Earlier this morning the NFL and the NFLPA got together for the first formal collective bargaining negotiation session since last November. The two sides have been lobbing PR volleys at each other through the media, so it was nice to have some potentially constructive negotiations today. Even if they didn't make much headway, the two sides issued a formal statement indicating plans for many more formal and informal negotiating sessions. The CBA expires in just under a month, so it's time to quit screwing around and get a deal done.
In news on the PR front, I posted the transcript from Roger Goodell's State of the NFL press conference. Earlier in the day it appears as though the NFLPA conducted their own press conference. I found the transcript of that press conference at NFLPlayers.com and pasted it after the jump. The press conference involved a Q&A that covered topics we've heard repeatedly discussed. They addressed Antonio Cromartie's statements, as well as the need for financial transparency from the owners. This all came before Commissioner Goodell's comments so there was no Q&A for responses on what The Commish had to say.
GEORGE ATALLAH: Wanted to welcome everyone. My name is George Atallah with the NFL Players Association. Thank you for taking the time to be with us today. There are a lot of cameras in the back. Thank you for joining us as well. To everybody watching on UStream, thank you for clicking the link and tuning in.
Wanted to take care of a couple of items first. Kevin, I believe you have a roving mic next to you. Can we activate that to introduce the people on stage.
KEVIN MAWAE: Kevin Mawae, current player, president.
DeMAURICE SMITH: DeMaurice Smith, executive director.
BARRY SANDERS: Barry Sanders, former player.
JOHN BOOTY: John Booty, former player.
JIM MCFARLAND: My name's Jim McFarland. I'm a former player, and I serve on the former player board of directors.
JAY FEELY: Jay Feely, current rep for the Arizona Cardinals.
NOLAN HARRISON: Nolan Harrison, former player, senior director of former players.
GEORGE ATALLAH: Thanks, gents. To give you a little bit of a run of show here today, wanted to have two special announcements before we got into what everybody's waiting for which is an update on the collective bargaining agreement.
Our first guest today is the executive vice president of multicultural markets and engagement for AARP. We are pleased to have with us, Lorraine Cortez Vasquez to give a special announcement. Please come to the stage.
LORRAINE CORTEZ VASQUEZ: Thank you, George. I'm really pleased to be here. AARP is eager to take the next step in a joint educational effort initiated by and with the National Football Players Association. We know that through the power of both of our Brands and our commitment to social change, AARP and the NFL Players Association can make the difference in the lives of many Americans, their families and their communities.
AARP knows the value of education and of an advanced education much regardless of age. We know it is priceless, and it is transforming for individuals, but also for a family. An entire family and community can be changed by the education of one individual in that family.
Research consistently shows that education is the key to an economic and secure future. We hear every day from the millions of our lenders and the 50‑plus population all over, that these efforts change lives, especially the lives of children, are the utmost importance. We thank you for joining us in this effort.
AARP also understands that lifetime financial security is the cornerstone of the American dream. We are part of this effort because we care about our members, their families, their children, and their grandchildren. We want our communities, our members and our families to live, prosper and thrive, and we know that education is going to make that possible.
So we are really pleased that you're joining us, and that you're having your talent join us. DeMaurice, that was your dream too. So that we, together, can really announce that education is the key to the future, and the players will lend their names to sending that message with AARP. Thank you.
GEORGE ATALLAH: Is Rose here? Rose, how are you? I'd like to welcome also Rose Kirk, the president of the Verizon Foundation who is here today to also announce a special partnership with the NFL players, Rose?
ROSE KIRK: Hello, everyone. And thank you, George. I also want to thank the NFL Players Association for joining Verizon in a unique partnership to address the issue of domestic violence, which remains an epidemic in our nation.
1 in 4 women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. This is simply not acceptable. To bring change, everyone has to become involved. That means getting strong, well‑respected men, to help us finally bring an end to the cycle of violence that shatters the lives of so many.
