NFL Nation: DeMaurice Smith

Haslett defends Brandon Meriweather

October, 31, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- A week ago, Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said he was more concerned with Brandon Meriweather's tackling than his suspension. Now he's just happy to have Meriweather back and he's confident he'll tackle within the rules.

Meriweather missed Sunday's 45-21 loss to the Denver Broncos while serving a one-game suspension. Meriweather returned with a bang Monday, about how he'll tackle in the future and with pointed comments regarding Chicago Bears receiver Brandon Marshall. Meriweather confirmed that he apologized to NFL Players' Association executive director DeMaurice Smith for his comments on Monday.

"I guess I just got to take people's knees out. That's the only way," Meriweather said Monday. "I would hate to end a guy's career over a rule, but I guess it's better other people than me getting suspended for longer. You just have to go low now, man. You've got to end people's careers. You got to tear people's ACLs and mess up people's knees. You can't hit them high anymore."

But Haslett was ready to defend his starting safety.

"Brandon's a good guy," he said. "He's a good person. I don't think he'll do anything that harms the team. He said something out of emotion, the way he felt. But just knowing Brandon and the way he practiced [Wednesday]... he'll stay within the rules and do what's best. He's not going to try and hurt our football team."

Inside Slant: Players must police Suh

September, 12, 2013
The NFL has taken more than $342,000 from Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the form of six fines and one suspension for on-field transgressions. On Wednesday, in the aftermath of his most recent incident, Suh told reporters: "My play speaks for itself. I don't change."

So what now?

The NFL's escalating fine policy clearly hasn't had an impact, nor should it be expected to with a player who has earned more than $50 million in salary and bonuses over the past three seasons. And surely the league doesn't want to suspend a player, Suh or any other, for something as relatively minor as a low block.

So if anything productive has come from Suh's shot at the knees of Minnesota Vikings center John Sullivan, it's the relatively forceful reaction from a more credible source of deterrence: his peers.

Suh's teammates, of course, rallied around him after a team meeting this week, but feedback elsewhere has been notable for its tone of brotherhood and demand of respect. A representative swath of league figures -- even the head of the NFL Players Association -- has suggested, in various ways, that responsibility for reining in Suh might ultimately fall on his fellow players.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
AP Photo/Rick Osentoski"We are trying to have a clean game and these things are unnecessary," Saints tight end Benjamin Watson said of Ndamukong Suh's latest transgression.
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen said the block on Sullivan was "uncalled for" but also added: "This is a fraternity. In the NFL, you try to take care of guys. Things happen, and guys are going to make hits. But you can't take a dude's legs out from behind on an interception return down the field."

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he thought Suh used "poor judgment." DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFL Players Association, tweeted that he reached out to Suh because "we believe that all players have a basic responsibility to each other."

Most tellingly, I thought, New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told NFL Network that other players need to start holding Suh accountable.

"This is about players getting on players and him deciding, 'Hey, I am going to abide by the rules,'" Watson said. "He is making it a danger for a lot of guys, and his conduct needs to stop."

Watson added: "It is a privilege to play in the NFL. It is not a right. Because of that, we have to respect each other, respect what each other are trying to do out here. We are trying to have a clean game and these things are unnecessary. … [I]f you care about your team, if you care about the guys you are in the game with, you are going to play within the rules. Again, player safety. Guys are out there trying to make a living, trying to go to work. It is frustrating to me, as a[n] offensive player, when a guy continues to do these sorts of things."

I know what many of Suh's supporters would say in this instance because I covered the Lions as part of the NFC North blog for five years. Many of you believe Suh's reputation has been inflamed and perpetuated by the media after his eventful rookie season, and I've corresponded with many who suggest that players are influenced by the same coverage.

That might be true in some cases. I think it's also fair to point out that Suh's total of personal fouls dropped from 10 in his first two seasons to one in 2012, according to the NFL's game statistics information system. But a 12th personal foul in the first game of a new season served as a sobering reminder of his past and potential future.

