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De Smith opens door for two huge deals with NFL

DeMaurice Smith


Thursday night’s 90-minute edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN included a visit to the set at Gillette Stadium from NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith.

And Smith made a little news.

I shifted into deal-making mode early in the interview, asking Smith if a swap of the ability to suspend players for failing to cooperate with NFL investigations for neutral arbitration of player disciplinary issues would work for the players. Smith seemed to think it would.

“That’s a possible deal,” Smith said. “We believe that every player, just like every employee, has a duty to reasonably cooperate with an investigation. If that’s something that wants to come out of the league office, and they think that’s good grounds for us to make a deal, then I’ll come back and shake your hand on live TV if we get it done.”

I decided to let the conciliation vibe ride, asking Smith whether a swap of two preseason games for 18 regular-season games would be doable, if roster sizes increased along with the expanded slate of games that count. Smith didn’t rule it out.

“It would depend on the total package,” Smith said. “When we went through this a few years ago, the league was open to increasing the rosters by one roster spot. That’s not enough. I think we would have to look at bye weeks. We would have to look at maybe restructuring the offseason. Some of the teams really like the idea of having a longer period off, and then a longer ramp-up period where guys ease into training camp. We would be interested in looking at the data on injuries during the last few games of the year. Because no matter what we do, any games that you add are going to be games that come at the end of the season where our guys are most beat up. When it comes to a health and safety standpoint, that’s what I care about and that’s what our player leadership cares about.”

It’s a far cry from “no way, no how.” And it opens the door for meaningful progress to be made on two major issues pending between management and labor, if both sides are willing to be reasonable.