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Saturday Roar: DeMaurice Smith as Leader

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As the lockout rolls on, we're seeing all sorts of things - football workouts that aren't considered football related activities, team doors open one day and slammed shut the next - but one thing has remained constant. Since day one of the lockout, and actually since day one of the labor trouble, we wanted this to just be resolved. And we believed it would be; we thought there'd be an eleventh-hour deal, done just before the labor clock ticked down on decertification.

But there wasn't. In the end, we are where we are; one side staring down the other, over money, over their egos, over a winner and a loser.

This isn't a piece to take sides; there's been and will be plenty of time for that.

Instead, we're examining DeMaurice Smith's role in this game of courtroom football. Or more accurately, we're looking at Eric Edholm's piece on Pro Football Weekly on this very topic.

Smith was brought aboard the NFLPA in response to the NFL's early opting out of the CBA, after the NFL retained the services of Bob Batterman, after Batterman had renegotiated the television deals and after Batterman had pre-emptively tried removing Judge David Doty from possibly ruling on any NFL cases. Essentially, the players union believed the labor situation was going to head down this road regardless of any negotiation. Where former executive director Gene Upshaw was the guy who worked to build relationships over decades, Smith was essentially brought up in court.

But what exactly is Smith leading the players towards? Could the players have grabbed the wrong guy? Is it also possible that Smith doesn't know what he's gotten himself into? Consider some of the things he's said during the last couple months.

"Do we care enough about who we are and who we want to be?" Smith said at the commencement. "The decision to pursue and if necessary fight for what is fair was a decision those players made two years ago. And I've got to tell you, it's vastly different from something as simple as 'shut up and play.' That's not the decision that we made. We made the decision to fight for who we're going to be and who we are."

"(This is the) first league in the history of sports that has ever sued to not play their game. When we reach a time or a moment in history when a professional sports league is suing to not play football, we're in a bad spot," Smith said on Sirius Radio.

Seems like DeMaurice Quixote's been finding windmills to vent at... It's not about "who we are." And while a lawsuit may head down the pike, no lawsuit's been started as of yet.

Part of it may be that the owners wanted a new CBA that carries a few more benefits to them, and the players may have been willing to play under the old CBA. But... I don't see where the NFL has forced the issue this way. While the NFL may have started the dominos with the hiring of Batterman, everything to date suggests the NFL wants to negotiate in good faith. When push comes to shove, it seems to Edholm Smith is more interested about sending a message.

"The players understand the fight that they're in," Smith said on WFAN (660 AM in New York City). "Right now they don't want to lay down and be forced to take a deal. They don't believe that it's fair. I can tell you that they resent being lied to. They resent being tricked. They resent the fact that the league has been found now twice to have violated the law. So those are the people that we're inextricably tied to."

"We made the decision to fight for who we're going to be and who we are" isn't a vote for negotiation. Misrepresenting the situation to suit your case isn't a vote for negotiation. "Right now they don't want to lay down and be forced to take a deal" isn't negotiation.

Let's not forget that the main reason the NFL and NFL uni- er, trade association, are here is because of exactly that - decertification. Regardless of whether or not the NFL's "last ditch" offer was acceptable or not, the union chose to decertify. He may truly want what's best for the players - no problems here; if you want it, go for it. But this feels awfully all-or-nothing. Choosing not to negotiate, to get up from the table and take us to where we are today, really splits this into two sides. If both sides want to negotiate, if both sides want to get football back on the field, wouldn't they be at that table right now, negotiating, giving something up to get something? You know, the whole point of negotiation?

What do you think about DeMaurice Smith as the NFL trade association/ NFLPA executive director? Is he doing right by his players?