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Saints' workers comp bill scrapped this session

AP - Sports

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Louisiana lawmakers are getting out of a dispute between New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson and his players about how to handle workers compensation claims for professional athletes.

Rep. Chris Broadwater, R-Hammond, said Tuesday he's shelving the workers comp bill he sponsored for the Saints organization this legislative session, hoping the two sides can negotiate a compromise.

The proposal would calculate workers compensation for professional athletes based on recent earnings, not future possible wages.

The NFL Players Association said the calculation would lessen the amount of workers compensation the Saints pay in injury cases. Saints officials said they're seeking to stop repeated lawsuits over workers compensation claims.

''The fight in Louisiana proves that players are personally invested in their health and safety. Now is the time for the NFL to take greater leadership on the issue of workers compensation to ensure players have equal treatment in every state,'' Eric Winston, president of the NFL Players Association, said in a statement.

The measure had received House support, but opposition intensified in the Senate. The bill narrowly got out of the Senate labor committee, and about 50 Saints players visited the Louisiana Capitol on Tuesday to urge senators to kill the proposal.

''It just shows how important workers comp is to us,'' Saints quarterback Drew Brees told lawmakers in the House chamber.

With the controversy ended, lawmakers lined up for photos with the players. Brees told the House: ''You all keep on doing a great job, and we're going to continue to make you proud.''

Players receive per diems during offseason workouts and training camp. Under the bill, workers compensation benefits could be based on per diems - rather than the full annual value of a contract - if injuries occurred in the offseason, giving a player far less money depending on when he got hurt.

Supporters of the proposal said it would pay athletes' workers compensation under the same rules that other Louisiana employees have.

Opponents of the bill said players hurt in the offseason shouldn't get any less for their injuries than if they got hurt in a regular season game. They said the proposed change could discourage professional athletes from coming to Louisiana.

Broadwater said if the two sides don't reach a deal before the 2015 regular legislative session, he'll bring the bill again.

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Online:

House Bill 1069 can be found at www.legis.la.gov

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