Today, I am thrilled to announce an intent to build a partnership between the Verizon Foundation and the NFL Players Association to do just that.
Through this incredible partnership, Verizon and the NFL Players Association will provide domestic violence prevention information to teens taking part in the association's Training Camp For Life program. With this important message of nonviolence coming from the players the children idolize, our vision of a world without domestic fear will begin to take root.
These camps will be the first step in an ongoing partnership. In the coming months, we'll introduce other critical elements that will deepen our partnership and strengthen our combined efforts to eradicate this problem.
Domestic violence is a dark secret that wounds every community in our nation, and it's a secret that we should not be afraid to discuss.
I know this is an important issue that the NFL Players Association cares deeply about, and I applaud them for their efforts, including their pledge with the Department of Justice to raise awareness of domestic violence with their fans.
Verizon is honored to work with the NFL Players Association to stop the spread of domestic violence. And we look forward to the day when we can say the issue of domestic violence that's been solved, and it's time to tackle the next item on the world's to do list. Thank you.
GEORGE ATALLAH: Okay. Couple of other things. We have issued as part of our health and safety initiative, the field turf study is now available for review on www.NFLPlayers.com. It's also available here in a summary form for everybody to pick up. I encourage that you pick that you up.
I told Albert Breer of NFL Network last week that if the league guaranteed that we wouldn't have a lockout, I would cancel this press conference. The reality is that I wouldn't cancel this press conference. I changed my mind because we have an important group of men with an important group of issues that we want to use this platform to convey to everybody.
This game means a lot to these men that play this game. They are sons, husbands, fathers, and to me this game means a lot as well.
My dad moved to this country in 1978 when I was an infant. He came here when the Steelers were at the height of their power, and today he gets to come to his first Super Bowl with his son with them playing in the Super Bowl. I can't wave a Terrible Towel this weekend, but this is a story that I needed to share to show you what this game means to everybody and what their game means to me.
Today also is a very special day. It is also DeMaurice Smith's birthday. I had to embarrass him because his parents are in the crowd today as well, and we're pleased to have them here.
But this game means a lot to us, and we care and our players care. We work tirelessly not just to be accessible to the media, but are working hard to get a new deal done, and we're working very hard to try to secure the future of the game.
It's a pleasure for me to be here. And it's a pleasure for me to introduce my dear friend and the birthday boy, DeMaurice Smith who will come up to the stage. Thanks.
DeMAURICE SMITH: Good morning. I'm sorry, good afternoon. It is a pleasure to be here. It's a hot room. I know that you have a number of questions about the collective bargaining agreement. Where I believe we need to be both as an organization of players, as an organization that represents former players, and certainly an organization that represents the players to come.
It is my distinct pleasure to introduce the president of our organization, a man that I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for.
When we had our first press conference here a year ago, we talked about how this organization moved forward after the untimely passing of Gene Upshaw. I'm absolutely convinced that without Kevin's leadership, his vision and, frankly, his faith, we wouldn't be here. My boss, Kevin Mawae.
KEVIN MAWAE: I just want to say thank you for being here today. It's of utmost importance of what we're headed into that you guys understand all the issues.
I'm not going to sit here and give you an opening speech. I'm going to deviate from standard operating procedure that we've done in the past.
I'm going to let De finish up his statements. We're going to open up his questions and things like that. Then I'll give you a statement after it's all done to finish us off. So, D, it's your podium again.
GEORGE ATALLAH: I did want everybody to take a pause here. We want to show our Super Bowl ad or our online viral ad, and just take one minute to take a look at the very controversial Let Us Play.
With that, questions?
Q. De or Kevin, could you please let us know where you are in the negotiations regarding any proposal that you, the players, made on economic proposals? And when did you make the proposal? What was the reaction to the proposal?
DeMAURICE SMITH: First, we make it a point not to negotiate in the press. We, the players, have had a number of discussions with the owners that are designed to achieve a fair collective bargaining agreement. Those discussions have taken place probably 40 times.
