During a break between training camp visits, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith sat down with SI.com recently in San Diego to discuss the state of the game and the major issues confronting it. In a 45-minute conversation, Smith said, among other things, the players "reserve the right to seek any relief that we believe is appropriate" if it's shown that the owners have created an unsafe working environment by using replacement referees, and that long-term chronic pain could be the next major issue on the horizon. Following is a text of the conversation:
The NFLPA has accepted the league's invitation to meet next week in New York to review additional confidential findings in the bounty scandal involving Saints coaches, management and players. However a source familiar with the situation said the union still might not recommend specific discipline for players allegedly involved in the illegal pay-to-injure program, even if there's concrete evidence they were involved.
"My grandfather F.D. (Frederick Douglass) Smith was both a Baptist preacher and a sharecropper outside of Danville, Va. He taught me that having faith is the courage to take steps forward even when you don't know how the story is going to end. I think about the tough times I had to go through with this NFL labor deal, which was a very high-profile, high-stakes battle. Everyone was going to have an opinion. And everyone was going to second-guess.
The NFL Player's Association has confounded the NFL and science experts in recent weeks by debating the validity of an HGH test that has been widely stamped for a approval by independent scientists, leaving some of those involved in the meetings to suggest that union politics are obstructing the process of drug testing. On Friday, owners of all 32 NFL teams received notice from the league that the HGH test would not be in place for the start of the regular season, though that was the previously agreed upon goal of the NFL and the NFLPA.
This time, it finally feels over. If this were a football game instead of a four-month-plus labor stand-off, it would be as if both the owners and players have gone into the victory formation, going through the motions and formalities as they drop to one knee in anticipation of a successful conclusion and maybe even a little celebration.
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Finally it was time for fun and games. After two days of serious closed-door discussions about what it takes to succeed on and off the field, the 155 first-year players participating in the NFLPA-organized "The Business of Football: Rookie Edition" got a chance to let loose.
Lot of reaction from all of you -- via e-mail, Twitter and from my hosting gig on SiriusXM NFL Radio this morning -- on the Ray Lewis comments to Sal Paolantonio Sunday. Lewis thinks the crime rate in America will rise if there is no football this fall. And in a dead NFL news period, the story got a lot of play. Here is some of your reaction:
WASHINGTON -- Once you wade through the mind-numbing references to expense credits, 18-game schedules, rookie wage scales, player safety, retirement benefits, offseason workouts, lockouts and decertification, the collapse of collective bargaining negotiations between the NFL's owners and players came down to one word:
WASHINGTON -- Now that the players have decertified as a sports union, setting into place the real possibility that games will be lost in the 2011 season, the biggest question fans across America must have is this: How in the world did it come to this? It's complicated, of course, but then again, it's not. The die was cast in the dispute that led to the NFL's version of nuclear winter here Friday on March 1, when the judge overseeing the league's labor scene slapped the league down harshly. And the players' union never felt a need to come off its core negotiating tenet for the past two years: full and unfettered access to the league's audited financial statements.
I've got a bit of a different column for you this week. Because of the ever-shifting sands of this labor story, Sports Illustrated thought it foolish for our man on the scene in Washington, D.C., at week's end, senior writer Jim Trotter, to write a story for the magazine this week. Such a story could well have been overtaken by events of the week before the magazine hit mailboxes Wednesday and Thursday. I suggested that Jim write his story at the top of Monday Morning Quarterback, and the mag bosses and Jim agreed. So in a few paragraphs, you'll see how close these negotiations were to blowing up last Thursday.
WASHINGTON -- Progress seems to be in the eye of beholder in the case of the NFL's ongoing labor negotiations, but the mere fact they still are ongoing registers as reason enough to have hope as this long week of mediation sessions between the owners and players comes to a close.
Every NFL training camp now has swung into full-gear, which means the Dez Dilemma will be on the lips and minds of players, coaches and analysts all over the league. Remarkably, while it wasn't even close to Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus, Dez Bryant's refusal to carry Roy Williams' shoulder pads after a Cowboys' practice last month was a landmark moment of sorts for the NFL. And, frankly, hazing no longer can be ignored.
When DeMaurice Smith was elected president of the NFLPA in March 2009, there was a pronounced surprise that the replacement for the late Gene Upshaw wasn't an ex-player but a former U.S. attorney. Now a little more than a year into his tenure, Smith is preparing for a lockout when the CBA expires after next season. Dave Zirin caught up with Smith in Washington, D.C.
If I were a football fan, I'd be worried about the NFL season in 2011. That's what this tiff between the National Football league and the NFL Players Association over guaranteed benefits for the 2010 uncapped year and beyond tells me.
As you read this, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith might still be assessing the damage in his Washington office after what can best be described as a bizarre fire in the bathroom adjacent to his office around 5 a.m.
I had the chance to sit with the new executive director of the NFL Players Association, DeMaurice Smith, for three hours in Washington last week. I liked him. He's personable, he listens, he makes good arguments ... and, more importantly, he's a huge football fan. He loves the game, and it's going to be tough for him to tear himself away from his beloved Redskins and become a fan of all 32 teams. But to me that's a good thing. He's excited about meeting the men he's watched on TV over the years and was tickled that Peyton Manning was trying to reach out to him last week to congratulate him on the new job.
Roger Goodell's proclamation that he wants to add a 17th or 18th game to the schedule grabbed all the headlines this week and overshadowed a number of fairly significant rule changes going into effect this season. All of the changes have been instituted in the name of player safety, which is good, but the implementation of two will be very difficult.
In a year in which sweeping and historic change has come to Washington, D.C. on a national scale, the NFL Players Association followed suit with the trend Sunday night, electing D.C.-based attorney DeMaurice F. Smith, a relative unknown quantity in NFL circles, as the union's new executive director, SI.com has learned.