SBD/Issue 197/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFLPA Exec Dir Smith Educating Players On Business Of Football

Smith Has Been Meeting With
Players The Past Two Months
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith yesterday met with player reps to "plot strategy for the upcoming negotiations in what may become the NFL's most intense labor standoff in two decades," according to Matthew Futterman of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Saints QB Drew Brees said, "There is an urgency. We’ve been in a period of labor peace for a long time, and this is the first time you really feel the potential for a battle." Smith has been meeting with teams the past two months in an attempt to "educate players about how the league operates." Smith: "I’d say the learning curve for both the players and for me is pretty steep right now." Seahawks WR and former Bengals player rep T.J. Houshmandzadeh: "I didn’t know any of this stuff until I met De a month ago. I don’t ever remember hearing stuff in depth like that." NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler: "The re-education process is a constant battle. You have to start over every year, and you hope some of the veterans bring the newcomers along." Futterman notes late NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw "took a top-down approach to his organization, sharing information only when he felt it necessary." NFL players said that Upshaw "told them that he would take care of their business -- and in large part they let him -- with decent results." However, Seahawks DE Patrick Kerney said that Upshaw's visits to teams would "occasionally descend into mudslinging, as players would challenge everything from his $6[M] annual compensation package, to whether he flew first class or on a private jet to meet them" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 7/1).

PERCY GRANTED NO MERCY: NFL Network's Steve Wyche reported Vikings first-round draft pick WR Percy Harvin was excused from attending the NFL’s Rookie Symposium due to an illness. Wyche: "Harvin tried for most of the day to get here … but was given some medicine and told to stay home and rest. He is excused, but he is going to have to attend the Rookie Symposium next year because this is a mandatory session by the NFL.” Harvin is “very concerned about his image,” and despite his illness, he "thinks people are trying to take some of the things that happened to him at the University of Florida and at the Combine and lump them into a negative light” ("NFL Total Access," NFL Network, 6/30).

JUDGE AND JURY: With NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell reportedly thinking about an indefinite suspension for WR Plaxico Burress for his felony gun charges, PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio reported there is a sense that QB Michael Vick's possible reinstatement "will hinge primarily if not exclusively on whether he can convince Goodell that [he] deserves a second chance." Florio wrote if Goodell "believes that stiff suspensions for Burress and/or Vick are required, then stiff suspensions will be imposed" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 6/29). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "This is not about morality police, it's not about trying to be a tough cop. It's about business. At the end of the day it's about business and Michael Vick right now is bad for the business of the NFL." FanHouse.com's Jay Mariotti: "The stance he's taking against problem children to me (is) the biggest thing a commissioner has done in professional sports in a long time. He sets his own rules" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 6/30). Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan: "Roger Goodell has clearly established himself as a strict law and order commissioner. In his view, playing in the NFL is a privilege" ("PTI," ESPN, 6/30).

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