We continue to have a number of discussions about how we build a game that is not only safe, profitable for the people who play this game today but certainly for the players who are going to come tomorrow.
We believe that having a discussion that is based on financial transparency, having a discussion that is based on the shared mutual interest, is how we go forward.
We obviously have a discussion with the owners on Saturday. I don't think it's a good idea to set any expectation other than the fact that we intend to sit down and continue to have a discussion that should guarantee football for our fans, football for our players and football for the people who will certainly become players tomorrow.
Q. What are the odds of a lockout on a scale of 1 to 10 now? Are they up or down from 14?
DeMAURICE SMITH: I only answer that when Chad Ocho asks the question.
Q. To follow that up, if there is not an agreement by March 3rd or significant progress, is your expectation that the union will be decertified?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Let me answer the second part first. You know that in the past when our union had to decertify to achieve free agency, that's what we did. When the union decertified historically, it was a decision based upon protecting the interests of players of tomorrow, players of today, and players who have played this game.
So we will always take the steps that we need to protect ourselves and to protect our interests. With respect to whether we believe a lockout is going to occur, every player, former player up here has heard me say and our leaders and representatives tell our players to prepare for the worst even while you're hoping for the best.
I believe that the league has taken steps to effectuate a lockout for a very long time. The players are committed to making sure that does not happen. And every step that was taken is a step designed to do one simple thing, let us play. And that will be the guiding principle of the decisions that we make.
We intend to never give up talking about what's fair for our players, what's fair for their families, what's fair for former players and what's fair for future players.
With respect to the likelihood of the lockout, only one side can lock us out. My sincere hope is that we get a deal done quickly. That is what I've committed ourselves and our player leaders to do. They've made it absolutely clear that that's my job, and that's what we're going to do.
Q. How concerned are the players of the union that this process, you're going to possibly alienate fans one way or the other, they want the game, they don't want to hear about all the rhetoric.
KEVIN MAWAE: To answer your question, how do we prevent alienating fans, our message has always been the same and will remain the same. We understand this business is based on the fans' interest. They don't come here to watch two shields fighting on the field. They come to watch players battling each other on the field. Without the players, there is no game. And the players understand it is the fans who drive the game.
DeMAURICE SMITH: We want to play. For the folks in Indianapolis, it's your Super Bowl that would be affected by a lockout. When we were out there talking to the fans in that community and talking to the political establishment in that community, nothing resonated more to me than one, how much your fans love your Colts.
And the other thing is nothing made a larger impression than talking to the business owners, the hotel workers, the restaurant owners about how devastating it would be, not only from a fan perspective, but from an economic perspective of what a lockout would mean.
We don't want a lockout. We want to play. That's what it comes down to.
Q. Jeff Pash said yesterday there is no disagreement. That the current deal is unbalanced and one‑sided and that it needs to be reset. He said it's just a matter of where the reset is. Your reaction to that?
DeMAURICE SMITH: My guess is there's probably a little bit of disagreement. That's just my guess. I've had the opportunity to sit down with the National Football League 40‑42 times, and have on average about four or five hours of discussion about the various issues we have between us.
I think it would be an understatement to say that there is disagreement. There are fundamental disagreements. Our joint auditors, between the National Football League and our current ownership, looked at the shares of all revenue that have gone to players since 2006. And the undeniable fact is that the share of all revenue that's gone to players since '06 has gone down.
As all of you sit here today preparing for the largest game on the stage, each and every person here knows that we will shatter viewership records for the Super Bowl on Sunday. We are at the apex of generated revenue in the National Football League.
For those of you who are even older than me who are able to cover the National Football League from 1965 forward, be honest with yourselves. Did any of you think in 1960, '70, even the early '80s, that every team in the National Football League would be worth over a billion dollars?
Did anyone of you think when you started covering that game right after the merger between those two conferences, that football would be America's number one sport and not baseball?
