NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith will be here at 10:15 a.m. ET to take your questions!
With the CBA negotiations now, thankfully, in the past, what do you work on on a day-to-day basis?
There is a range of issues that we work on every day. Player health and safety is the dominant issue. Right now we're working with the league for return to play concussion protocals. New rules governing the distribution of use of painkilling medications. On the collegiate front, we're hosting our second collegiate game on Jan. 19. We're working with our sponsoring and marketing partners at the Super Bowl. In a 24 hour day we have 26 hours of work.
I think the biggest question most fans have is what can be done to prevent another lockout?
You will have to ask the owners about that one. I'm typically not invited to the owners' meetings.
Looking back a year ago, what thoughts and impressions do you have of the CBA process and everything that happened there?
Great question. Looking at what hockey just finished brought back a number of memories. Until you've been in it, it's hard to express what the process is like. I'm most proud of our players and player leaders. Those are the types of players that get you through difficult negotiations. I was blessed to have such strong leaders.
The commissioner just works for 32 owners, you work for over 1,500 players. How hard is it to get everyone on the same page, in terms of what you want from the league?
The day I get everyone on the same page, I'll let you know. The job is difficult because of that. We stress player education and player leadership. That's what allows us to not only know what's in the best interests of our players, but allows us to negotiate against 32 of the nicest people you'll ever meet.
The NBA and NHL recently had their own lockouts, but they each lost 25-50 percent of their seasons. Did you ever see a possibility of the NFL only playing 8-12 games during the 2011 season?
We prepared for the lockout and the cancellation of games, primarily by preparing our players financially. We bought a secret insurance policy that would have paid our players in a cancelled season. The cancellation of any games was a no win situation for the owners and that's how deals get done.
what do you think about all the criticism surrounding Roger Goodell? first the players lockout, then the refs lockout, plus he fines or suspends someone for every single hit. Do you think he oversteps his power at times?
If you look at all of your examples, each and every one of them was self inflicted. I represent the players. It's our job to try and make it safer for our players and the fans. We try to not have self inflicted wounds.
The lockout was obviously a tough, and public, thing to get through...however, what's a part of your job that is also difficult that the public might not be aware of?
First, shout outs to a fellow DCer. For me, personally, the toughest part is juggling work and home. I'm lucky enough to still coach my daughter's basketball team for the seventh year. The hardest part is managing the public life and knowing my real job is being a good husband and a good dad.
I am sure you get approached a lot, so what do you tell fans that you talk to that got upset during the lockout, listening to millionaires and billionaires fight over more money?
I tell them I love their passion, but thank goodness we got through it without missing a game.
I'm guessing keeping a level head makes your job easier, so how are you able to not take negotiations personally?
I was a homocide prosecuter for 10 years, I was deputy chief of the violent crimes. I've seen much worse days than those of the negotiations. I pride myself on keeping everything in a healthy perspective. The task of a leader is to do that effectively. We have a great game. We have wonderful fans, but there is never really a day where I lose my head.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from the lockout?
Team work wins every time.
Would you pressure the league about mandating use of safest helmets in the industry instead of less-safe contracted company's helmets?
Absolutely. We look at safety as a broad safety matrix. It's not only making sure they're wearing the best helmets, it's how comfortable are we that the helmet manufacturers in presenting the latest innovation in overall safety. It's clear the league wants to mandate thigh pads and hip pads, we're interested in every aspect that could make it safer. After the March meeting, I think we'll see a directive from the players to learn about what innovations are being persued and what steps the league are taking to ensure the players are as safe as possible.
Please join us on Jan. 19 on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. ET for the second annual NFLPA Collegiate All-Star game. It's a great game that will have the best college talent in the coutnry. It's an opportunity for us to introduce the players to the business of football. To introduce them to lifeskills that will help them in their career and out. And a great time for fans to come into contact with the players they'll come to know and love.