NFLPA boss: "We prepare for war" over new labor agreement
By BARRY WILNER | AP Pro Football Writer
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) DeMaurice Smith dismissed with one word a question about his union's labor deal with the NFL being extended.
Then he attacked.
The executive director of the NFL Players Association quickly said ''no'' Thursday when asked about the current 10-year collective bargaining agreement getting extended beyond the 2020 season.
Then Smith, re-elected last year, went on the offensive about the next CBA.
''We prepare for war,'' he said. ''If we are able to get a collective bargaining agreement done, great. All of these men went through a unilateral war declared on players in 2010-11.''
NFLPA President Eric Winston stressed there are many portions of the current contract they believe need changing, from health care issues to the union's role in overall league decisions to, naturally, revenue splits.
''We want 99 percent of the revenues,'' Winston joked before adding the structure of rookies' contracts, health care and technical field issues as key elements for negotiations.
Ryan Wendell said workplace player safety would be an important topic, along with ''more unfettered union access to the players.''
Wendell also wants the players to have a ''seat at the table in how revenues are raised.''
There remain three full seasons of NFL play before any potential work stoppages, be it a lockout or strike. On many issues, the union and owners have fought bitterly through the seven years of this agreement.
It isn't likely to change, either.
''We have been preparing with the idea this will be another arduous process,'' Winston said.
One area the union is adamant about wanting to change is Commissioner Roger Goodell's role in handing out player discipline. The players gave up any alteration in that area in 2011 in exchange for other concessions from the league.
They've regretted it ever since, and also take issue with the system of fines handed out by the NFL.
''The fine system and guys are labeled as repeat offenders,'' annoys Thomas Davis, the 2014 Walter Payton Award winner as NFL Man of the Year.
The Carolina linebacker was suspended for one game this season for what was determined an egregious hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams late this season.
''They group and categorize everyone in the same box. It shouldn't be that way.''
Winston insisted an 18-game schedule, which the league pushed for before the current CBA, remains as nonsensical as it did in 2011.
Smith virtually ducked answering queries about Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback whose kneeling during the national anthem beginning in 2016 sparked the 2017 player protests about social injustice. Kaepernick was not on any roster this season and has filed a grievance against the NFL that the union is supporting.
But Giants linebacker Mark Herzlich, who missed the season while injured, said Kaepernick had an effect on his peers.
''I don't think that made people more fearful'' of repercussions from management, Herzlich said of the demonstrations during the anthem.
''It empowered more people to join a movement they really felt was right. I think the bravery of these men to really show what they feel and say, this is about unity. We're not going against the country or the flag, but we're about wanting equality.''
Winston praised the players for their willingness to speak up when a teammate or opponent appeared to be hurt, particularly concussed.
''I've seen many guys say something to a coach or the medical staff: `Get this guy checked out,''' Winston said. ''It's a great thing to see.
''There a big education piece to this, but there's always an undercurrent of, `I've got to stick it out for my team.' To which I say, `You're not that good a player when you are concussed. You could cost your team a win.'''
Eagles defensive end Chris Long was awarded the Whizzer White Community MVP by the union. The NFLPA gives the award to a player ''for his profound dedication to positively impacting his team city, and communities across the country, in the spirit of the former Supreme Court justice.''
Long donated six of his game checks this season to funding a scholarship program at St. Anne's-Belfield School, where he attended high school in Charlottesville, Virginia.
He then donated his last 10 game checks to programs that support educational equality in the three cities where he's played so far: Philadelphia, Boston and St. Louis. Through the ''Pledge 10 for Tomorrow'' campaign, he was able to match his own charitable contribution by raising another $1.3 million in donations.
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