Did any of you believe that the revenue generated for the National Football League would probably exceed $9 billion?
The disagreements that we have are fundamental. Because we believe that every economic indicator that we have, everything that we can look at, whether it's Forbes Magazine, whether it's Bloomberg, anybody who independently looks at this agrees with the players' perspective.
The business of football is not only exciting and tremendous. The business of football is probably the best business economic model in the country. Because that $9 billion was generated during the worst recession of our lives.
So our problem and fundamental disagreement remains at the height of the economic viability and success of football. You're now asking the players to give back a billion dollars a year for the next seven years, and our simple question is before anyone would want to write a $7 billion check, what financial information would you think is relevant? It's that simple.
Q. Jerry Jones said yesterday that to get the proper deal done, you had to create tension and angst and urgency. So is March 4th a real enough date? Is it going to create the attention and angst and urgency needed? Or will it take one where you might lose games or games might be in jeopardy to create that on both sides?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Well, when you have discussions with players who have children on transplant lists, when you have discussions with players who have children who are suffering terminal illnesses, when we know that there are over 200 families who are expecting between now and the beginning of the season, I don't know what he means by anxiety, tension and angst.
Our fans love our game. Our fans are the engine that drives, not only the economic side of football. But for every one of these players who play this game and who have played this game, it's the fans and their love of the game that keeps our game going.
I cannot imagine a world where we should ever take our fans for granted. We've said that the lockout is irresponsible. It's irresponsible from the love that our fans have of the game. It's irresponsible from the economic impact on our country during the time that we fight through a recession. And I know for a fact that it's irresponsible given the great base that football has there.
So I tend to focus and remain somewhat optimistic because I know that our fans love it, and I know that they dig it as much as I do. I don't tend to focus too much on tension. It seems to me that where we need to be, man, we need to get back to our love of the game. Our love of the game. That's it.
If we have to make decisions about getting a deal done, wouldn't you rather live in a world where our love of the game are the things that drove us to tell every fan in the next two or three weeks, hey, don't worry. Kickoff's going to be in August. That's where we need to be.
Q. I'd like to ask what your relationship is with the commissioner right now? Which owners do you have relationships with and the basis for those relationships?
DeMAURICE SMITH: You want dinner or what we ate? Hey, look, let me just stop you. I've got a great relationship with Roger. And without a good relationship between the two of us, I'm never going to characterize any other relationships with anybody else other than that.
I've got a firm understanding about what my job is. The folks on this stage, current and former players on this stage, two of them are former players that are now members of our Executive Committee for the first time in history. Why? I care a lot about the relationships of the players past, current and future.
Q. You've gone to Congress seeking some sort of remedy. What beyond photo ops and PR do you expect Congress to deliver?
DeMAURICE SMITH: In the 1960's Congress delivered something better than photo ops when they gave the National Football League an anti‑trust exemption to merge those two leagues.
My guess is whether you talk to any of the owners back then or whether you talk to the commissioner back then, my guess is you'd probably think that the remedies that Congress gave were a little higher than a photo op.
When the government gives the National Football League a non‑profit status, my guess is everybody on that side of the ledger thinks it's a little bit of a fur loge. When we talked to people in the community about the economic impact of the lockout. And we're sitting down with the Green Bay Packers number one shareholder and he tells us that his bar, his restaurant could go under in a lockout, you know what, he never really talked to me about a photo op.
So what we do, we go up and we talk to the people who know about the historical connection between the National Football League and the antitrust. We talk to people up there who frankly understand the impact of a lockout on this business and on our country.
So our goals when we go to talk up on the hill are the same goals we have when we talk to fans. Understand the impact that football has economically. Understand the impact football has on the lives of the people who watch the game and never take it for granted.
Q. What do you expect Congress to do about it?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Understand and know about the impact of football on our country other than that, that's our goal.
