New players union executive director DeMaurice Smith is barnstorming the country, meeting with players, coaches, owners and, yes, even the media. Smith was in Santa Clara - stop no. 13 - today, and is currently meeting the 49ers players.
One of the things that obviously has irked Smith is the notion that the players he represents simply aren't interested in learning about a new collective bargaining agreement, which Smith will begin negotiating this week when he meets with Commissioner Roger Goodell. That's simply not true, said Smith who described the players as not only engaged but -- and I'll allow you guys to reach your own conclusions on this -- deeply concerned about how a failure to draft a new CBA will impact their communities.
"The players have an acute understanding of where they are right now in this process. They know that the owners have opted out (of the previous CBA), they know that they're moving after this season into an uncapped year. ... What I've found is all of them want to be engaged in the process. And they want the right information in order to make the right decisions. So, yeah, I've found them all to be pretty much engaged."
Smith said one of the issues the players are most interested in discussing is the concept of adding additional regular-season games to the schedule.
"It's not just a question of switching two preseason games for two regular-season games. When you talk to the guys, it's not just a question of, 'hey, what's it like to take two games that we ordinarily would not play in and switch them to two late-season games that come at the end of an already grueling season.' So you do already have guys saying, hey, wait a minute, I can barely stand at the end of the season now. So that two-game scenario, they want to understand the business side of it. They understand the cost. What's the right cost-compensation model. I find them to be incredibly engaged on a level, frankly that sometimes - and here's my tweak to the press - sometimes doesn't make it's way into the newspapers. So guys are asking me the question, so do you understand our regular season now? I understand the cost physically to a regular-season schedule. What's the right cost-compensation model?"
If the union and owners cannot agree on a new CBA, there's a chance the players could be locked out for the 2011 season.
"Certainly they want to talk about that. They want to know what will happen to their ability to provide for their families. But they also want to know, frankly, hey, what happens to the people who work in our stadiums? There's 100,000 people who work in our stadiums nationwide. And we know, and you guys know better than anybody, for those folks, it's their third, it's their fourth job. It's not their first job. For a lot of those folks it's their third or their fourth job. What happens to them in a lockout? Well, they're out of work. We know that 600 coaches across the NFL - we know that they're out of work. So, look, the thing that I find fantastic, even great, when I meet with the players, is they're not just talking about, what happens to me? They want to know what happens to everybody else. Because they look at the threat of a lockout as something that's not only bad for their sport, but bad for their community ... for their community."
-- Matt Barrows