Done deal: Smith finalizes contract as NFLPA's new executive director

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- New NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith says his contract has been completed.

Smith worked for several weeks without one, following his election in March, but the union boss said Tuesday that the deal was done. The NFLPA was offering Smith a three-year contract, and he was looking for a five-year deal, in line with the length of his predecessor, Gene Upshaw, who died in August.

Smith didn't say when the contract was finalized, nor did he elaborate further. He was addressing NFLPA issues with a group of local reporters when the subject came up. Smith was in town to visit with Vikings players as part of his spring tour around the league.

One of Smith's next steps will be determining whether to make changes to his senior management staff at union headquarters in Washington. Members of a consulting firm already have interviewed staff members and are preparing to submit a report to Smith.

Regarding negotiations on a revised collective bargaining agreement, Smith said he speaks three or four times per week with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell -- sometimes well after midnight. The CBA expires after the 2010 season, which is scheduled to have no salary cap because of the owners' decision last year to opt out of the current contract.

Smith reiterated his confidence in eventually reaching a deal to avoid a lockout or a strike, but the stakes are high for both sides -- particularly given the slumped U.S. economy -- and the process likely will not be easy.

Smith wants the league to provide full disclosure of its finances in the negotiation process, though Goodell insisted in a recent appearance that "the players know where every penny we made in the league is." At one point during his remarks Tuesday, Smith referred to the NFL as "this $8 billion, nonprofit, revenue-generating beast."

On the pending lawsuit filed by Vikings defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams, along with three New Orleans Saints players, over their positive test for a banned diuretic, Smith declined comment.

Speaking generally about NFL discipline, Smith said he prefers a neutral arbitration system for cases such as the Williamses' and also said he has expressed concern about the number and amount of fines being levied for on-field transgressions such as late hits.

"There's a great deal of discussion on that," Smith said.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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