Q. It was reported you stated we are at war. Talk about that mindset. What made you come up with that quote, "We Are At War"? Now that the statement is out, how do you feel about the response from the people now with the current situation in the world and our country at war and overseas?
DeMAURICE SMITH: First, did you read the rest of the article? There were another 1900 words other than the first one. So my hope is that it's clear that I don't get paid by the word.
But second, hey, look, I'll let the players talk about that. When we get in our room and we talk about what's going to be expected of us as leaders, when we pretty much huddle around and have that locker room to talk about the business of football, I'm not sure that any of the guys that I continue to talk to shy away from blunt language. This is our business. This is what we do.
When we discuss the issues not only today but of yesterday, they have heard stories about how Boomer Esiason laid down in front of that bus. What do you think or how do you think he would characterize it? When they cut John Mackey and he lost his job. My question is he would be pretty blunt, if he could, about what the business of football means.
If you want to ask Alan Paige about the cost of standing up and being a leader for your players. Ask him about what he would believe or characterize what this is.
Look, our job is to get a CBA done as quickly as possible. A lot of that, if not all of that, depends on the leaders that you see here. There is not a day that I'm ever going to apologize for the leaders that we have. There is never going to be a day where I don't believe in the vision or leadership of the people that came before us. Make sense?
Q. I was wondering, you said you believe the league has taken steps for a lockout for a long time. Could you just review and rehash some of those steps that are most serious in your view?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Well, sure. Look, in 2007, their league lawyer and negotiations, a guy named Bob Batterman who was famous for locking out what sport? Hockey for a year. Mr. Batterman had never been a part of the football negotiations before that.
In 2007, therefore, you make the decision of who was going to lead, very, and execute your game plan. In 2007, long before I became the executive director, he became their quarterback.
So the question becomes what kind of game do they want to execute? What kind of game plan do they want to make sure unfolds? The next step is they proceed to push a case to the United States Supreme Court that was designed to do one thing. For the United States Supreme Court to rule that the National Football League was no longer subject to the anti‑trust exemptions that our folks from Congress gave them in the mid '60s.
The next step is to take strategic actions all across the board. We moved into an uncapped year, when the players wanted to make sure we didn't get to an un‑capped year. So when you look at all of those steps ‑‑ look, we aren't blessed with having a crystal ball.
But if you understand that your quarterback is someone who has led another sports league into a lockout, that you take legal steps to thwart our ability to protect ourselves in a court of law, if you make steps to go into an uncapped year where every team in the National Football League took $10 million that normally would have gone to fund player benefits. Where the league has taken steps twice to remove the Federal judge who has supervised this case since 1993. I'm not sure you can look at any of those steps and not reach an independent conclusion about what the intent was.
That's where we are. When we stepped into this role 22 months ago, our job was simple. Let's get a deal done. We still want to get a fair deal done.
Q. Earlier you described NFL revenues as being at their apex. Does that mean you do feel they're at their highest point and will only go down from here?
DeMAURICE SMITH: No. I mean, look, how long you been covering football?
Q. Since about '95.
DeMAURICE SMITH: Okay. So if you look at the last 20 years of team values, let's strip away revenue. Let's strip away the amount of fans who are going to watch this game. Let's strip away how many people watched the draft. Let's strip away the love that our fans have of our game. Let's strip away the fact that in our own family we've had Redskins tickets for, as some fans would say, maybe too long, strip all that away. In 20 years the average value of an NFL team has increased 500%.
I'll ask the same question that I asked these guys last year. If any of you had an opportunity to invest in the future of the National Football League, would you do it? Obviously, we don't believe that things are going down.
Q. You've talked about financial transparency. How should that happen? Are claims by NFL officials that you have had access to their books, are those true or are they not true?
KEVIN MAWAE: Look, we've always said in order for us to do a deal that makes sense and to justify why the owners are pushing us to a lockout, that they have to give us full financial transparency. One of their members told us that we have all the information we need, yet the other guy tells us that it's none of our business.
