KSK: What is the ideal set-up you’d like to have for appeals?
George Wilson: Basically, we as players are looking for a neutral arbitrator. Somebody that doesn’t have ties to the league office nor to the players union. Just looking for a truly independent arbitrator to handle any disputes or situations that can’t be handled between the league and the players union.
KSK: Have you ever encountered that issue yourself? Has there ever been a fine or disciplinary measure that you’ve tried to challenge yourself but haven’t been able to?
George Wilson: I can honestly say I haven’t had to deal with that. Hopefully I don’t have to. The thing is, commissioner Goodell has people who can handle uniform violations or on-field conduct violations. I think most guys’ concerns are with conduct off the field, where the commissioner has sometimes rendered disciplinary measures before the court of law has run its course. Some guys don’t agree with that. Some guys don’t agree with him being judge, jury and executioner. Some people just think that’s too much power for one person to have and I can understand why they might feel that way.
KSK: From what I understand, Goodell’s ability to be judge, jury and executioner, as you describe it, was something that was debated during the CBA negotiations that took place last year. In the year or so since it was signed, there have been a number of players who have said that they regret that more steps weren’t taken to limit his power during those negotiations. What are your views on that?
George Wilson: Yeah, there’s definitely been some concern about that. That was definitely in the discussion during the negotiation process. But I don’t think that was a deal breaker, necessarily, to sign or not to sign a new collective bargaining agreement. In hindsight, I believe a lot of guys firmly believe that we should have put more effort behind that. In the negotiation process, you don’t get everything that you ask for and you just try to find some common ground where both parties are happy. All in all, I think it helped a great deal for the growth and future prosperity of our game. But as with any situation, you’re not going to agree with everything.
KSK: This doesn’t have to do with off-field stuff, but it’s something you could be potentially fined for: as a safety, it has to be tough to deal with the standard of defenseless receivers. It’s not a new standard, per se, but it has changed quite a bit in the last few years. Plays are lightning fast. It has to be hard to judge and line up a hit in a certain way. Or play a pass when it gets there and distinguish between what is and is not a defenseless receiver. What kind of changes have you had to make in your game? And, with this standard, is occasionally hitting a defenseless receiver inevitable? Are you just going to get that penalty every once in a while?
George Wilson: For the most part, just not aiming at the neck and head of your opponent. That’s the main thing. Sometimes, on a quick hit play, where you don’t have an opportunity to see your target clearly, sometimes you try to hit or grab the opposite color jersey and you make a hit that is against that standard. They do happen when you don’t have the opportunity to assess where your target is on your opponent. So when you do have an opportunity to see a play unfold, you have to be mindful of where you’re targeting him. Also making sure not to lead with your head and definitely not leaving your feet and launching yourself into an opponent because that’s something that league is monitoring as well. Is it easy? No, it’s not easy. But it’s something you have to learn to train yourself to do in practice. Just as you continue to play the game more, be mindful how you’re tackling.
KSK: Do you think there’s anything the Competition Committee could do to balance it out? Obviously, the intent is to protect players’ health and the health of receivers, but it does stack the deck in the favor of the offense if they know they can throw over the middle and the defender has to be uneasy about how he’s supposed to make a hit.
George Wilson: I mean, it’s an offensive game, let’s face it. Scoring points, putting touchdowns on the board, that’s what drives people to the game and puts people in the seats. They have started to make some progress in protecting defensive players as well. How sometimes we can be crackback blocked by a tight end or a receiver when we’re not necessarily looking. They don’t at that as the same as a defenseless receiver on offense. But the league has definitely taken some steps to make our game much safer than it has been.
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