The Lions have always deferred discipline to the league, and the league hasn't had much success. I believe Suh when he says he doesn't plan to change his style. To this point, no one has given him a real reason to. That, unfortunately, leaves NFL players to police one of their own. We'll see if they're up to it.
The attempt to keep Elvis Dumervil well paid and in Denver is on.

The Denver Post is reporting that NFL Player’s Association head DeMaurice Smith has asked for an inquiry into the bizarre situation involving Dumervil’s contract.

Also, the paper reported that the Broncos asked the NFL on Saturday if they would honor the verbal agreement despite the fact that Dumervil’s agent, Marty Magid, returned the fax of the restructured contract seven minutes after the deadline. The NFL predictably declined. The other 31 teams likely would have had a fit had the NFL reversed a league rule based a verbal agreement.

Still, the Broncos’ action shows they want Dumervil to return.

I think the key to Smith’s involvement is time. The Broncos and Dumervil cannot afford to wait an extended time for a ruling. The Broncos have to figure out who is going to be their second pass-rusher, and Dumervil has to get a job. Time is an issue.

Clayton: New bounty investigation unlikely

June, 22, 2012

John Clayton discusses NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith asking Roger Goodell to conduct Saints bounty investigation again, and the strength of NFL's case after denying gag orders and witness retraction cover-ups.
We hadn’t heard from filmmaker Sean Pamphilon, the man who released the infamous Gregg Williams audiotape to the media and added another controversial layer to the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, in quite some time.

But that’s over. Pamphilon has spoken up again. On his personal website Pamphilon wrote a post that’s longer than some books I have read. He recounts his decision to go public with the audio and a lot of what he says is similar to what he’s said in the past. But there are some new twists.

Most significantly, he details how former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita, a member of the NFL Players Association’s executive committee and now a member of the Cleveland Browns, urged him to go public.

Pamphilon was given access to the Saints as he worked on a documentary on former New Orleans special-teams star Steve Gleason, who has been diagnosed with ALS. Gleason and his wife initially were opposed to the tape being released.

“They were emphatic Steve wasn’t willing to “burn that bridge," Pamphilon wrote.

Pamphilon said Fujita began acting as an intermediary to help convince the Gleasons to give their blessing on releasing the tapes. That never happened, and Pamphilon said his agreement with Gleason did not give the former player the right to veto the release of the tape. But Pamphilon said Fujita continued to encourage him to go public, at one point saying “sooner the better."

Pamphilon also said Fujita led him to believe that New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees also was in favor of releasing the tape. But Pamphilon got a phone message from Brees just as the tape was being released.

“In the voicemail, Brees never says NOT to release it,’’ Pamphilon wrote.

Pamphilon also said the NFLPA, including executive director DeMaurice Smith, was aware of the tape’s existence before it was released.

“At 3:12 in the afternoon Fujita texts me right after a conversation with DeMaurice Smith and says Smith 'brought up the release of the audio and his only question was if it will be released raw or edited?'" Pamphilon wrote.

Pampilon also wrote in great detail about the aftermath from the release of the tapes. Some of it was centered on people questioning his motives and his fractured relationship with Gleason. He also expresses disappointment in Brees. But the strongest part was reserved for Fujita, who no longer talks to Pamphilon.

Fujita recently met with the Cleveland media and denied any knowledge of a bounty program. When asked about the tape, Fujita said it was merely evidence of a coach saying some inappropriate things.

“In no way is this intended to be a cheap shot, but there is no chance in hell I would allow (Fujita) to teach either of my sons, an ethics class,’’ Pamphilon wrote.

Report: NFL to conduct HGH study

April, 21, 2012

John Clayton discusses the NFL's interest in HGH testing and when we may see testing in the NFL.
As expected, the New Orleans Saints opened their offseason program without quarterback Drew Brees.

I’m sure the fact he is carrying the franchise tag, hasn’t signed his tender and wants a long-term contract is part of the reason Brees didn’t show at the team’s Metairie facility. We’ve known that was coming since Friday, when it was reported that Brees wasn’t planning to attend.

