METAIRIE, La. -- Although it can be awkward for NFL players to take firm stances against their teams on certain league issues, it's nothing new for New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees -- a longtime leader in the NFL Players Association.
And Brees said he has no problem taking such a stance on the recent debate over a proposed workers compensation bill in Louisiana because it's such an important issue.
"Listen, it's the CBA all over again, in regards to just [the fact that] there's issues that are always management and NFL versus the players association and players," Brees said, referencing the lockout of 2011 when players battled owners over a new collective bargaining agreement.
"I can tell you one thing, one thing that's non-negotiable is workers compensation and player health and safety," continued Brees, who spoke while participating in teammate Ben Grubbs' charity softball game. "Listen, we know we put ourselves at great risk every time we step on the field, every time we step on the practice field and in the weight room and when we train. And we know that's the nature of the game. But we also pay for our own workers comp insurance so that guys are taken care of when they do get hurt. And it's not if they get hurt, it's when they get hurt.
"I've had five surgeries in my life, and it's all been because of football. Now, I wouldn't trade it for the world. But also, we pay for workers comp insurance so that we have benefits that are going to take care of our body parts when we're done playing and compensate us fairly with lost-wage compensation when we do get hurt."
The NFLPA has taken a passionate and public stance against a proposed bill in Louisiana that it claims would limit the amount of workers compensation professional athletes can receive.
Essentially, the debate is over whether players that are injured during the offseason should receive benefits based on their current salary at the time of injury (sometimes only per diems) or their projected regular-season salary.
The Saints and lawmakers pushing for the bill, however, insist they aren't trying to change the current interpretation of the law. They're just trying to make permanent the way appellate courts have repeatedly ruled on workers compensation lawsuits to avoid further litigation.
And both the Saints and the NFL have insisted that no benefits or injury protections under the CBA will be affected -- only the additional workers compensation benefits that players can receive for up to 10 years in the state of Louisiana after their playing careers are over.
Brees, however, doesn't feel like it's fair to limit what players can receive since they put their bodies at risk year-round for the good of the team.
"At the end of the day, it prevents players from claiming a workers comp/lost wage benefit that should be rightfully theirs, based up on our job description," Brees said. "The fact of the matter is whether we get injured in the offseason, the preseason or the regular season, it's all in preparation for the season and for the opportunity to win a championship. ... And your ability to make the team in the fall is dependent on your ability to perform and put yourself at risk in the offseason and preseason."