Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones. Both have had high-profile legal problems, with Vick spending time in prison in a dogfighting case.

The NFL has sessions on issues ranging from guns to alcohol and drug use at other times of the years, and all teams have counselors who work with players, league spokesman Dan Masonson said.

League owners are gathering in the Dallas area Wednesday. The agenda was set to focus in part on player safety through the addition of leg padding, but it’s likely to change. A week before Brown’s death, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend before driving to the team’s stadium and shooting himself in front of his coach and general manager.

“I am sure the events of the past two weeks will be discussed at the league meeting,” league spokesman Greg Aiello said. “We are always looking to do more.”

Several coaches said Monday they were talking again about issues of safety and good decisions after Brown’s death. They also acknowledged there was only so much they could do, as did Mathis.

“We’re not immune from life because we’re athletes,” Mathis said. “We’re not, but there are smarter choices.”

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