But there’s a bit of a twist to this story. Even if Brees had signed a new contract weeks or months ago, he still might not have joined his teammates Monday. Brees reportedly is in New York at the NFL’s offices. Brees, former New Orleans linebacker Scott Fujita and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith reportedly are meeting with league officials. NFLPA president Dominique Foxworth and union legal representatives also reportedly are in attendance.

Brees and Fujita are members of the NFLPA’s executive committee. Presumably, the meeting is related to the league’s investigation of player involvement in a bounty program. The NFL already has issued a $500,000 fine, stripped the Saints of two draft picks and suspended coach Sean Payton (for a full season), general manager Mickey Loomis (for the first eight games of the season) and assistant head coach Joe Vitt (for the first six games of the 2012 season).

The league has said 22 to 27 players were involved in the bounty program and has said fines and suspensions are possible. But no official announcement on player discipline has been made.
For those of you waiting for news on possible suspensions of players for roles in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program, I’d say don’t get your hopes up that we’ll hear official word anytime soon.

It sounds like we’re getting into a little war of words between the NFL Players Association and the NFL office and that could delay things. Kind of reminds me of last year's labor negotiations.

Check out this news story I spent much of this afternoon working on. In it, you’ll see quotes from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, saying he wants access to all the information the NFL found in its investigation before discussing possible punishments with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

"It's very hard to have a productive discussion about punishment when one side has kept, to itself, all the information," Smith said. "What I would expect is to have a conversation soon and certainly it would be our expectation that the request for all information, as it relates to particular players, will be provided before any discipline takes place."

A league official said confidential reports with extensive details were provided to the NFLPA on two different occasions. The official also said Goodell has invited Smith and other union leaders to come to his office and discuss the evidence. The league also has told the NFLPA that it is free to talk to players as it conducts its own investigation.

Smith said he believes he should have strong say in the punishments.

"Obviously, the first word that popped out to me was the word 'determine,' '' Smith said of a phrase Goodell used about potential suspensions. "I'd much rather that be the word 'discuss.' As of yet, they haven't turned over anything that we would consider to be direct evidence of player involvement in a 'pay-to-injure' scheme that we could consider for discipline."

The league official said Goodell is more than willing to listen to “recommendations’’ from Smith, but emphasized that any final decision on player discipline is up to the commissioner.

Stay tuned on this one.

What's next for the Saints?

March, 22, 2012
Sean Payton, Roger GoodellGetty Images/US PresswireRoger Goodell, right, punished the Saints' brass for the bounty scandal. Next, he'll focus on players.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced heavy penalties (suspensions, a heavy fine and the forfeiture of draft picks) against the New Orleans Saints on Wednesday. But this story is far from over.

Let’s take a look at what else might happen.

What’s left to come?

Pat Yasinskas: Disciplinary action against the players. The NFL has said anywhere from 22 to 27 players were actively involved in a three-year bounty program in which Saints’ defenders were offered financial incentives to intentionally injure opponents. The players also were involved in funding the programs. Goodell has said there will be disciplinary action against the players, but he didn’t announce it when he revealed the suspensions for coach Sean Payton, former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, assistant head coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis, a $500,000 fine for the team, and the loss of second-round draft picks in 2012 and 2013.

That’s because Goodell has agreed to allow the NFL Players Association some time to complete an independent investigation into the situation. Goodell is expected to meet soon with union leader DeMaurice Smith and will listen to recommendations on penalties. The ultimate decision on that rests with Goodell, and given the severity of the punishment he already has handed out, look for the penalties against players to also be harsh.

Expect multiple suspensions and heavy fines. Goodell is intent on making sure nothing like this ever happens again. He already got the message out to coaches and administrators. But he also has to make it clear to players.

When will those penalties come?

PY: Unless Goodell and Smith meet very quickly, there probably will be a little lag time on this. The annual NFL spring meeting begins Monday in Palm Beach, Fla., and Goodell will have to travel there sometime over the weekend. Once the meeting gets started, he’ll be tied up with other matters.

The likely scenario is that an announcement will come late next week or early the following week.

Which players have the most to lose?

