CARLSBAD, Calif. -- The executive director of the NFL Players Association gave the 2010 draft class plenty of tough talk about negotiations between the league and the union for a new collective bargaining agreement.
But in addressing the players at the NFL Rookie Symposium on Sunday night, DeMaurice Smith did acknowledge that he expected an agreement eventually would be reached. Unlike previous public forums when he addressed the labor situation, Smith made no mention of expecting a lockout by team owners in 2011.
"As you go forward as players, you will hear about the fights that we have coming up on this collective bargaining agreement," Smith said. "It is going to be a fight, but that's business. Will we work it out eventually? Yes. That's business.
"But we can only work it out if we as young men, if you as young men, and the families that you represent, understand the business model, appreciate where you fit in the business model and plan accordingly. So that is why we are going to fight and kick and scratch to protect the players who play this game.
"I will never ever apologize for having one job: To better the interest of the people who play this game."
Smith told the 252 rookies in attendance that the NFL managed to generate "$9 billion ... in the worst depression/recession of all of our life times." But he was quick to add that the business model "relies on young men and the work that you do on the field."
Smith pointed out that "25 percent of the player membership rotates out of football every year" and that the average NFL playing career lasts "3.6 years." He reminded the players that it takes three years of service in the league to qualify for five years of post-career health care.
Smith also reminded the rookie that they have an obligation not only to themselves but to their families.
"It's why we have to save our money, why we have to put away at least 25 percent of our monies every year," Smith said. "It is why we have, as players, to get our college degree. It's why we have to, as players, be good men, good husbands, good sons, good fathers. Because anything less than that ignores the business model and ignores your obligation as men."