SBD/March 9, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: De Smith Has United Players For CBA Talks

Smith sought to get high-profile players to serve as player reps
As the NFL and NFLPA continue negotiations for a new CBA, "the union we're seeing, in some ways, is a completely new one," according to Mike Freeman of CBSSPORTS.com. NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith's "overall mission has been simple," as he wants to "make as many current stars in football as possible" union reps. Smith is "going to give former stars more of a voice at the negotiating table and more say in union strategy sessions," and he is "building a wider, more open union, which in turn made the union a tighter knit group." His predecessor, the late Gene Upshaw, "was smart and resilient but he ran the union with an iron fist and power was held by a few." Having star players as union reps "happened in the past but occasionally proved disastrous." But Freeman noted by "bringing in numerous big names, convincing them of his message and then mixing in past legends," not only has Smith "penetrated deeper into the chromosomal guts of the union but he's limited the chances of a potential uprising should there be no football for months or longer." Most union reps previously "got the job because no one else wanted it." People close to Smith contend that "one of his main missions after becoming union head was to change that," and the current NFLPA "might be the most unified group of players the owners have faced." If there were "ever any doubt about whether or not Smith would unleash his star power, they were erased" when QBs Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady reportedly agreed to be "plaintiffs in any potential antitrust case" in the event of a lockout (CBSSPORTS.com, 3/8).

BIG NAMES STEPPING UP: ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck said in past years there “was a fear associated with being a player rep,” but the NFLPA "kind of had a switch from kickers and punters and long snappers” to stars like Packers QB and player rep Aaron Rodgers. Hasselbeck: "Getting some of these bigger name guys as player reps, it's not so easy for the owner to say, 'Well, I don't like what he's saying in the locker room. We're going to get rid of him,' because they're players they need" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 3/7). Other Pro Bowl-caliber players who are serving as either their team's primary or alternative player rep include Patriots QB Tom Brady, Broncos S Brian Dawkins, Panthers WR Steve Smith, 49ers LB Patrick Willis, Cowboys TE Jason Witten and Packers CB Charles Woodson (THE DAILY).
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