PY: It’s hard to say, because the NFL’s report didn’t go into a lot of specific details on players. But the one player that was singled out in the report was New Orleans middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma. The NFL said he was responsible for placing a $10,000 bounty of former Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre. That’s not going to look good when a decision on his punishment is made. It’s likely Vilma will face a multiple-game suspension, and he probably will be the player with the most severe punishment.

But it’s not likely to end with Vilma. The NFL obviously turned up a lot of details in its investigation, but held back details on specific players. Those details likely will come out when discipline for players is announced. Expect more suspensions and plenty of fines.

Will the NFL stagger the suspensions, or will they all come at the same time in the 2012 season?

PY: Keep in mind, the punishment on this one isn’t likely to be limited to just the Saints. There are former New Orleans defenders scattered about the league, and some are out of the NFL. They’re still subject to discipline. But it’s likely the Saints will have multiple defenders facing penalties. If a lot of them are facing multiple-game suspensions, the NFL might have to stagger the suspensions. You could argue the penalties already have put the Saints at a competitive disadvantage. But forcing them to play multiple games without, let’s just say for example, half their defense, would make the Saints completely non-competitive. If there are a lot of players suspended, the NFL might have to spread things out.

How will the Saints replace the suspended players?

PY: Again, much will depend on the number of players suspended. But the fact that Loomis will be allowed to work through the offseason, and begin his suspension just before the regular season opens, will give him time to put a plan in place. He’s likely to go heavy on defensive players in the draft, although the Saints won’t have a pick in the first two rounds (the first-round pick was lost last year when the Saints traded up to get Mark Ingram. The second-round choice was forfeited as part of the punishment). So the Saints might have to play some of their middle-round draft picks very early in the season.

The Saints already have added free-agent defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley, and have had multiple free-agent linebackers in for visits. The Saints have been active in free agency throughout the Loomis/Payton era. But there’s an additional challenge this year, because the Saints are very tight against the salary cap. Part of the issue is that quarterback Drew Brees is currently carrying the franchise tag while he and the team try to work out a long-term contract. A new deal isn’t likely to free up much cap room. In fact, unless there’s some unusual structure to it, Brees’ cap figure will probably be in the $19 million range. But the Saints need to get him signed just to create some stability.

Then, there are other ways Loomis can work with the cap. There are several players who could be released to free up cap room, and several other contracts that easily could be restructured. There’s little doubt the Saints will remain players in free agency. They also could catch a bit of an in-season cap break. Once players begin suspensions, they don’t count against the cap. They’ll again count against the cap once they are reinstated, but their pro-rated salary for the games they miss won’t continue to count against the cap, because they won’t be paid for the games they miss due to suspension.
On this Thursday morning, the punishment of the New Orleans Saints for the bounty program continues to dominate the news stories and opinion pieces around the NFC South. As a matter of fact, there are virtually no non-Saints headlines across the division. So let's take a run through what's being talked about.

This editorial in the New Orleans Times-Picayune says that Saints fans deserve more of an explanation of why the penalties against the Saints were so harsh. I think there was plenty of explanation in the report the NFL released to the media. It was, by far, the most detailed report I’ve seen on an NFL disciplinary matter. It named names and went into deep detail. If you really want more of an explanation than that, be careful what you wish for. There could be even more things that loyal fans don’t want to hear.

Here’s an unflattering portrayal of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is the target of wrath for many Saints fans. I understand that, but I think they’re way off target and blind in their loyalty. Goodell wasn’t the one who broke rules, lied and didn’t listen to his boss. Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, Mickey Loomis and Joe Vitt were the ones that did all that. Don’t shoot the messenger.

It’s kind of amazing how their can be such strongly different reactions to the same thing in different areas. Atlanta columnist Jeff Schultz thoroughly agrees with Goodell’s decision.

Same thing in Charlotte, where columnist Tom Sorensen wrote that Goodell didn’t undermine football, “he preserved it’’.