So we want to know which is it? Do we have all the information we need or is it none of our business? Because right now, we don't have the necessary information we feel like we need to get a deal done.
Q. Will you challenge the league's decision to let the owners go ahead and franchise tag players? And if so, what grounds do you think you have considering it appears they're afforded the luxury in the CBA?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Actually it's not. It appears that they're not so let's get that clear. We released a statement to all of the agents I believe about an hour ago if Richard's in the room. Advising them of our view of what the franchise tag means now and what it doesn't mean if we reach a lockout.
Our position is you can franchise anyone you want by whatever date you want. But if there is no CBA, the franchise tag would be meaningless.
Q. Wondering what your reaction was to Antonio Cromartie's comments about the negotiations? Do you worry at all that there are other players and free agents like him that feel the same way but just aren't saying it?
KEVIN MAWAE: I made a comment about his comments that he came out with. And my comment was that I don't recall him being at one CBA bargaining session or on one conference call with the board of reps.
He has very competent reps in the room, and Brandon Moore and Tony Richardson is one of my executive vice presidents. So he should and know the information out there.
Am I worried that more players will come out like that? Look, I represent 1900 active players and thousands of former players. We are a family.
I have four brothers. My brother and I fight all the time, we don't get along. But at the end of the day we're still family. With Cromartie, it's the same way. He might not understand all the issues. I understand that everybody's going to take different points of view, but at the end of the day, he's one of ours. I represent him just like I do all the others.
But there are always going to be some guys in your family that don't like what you're doing and don't understand what's going on and feel like they have a right to speak out, and they do. But we have strong leaders throughout our organization in the NFLPA and the NFL.
And you heard what the likes of Ray Lewis and guys like that said in response to Cromartie's comments. You know, Cromartie's a great player. He'll play for a long, long time, and he'll be one of the guys that benefit from this next CBA. I can promise you that.
Q. Is the players union collectively in favor of the rookie wage scale?
KEVIN MAWAE: The rookie wage scale or rookie wage system, whatever you want to call it, is an issue that the owners brought to us. In order to negotiate fairly we gave them a proposal that they flatly turned down. That proposal would have saved them nearly $200 million per draft class over the course of the next CBA.
The only stipulation being that $100 million would go to our former players, and the other $100 million would be spent on proven players in the locker room. It was told to us by management that they wanted the money to go to proven veterans.
So when we asked for a guarantee that that 100% of the 100 million would go to the proven veterans, their exact words were we cannot guarantee that.
Q. There are some people who believe that the game will grow to be worth approximately $20 billion a year. Do you agree with that?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Who said that it was?
Q. The league said that?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Well, hey, look, if there are folks from the league side who believe that revenue's going to grow to be $20, $25 billion, they've got a pretty good idea about how to grow revenue.
Once again, look at the arc of the growth in annual revenue over of the last ten years. Will it stay at the same rate of growth? I don't know. Am I willing to bet that it will continue to grow and hopefully exceed conservative revenue projections? Yes.
Q. Under that assumption, are you willing to make certain concessions, knowing that the game is going to grow or feeling that the game is going to grow, that would allow for them to eventually get some of the offsets that they're asking for?
DeMAURICE SMITH: What concessions do you think we should make?
Q. I'm not the person negotiating for you. I'm asking the question.
DeMAURICE SMITH: Well, first, you want to have an assumption that revenue's going to grow. Right now we get about 50% of all revenue. The only reason I point it out is every now and then on Yahoo, you say it's 60. It's wrong. It's 50.
So as we go forward, the first question that I would have is as revenue has continued to increase, as teams have continued to increase in value, as the game has grown beyond anyone's expectation of the last 20, 25 years, we have always maintained somewhere between that 50‑50 split between owners and players.
If we are looking at a world where that split should be dramatically different in favor of the owners, our first question is why does that have to happen in order for revenue to continue to even increase?
