DeMaurice Smith Ready For His "Most Challenging Fight" With The NFL
As DEMAURICE SMITH nears the end of his second year as NFLPA Exec Dir, he "pushes forward in what is sure to be his most challenging fight," according to Jim Trotter of SI. The NFL is facing its first work stoppage in 24 years, and whenever Smith is "asked why the owners would close their doors when revenue and ratings are at alltime highs, his answer is always the same: because revenue and ratings are at an alltime high." To look at Smith's past is to "see someone who knows what he wants and doesn't stop until he gets it, someone accustomed to combat, who sees little virtue in backing down." That is "one reason his presence in these negotiations makes people in the league office, and even within union headquarters, uneasy." Smith said, "I just don't walk away from fights. You either believe in your ability to get it done or you don't. Walking away from a tough fight where everybody thinks you might get your ass kicked -- who's going to blame you for it? Staying and fighting when you know you might get your ass kicked, that's hard. I can't trick myself into taking the easy way out." But Trotter notes as "much as Smith relishes a fight, he also knows he'll have to make concessions to strike a deal." Colts C and player rep JEFF SATURDAY: "De is a very intense guy, but he's also a realist. He's not just a hype man. He's telling you there are going to be things we're going to have to compromise on, and here's why. You have to be up front and honest. Not everything is going to go the players' way. He's done a good job of balancing that, so the guys understand that we're in this to get this thing finished and to get a new agreement in place."
READY FOR A FIGHT: One of the ways Smith "tries to determine the power players in the league is by 'poking the elephant' to see the reaction he'll get." Patriots Owner ROBERT KRAFT said, "The union has so many legal people who aren't business-oriented, in my opinion, that I hope it doesn't prevent us from being able to get a deal done before March 4. I've had some sense that De is a dealmaker. I understand there's a lot of posturing going on, but in the end I hope his strong business instincts come out." Trotter notes Smith's "willingness to challenge the NFL publicly and keep the sides in litigation is considered a breach of protocol within league circles." But while some "wonder if he's simply trying to make a name for himself on the way to political office," others believe that he "should not be taken lightly" (SI, 2/21 issue).