In Tampa, columnist Marty Fennelly writes that there’s blood in the NFC South water and it’s time for the Buccaneers to strike. The Bucs have some major building to do, and as long as they have Drew Brees, the Saints aren’t going to simply fall apart. But it’s a valid point. There have been plenty of instances of teams going from worst to first in the NFC South, and there’s little doubt the Bucs have improved their roster with what they’ve done so far this offseason.

Carolina general manager Marty Hurney said it was very disappointing to see franchise quarterback Cam Newton named as one of the players the Saints targeted with their bounty program. Carolina veteran offensive tackle Jordan Gross said the bounty program was “appalling,” but added he wasn’t surprised to hear about it.

Goodell said he expects to meet with NFL Players Association leader DeMaurice Smith and union leaders soon. He said he’ll listen to their recommendations for penalties against players involved in the bounty system. But the ultimate decision rests with Goodell. Given the severity of Wednesday’s penalties against coaches and the front office, I’d expect the punishment for players will involve suspensions and heavy fines.

In this very good GQ story on Michael Vick by Will Leitch, one paragraph in particular is raising NFL eyebrows this morning, and it is this one:
"I think I can say this now, because it's not going to hurt anybody's feelings, and it's the truth," Vick tells me a few weeks after the commencement ceremony. "I didn't want to come to Philadelphia. Being the third-team quarterback is nothing to smile about. Cincinnati and Buffalo were better options." Those two teams wanted him and would've allowed him to start, but after meeting with commissioner Roger Goodell and other reps from the NFL, Vick was convinced -- and granted league approval -- to sign with Philly. "And I commend and thank them, because they put me in the right situation."

The immediate question is whether Goodell had any business influencing where Vick signed once he got out of prison, and some have raised the issue of whether the Bengals or Bills will or should be upset about this. I see the point but have some issues with that interpretation.

First, I don't buy that the Bengals would have started Vick ahead of Carson Palmer in 2009, fresh out of prison. I may buy that the Bills would have done it, since they were going with Trent Edwards and eventually Ryan Fitzpatrick, but to say he was a starting option even for a team as quarterback-desperate as Buffalo is revisionist history.

Vick had just gone two full seasons without playing football. No one knew what kind of shape he was in, physically or mentally. If a team -- even the Bills -- was going to sign him, it's impossible to believe they were going to anoint him their starting quarterback right out of the gate. It's easy to look back over the way Vick played last year and say sure, of course he'd have been worlds better than those other options. But in August 2009, nobody knew he'd come back and be what he's become. Not the Bengals, not the Bills, not the Eagles, not Vick and not Goodell.

Goodell's mission at that time was not to return Vick to on-field football glory but simply to return him to NFL society and allow him to resume his career in the situation that would best enable him to be a productive member of that society on and off the field. Goodell had a lot of help in this effort, from agent Joel Segal to NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith to former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who served as a mentor to Vick during and after Vick's prison stay.

Now, to Goodell and all of those other people, the Eagles looked like the best spot for a number of reasons. They all believed coach Andy Reid, in part because of his own personal experience with his sons and their legal trouble, would be a compassionate mentor. They believed that Reid and his coaches could nurture and coach Vick while Vick served as backup to Donovan McNabb. They believed McNabb would be a good mentor for Vick.

Goodell said more than once, at that time, that he was looking for "a success story." And he didn't mean success in terms of yards or touchdown passes. And he certainly didn't mean success for any one particular NFL team. He meant success for Michael Vick -- and that meant putting Vick in the most beneficial situation for Michael Vick. The idea that the commissioner might have been playing favorites, or that other teams should be upset that he may have steered this remarkable athletic talent to a training camp other than theirs, is fueled by nothing other than hindsight. At the time, no one knew if Vick had it in him to ever complete another NFL pass. Even the Eagles didn't know. They just took a chance -- a chance for which they were ridiculed and criticized by many at the time -- and coached him into a better quarterback than he'd ever been before without ever thinking he'd start for them. Remember, a year ago, Vick was Kevin Kolb's backup.