If we believed that it did, if they had a willingness to show us how much teams make. That is an easy way to solve the problem. The question of how we grow this game where it is fair between owners and players is simply one of transparency. That's it. It's just transparency.
So a fair deal is not only one that has to be fair today, it has to be fair for the players tomorrow. A fair deal cannot only be fair today; it has to be fair to the people who made this game.
So we should be thinking about ways that we not only grow the game, but grow the game in a way that takes care of the players who made this game the success that it is. It has less to do with what you or anybody else believes are the necessary concessions. It has everything to do with how we understand and make sure that the deal is fair.
When we have a fair deal, I know that's a deal that's going to be lasting. That is a deal that our fans are going to dig. That is a deal that's going to be good for players of today and tomorrow and for the future.
Q. In the event of a lockout, if you guys do decertify, do you see it as being a lasting decertification or do you see yourselves reforming in some way, shape or form?
DeMAURICE SMITH: I don't have a crystal ball. And if I had one, it probably wouldn't work, so...
Q. I want to make sure I understood you. You said the players are only receiving 50% of the total football revenue right now?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Players receive approximately 50% of all revenue. Let's break it down. Sorry to bring everybody back to screeching and kicking into something called the collective bargaining agreement.
Players receive 50% of all revenue, 5‑0. Total revenue under the National Football League's definition in the collective bargaining agreement, total revenue is all revenue minus the cost credits that are taken off the top.
Last year the credits off the top amounted to about $1 billion off the top. Players get 60% of total revenue, but that is all revenue minus the billion off the top.
So when you look at the issue of all revenue from what everybody in here wants to believe and understand about how we recognize whether a deal is fair. What is the split of revenue between players and owners? 50.
The last thing I will say about that, since 2006, that sharing has decreased. So all we have ever wanted ‑‑ and I know Gene believed this as well ‑‑ is a deal that was fair. All we've ever wanted is a deal that is good for former, future, and current players.
I don't know how you get there without the type of financial transparency that ensures that your interests are shared, mutual and moving forward. Make sense?
Q. Is an 18‑game season an official deal breaker for the union?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Any change in the season that increases the risk of injury, increases the risk of concussion, increases the risk of a long‑term consequence from playing football has the potential to shorten careers and jeopardize the 3.4 average that players have right now without a guaranteed contract, anything that does that is something that is not in the interest or best interest of the players of the National Football League. And that is going to be our position.
Q. Is that what an 18 game season does?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Yes.
Q. You finished on that last point. I just want to follow up with the question before. Is it possible to get a deal done without anymore financial transparency?
DeMAURICE SMITH: Well, anything's possible. If they came to me and said, D, sign a bad deal, sure that's possible. My guess is they don't want me to sign a bad deal.
Our leadership doesn't want to have a bad deal. Our leadership does not want to have a deal that's unfair. Our leadership doesn't want to have a deal that would put us in a situation seven years from now where we're fighting the same battle again.
What our leadership has said and made abundantly clear is we want a deal that's fair. I know how to get to a fair deal. And the financial transparency, the sharing of mutual interests, being in a position where players and former players can grow with the game, why isn't that in everybody's best interest?
Q. At what point do you think the brand suffers? Is it at the first game, the fifth game, the seventh game lost? At what point? Have you done any models? Obviously it's going to affect business from Game 1 not happening. But at what point does a fan start to think, okay, I might not come back when it does come back?
KEVIN MAWAE: I'll answer that question from a very non‑business standpoint. The fans are affected now. The fans are affected today. The fans were affected in 2008 when owners opted out of the deal that they signed in 2006, that is our stance and that's our view.
How will it financial effect the NFL and the brand and the shield? That's something that they need to worry about, because they're the ones that are going to lock the doors on us. That is something that they have to take into account and they have to measure.
Are they willing to lose the fan base, the financial part that would be coming in? Are they willing to lose that to get more already when the players are not asking for one other thing. That is what they need to answer.
