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NFLPA: 78 percent of players don't trust team doctors

NEW ORLEANS -- The NFL has stated repeatedly that health and safety sits atop its list of priorities, but the players union insists not enough is being done to protect those who make a living on the field.

The National Football League Players Association on Thursday announced results of a health and safety survey revealing that 78 percent of players polled don't trust team medical staffs. A mere 43 percent of respondents rate team training staffs as "good," according to the union study.

Here's what else we learned during a press conference that saw the NFLPA call for a "transitional discourse" on player safety:

» NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told reporters that players will donate $100 million to Harvard for comprehensive health and safety research. That figure was written into the collective bargaining agreement, per the NFLPA, and will pull from player-side revenues.

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» Union president Domonique Foxworth acknowledged the NFL cares about safety, but said that issue sits "well behind increasing the bottom line," citing the addition of "Thursday Night Football" and chatter of expanding the schedule to 18 games.

» Smith said the NFLPA has talked about calling for a neutral chief safety officer to preside over the league. It's somewhat stunning this position doesn't already exist.

» The NFLPA is also seeking a credentialing process for doctors and trainers, but Smith said the NFL balked at the concept. Why does this matter? Smith pointed to San Diego Chargers team doctor David Chao, stating he was twice found liable of malpractice. Smith argued the players deserve better.

» Smith talked of four "indisputable postulates" he hopes the league will embrace: (1) The game of football has risks; (2) Injuries are a necessary and foreseeable consequence of football; (3) If you are injured while playing, you will receive the best medical care; and (4) If you have lingering medical conditions based upon injuries you suffered at work, your employer will take care of you. Smith asked if anyone in the room disagreed with any of these. Dead silence.

» "From our perspective, it's totally about the players," former Buffalo Bills great Cornelius Bennett told me. "I think sometimes we get blindsided by what the league says it's doing for the sake of the shield, but our main concern is our players coming into the game and leaving the game. ... This is lifelong. Especially for guys like myself who have a young son who might want to follow in my footsteps. We're trying to set a precedent that I don't have to worry about him like I worry about myself."

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @MarcSesslerNFL.

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