To think that Vick would have become what he's become while riding the bench behind Palmer or even while starting games for Buffalo is to underestimate the work the Eagles did with him once they got their hands on him. If this is going to be a controversy, people had better come at it with all of the facts. Sure, it's possible Goodell wanted Vick in Philadelphia. But if he did, it had nothing to do with wanting to help the Eagles. They did that on their own.

How NFL lockout was good for the game

August, 4, 2011
Recently retired Arizona Cardinals fullback Jason Wright follows his piece on lockout implications for rookies with thoughts on how the lockout was ultimately good for the game.

The National Football League lockout was like a long Midwest winter, the kind that makes people save money for a home in Arizona.

Conflicting court decisions, leverage-minded press releases and false leads on resolution made the NFL skies appear grayer and grayer.

[+] EnlargeDeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell
Evan Habeeb/US PresswireThe leadership of DeMaurice Smith and Roger Goodell was essential in navigating the NFL lockout.
The lockout’s end has brought the same enthusiasm as the first sunny day of spring. Players are excitedly returning to the game like kids on the first day of Pop Warner practice. Owners are elated that the money will indeed be rolling in by the bucket-loads again. Team employees are glad that same money will put food on their families’ tables. And the fans are feasting on a frenzied free-agency period and a quick start to actual football!

In retrospect, the lockout was not all bad. I believe there was a shiny silver lining in its gloomy reign over pro football. I believe the game is now healthier than ever and a robust framework is in place to prevent another nasty offseason battle from materializing. Now that the lockout has ended, there is an argument that it was “good” in a number of ways.

Valuable lessons

Owners and players have worked successfully together for years in a special employer/employee relationship; special because of the unique position of the players (a super-employee of sorts that is resource, labor, and final product combined). Both sides likely thought they were familiar with their counterparts, but the lockout allowed the parties to truly become acquainted.

Owners learned that the players were more strategically and intellectually gifted than expected. They also learned that strong labor leadership could produce player solidarity even in the individualist era of pro football. Likewise, players found that the owners didn’t become wealthy by chance: they DO NOT play when it comes to the balance sheet. While players will never know if the league was truly hemorrhaging funds, they did learn that the NFL will do what it takes to ensure that all owners feel comfortable investing in the growth of America’s game.

Call it what you will, but as a businessperson, you must respect it.

More personal in character were the opportunities for growth in individual players. While the NFLPA has always produced an intelligent, business-savvy player board, the average player hasn’t always been so conversant in the particulars of sports business. He certainly is now. Additionally, not knowing when the next paycheck will arrive allowed many players to get a feel for how they will have to live when they enter the “real world” after football. It is my hope that this will prevent the current crop of NFL athletes from following the disastrous financial paths walked by many former players.

Leaders coming of age

From my arm’s length view, the heads of both the NFL and the NFLPA earned their stripes (and their paychecks) during this lockout. DeMaurice Smith always carried a charismatic presence. It’s why the player board elected him NFLPA chief a few years back even though he was the out-of-nowhere candidate. He turned out to be not only a dynamic speaker, but a visionary strategist.

Although things didn’t go perfectly according to plan, his vision proved resilient and he was able to successfully steer the players home. His transparency with players was a new development in NFLPA conduct that, in my opinion, kept players from fracturing as the going got tough. His openness certainly converted this long-time union cynic to cautious-but-serious supporter. I am not nearly as familiar with Commissioner Goodell, but nonetheless give him credit for picking up the mantle of leadership. Getting the owners of 32 teams, in 32 unique markets, with 32 specific needs to coalesce is no small task.

Add to that the fact that owners are brilliant businessmen, confident in their respective business track records, and the commissioner’s work deserves a standing ovation.

Because these two men were made stronger through the lockout’s rigors, the business state of the game has been likewise strengthened.

Football is now truly a business

Most importantly, the way in which the NFL and the NFLPA interact over the Collective Bargaining Agreement is forever changed. Under the leadership of Paul Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw, collective bargaining got done, in large part, through the conduit of their friendship. It appears they each fully trusted that the other was able and willing to steer his constituents in the best direction for the long-term health of the game. They trusted one another to do this without screwing the other side over in the many dirty details of the negotiation.