Q. Are you confident that the rank and file members, the players who have only had three or four years to earn and play this game will stay united if this is a lengthy lockout?
JAY FEELY: I think we've done a great job of educating our players and the players understand what the past players have done to get to this point. They know you have to make a little sacrifice to get to the greater good. And I think players are committed to that.
Q. So often in union negotiations you have a situation, a cat and mouse game as the deadline approaches. Also the issue of who has more to lose, which side has more power and wants to exert that power? Can you talk to me about who you feel has more power as this deadline approaches? Who has more at stake in this situation right now? The players, the teams, who has more to lose?
DeMAURICE SMITH: That's an easy question. The people who have the most to lose are our fans. I've been blessed to live in a town that loves their football team. To be surrounded and grow up in a family that for good, for bad on Sunday afternoon we knew what we were going to be doing.
I don't believe that it is in the best interest of football for us, who cannot point to any economic harm from any team. There's been no indication that any team has lost a dime. No one has said profits are down. No one has said that we're on the verge of losing money. No one has said that we are in economic duress. No one has said that there's been a decrease, so there is going to be a decrease in the way which our fans love our game.
So I have a pretty clear view about who loses the most. The people who love our game. The people who want to watch two great teams like the Steelers and the Packers battle it out on Sundays. It seems to me that if we go around creating problems that aren't there, and the more that we appear to look that we can't solve our own problems to the extent that it betters the game for our former players and future players and current players, I've got a clear understanding about who loses.
We want to play. Our players want to play. For the people who play this game for 3.4 years, they know that every day we're away impacts their ability to play the game that they've wanted to play since they were boys.
So my hope is that we quickly get a deal done that we demonstrate that business in America can grow mutually so that nobody's a loser. That's where we need to be.
KEVIN MAWAE: I told you guys that I was going to deviate from standard operating procedures for those of you that have been over the years. Typically the president would come up and give his state of the union address and what has happened over the course of the last 365 days. I can sit here and pull out my talking notes and go point by point with what the talking notes are. I don't need them.
I've given you the message time and time again over the last six months, eight months, in the last year. I know in the bottom of my heart what my players deserve, and I know what my players want.
For me to sit here and keep beating home about 18 games, and 18%, and rookie salary structure, and off‑season, and free agency and all that kind of stuff. All that is is redundancy, because you guys know the issue. We've been very clear about our message. We've been very on point, not just for myself and the guys on this stage, but every guy in the locker room. Mostly, with the exception of one or two.
But those of you that know me, those sports writers around here that have covered me, the players that I represent in board meetings, the directors, the people that work in the NFLPA office, they know that I don't need notes. What matters to our fans is what is in the heart.
Our fans love the game of football. Our fans want us to play. Our fans don't want to hear us whining about health coverage and free agency and what's going to happen. They don't care. They just want football on the field next year.
We as players want to play football, and I understand that. The biggest rush in my life is not the 16 years that I played on or the 241 games, it was the 241 times that I came through the tunnel, and 65,000 fans were there cheering for me and my teammates and my opponents. That is what the game's about. That is what the players understand the game is about.
You can strip the business away. You can take 22 guys and put them on the field in the middle of nowhere Texas and just have us on the field and we'll still go play the game because we love the game. The business is a benefit that we get from it.
It's unfortunate that we have a $9 billion business with a bunch of owners that don't understand that. It's just about the business for them, and it's not. It's about the fans that come together as a community to draw together.
There are going to be a hundred thousand people in the stadium this weekend because they love the Pittsburgh Steelers, because they love the Green Bay Packers, because they love the Aaron Rodgers and the Max Starks of the world, the Charles Woodsons. They love the stars that sit on the stage, Deion Sanders, and Jim McFarland and Nolan Harrison.
That's what they come to watch. They don't come to watch the shield. They don't come to watch a logo. They come to watch their Stars perform so that they can be happy and draw together the community. That is what it's about.
All we ask for is financial transparency and justification and let us play. Thank you.