NFLPA boss DeMaurice Smith visits Bucs
DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the National Football League Player's Association, dropped by One Buc Place Wednesday on his tour of teams.
He addressed several issues facing the league and its players, not the least of which is a possible lockout in 2011.
His reason for the visit to Tampa Bay:
"Primarily to meet the teams. You know this is my 11th team. We're going to hit about 28 of them in the next four and a half or five weeks. Spend some time with the team. Had a great dinner with Derrick (Brooks) last night. But the primary focus is to come in and talk to the men, talk about what we believe is on the horizon and give them a chance to meet me. But look, I work for them. A chance for them to come and chat about what's on the horizon.
What's on the horizon?
"Our men understand that this season and the next season, we head into an uncapped year. They are acutely aware of the changes that occur in an uncapped year as it relates to them, as it relates to their families, as it relates to their retired players. They also know that there's been a great deal of talk and preparation for a lockout. That could be something that is on the horizon in '11. They are men, they are businessmen. They understand both of those things as it relates to their life in the National Football League.
Do believe a lockout is likely?
"I don't know how likely it is. I mean, it probably comes as no surprise, I'm not invited to the owner's planning session. But I know about the steps where our guys look at the objective factors that are out there. We know they've got a good lawyer who was involved in the NHL lockout. We know they've talked to coaches about changing their contracts in the event of a lockout. So, I don't how likely it is. What our guys know is they look on the horizon and they see certain steps being made and really the message to them is how do you respond to it? What does it mean? And what do we need to do?
"There's never a day where I don't believe that I've got a good relationship with Mr. (Roger) Goodell. There isn't a day where I don't believe that our guys want to play this game. I hope that there never comes a day when the owners don't want to make sure that fans get the games that they love. I'm praying that there's never a day when the owners would take a decision that would hurt the 100,000 people that work in our stadiums. And I firmly hope there's never a day when they take our fans for granted.''
What is the player's stance on the owner's proposal for a 17 or 18 game season?
"Our guys understand the cost of playing football. I look around the room and you know more about the physical cost that these guys pay more than anybody. You've been in more locker rooms and spent more hours and days in locker rooms than I ever have and probably ever will. So all of you understand the cost because you see it season after season after season. Their families see the cost because they see them at home when they're not on television. And our guys understand the cost when on a Monday morning or Tuesday morning, they struggle to stand upright.
"So the guys understand the 'cost' of playing football. What they don't understand, frankly, is what does the average team make per game? What's the average profit, per team, per playoff game? How has the profits per team, per game either risen or fallen over the last 10 years? So they understand the cost, so when something like a question of adding games to the season (is raised), they understand one side of the ledger. What they're asking for is how do we engage in a process to talk about whether this makes sense if other than the Green Bay Packers, no team turns over any audited financial statements?
"My position is how can two partners in such a great game and such a great business like football ever sit down and have a meaningful discussion about this issue or other issue and have one party be in a situation where you don't know the profit/loss situation per team? Where you don't understand or have any information that would outline whether there's an upward trajectory of profit or rate on return or whether it's a downward trajectory?
"Would anybody here buy a car without knowing what the base price is? Of course not.''
What's the player's view on a rookie salary cap?
"It is my interest that the men understand and that we're not only able to think about things the right way, but talk about things the right way. So with respect to the rookie wage scale, I understand there's a great deal of disagreement on that issue among veteran players. What I try to do and what we do talk about is the facts that we know. And the facts that we know is that no player signs his own pagecheck. We know no player was in a war room for the draft selecting that player for that team. That's a fact. We know no player makes a decision whether it's going to be $22-, $23- or $25-million. No player on this team was involved in that decision.
"So why is a rookie wage scale now our player issue?''
His position on Michael Vick
"There really isn't. I heard today he was being released (from prison). I heard a statement that I think reflects the right way, that he's talking about, thinking about getting his life back together and moving on. And I think that's the right approach. This is a great game, but at the same time, the primary focus right now are the next steps for him and I think I share everybody's view that I hope they're positive and wish him the best.''