Their respective constituencies had faith in their leaders to handle business this way.

As they opted out of the former CBA, owners claimed that the two men had a gentlemen’s agreement that the deal would be re-done at some point. If true, this is a case-in-point. This “golf buddy” method of doing business works rather smoothly. It is, however, completely dependent on the friendship of the two men at the top. Because of the nasty rhetoric voiced during the 2011 lockout, the relationship of players and ownership will likely never be like this again. There is now a mildly adversarial tension between the two groups expressed in a healthy distrust of one another. I believe this is a good thing.

I’ve done business with friends many times and my attention to detail in those partnerships has been, admittedly, sloppier than usual. Because I had established a level of trust with them, I didn’t flesh out all the details. I foolishly figured we could adjust things later if an issue arose. As a result, most of these endeavors came back to bite me in some way. The times I’ve done business with strangers, especially hyper-aggressive stereotypical business types, I was certain I’d closed every possible loophole and fully evaluated risk. Heck, I’d even had industry-specific experts sign off on the contract language. As a result, there were no surprises and far less drama as these ventures played out. This is the better way to do business.

The meticulousness that comes with an atmosphere of distrust produces sound business transactions and lasting agreements. I believe this is why there is now a decade-long CBA for which neither side seriously sought an opt-out clause. Both sides have checked every corner of fine print, read every footnote, are fully aware of their respective “wins” and “losses,” and are comfortable with them moving forward. As long as the two groups remain cordial but don’t go back to being “buddy-buddy” labor partners, this is likely the stability we’ll see from here on out. And for everyone who cares about the game of pro football, this is a very good byproduct of a very bad NFL offseason. Here’s to the sunny days that lie ahead.

Video: NFLPA statement on settlement

July, 25, 2011

Executive Director DeMaurice Smith discusses the NFLPA's labor agreement with the NFL.
For the second time in as many weeks, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith are appearing together in public. The symbolism is unmistakable and obvious.

Last week, Goodell and Smith spoke side by side to reporters who covered a negotiating session in Massachusetts. Wednesday morning, they appeared together at an NFLPA-sponsored rookie symposium. Goodell reportedly addressed the players, and the NFLPA posted photographs of the event on Twitter.

Reports have suggested for weeks that the sides were making progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement, one that would end the lockout and put the sport back in business in time for the opening of training camp next month. Wednesday's joint appearance suggests that the sides at least see a deal on the horizon.

The NFL and NFLPA are masterful manipulators of message. They fully understand the conclusions likely to be drawn from Goodell and Smith sitting next to each other on a stage in front of players. If I had to guess, I would think part of their message is intended for corporate sponsors and/or ticket buyers who have been skittish about their buys during the lockout. With a photograph, the NFL is saying: We're on our way back.

According to the NFLPA, Smith told players: "The goal is to get this done fast but right so that everything can start on time." Smith and Goodell are scheduled to answer questions from players later Wednesday, then issue a joint statement to reporters.
Here's a day-brightener during the NFL lockout:

St. Louis Rams Adam Goldberg, Sam Bradford, James Laurinaitis, James Hall and Jason Brown joined NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith on a charter flight to meet with the tornado-affected citizens of Joplin, Mo.

Jim Henry of the Joplin Globe has the story.

Said Goldberg: "Being part of a community and a state, it’s all about giving back and making people smile. They are in desperate need of some smiles down here. We’re glad to bring them whatever happiness we can, whether it’s having fun with the kids or shake some hands and try to lift some spirits. Whether it’s signing an autograph for them, throwing the ball with them, playing Legos with them or giving them a pack of trading cards or just introducing them to the great Sam Bradford, we’re just really happy to be here."

The great Sam Bradford? Gotta love an offensive lineman having a little fun with his more glamorous teammate.

On a more serious note, Goldberg said the Rams had about 25 players seeking seats on the charter plane, but there wasn't enough room.

"We're going to need a 747 next time," Goldberg told the Globe, "but that shows the character of the guys on our team."

The Rams' organization is donating $25,000 to relief efforts.