NFLPA head Smith: Rookie salaries a stumbling block in labor talks

NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said Tuesday that the union has done "the majority share of the heavy lifting" in labor negotiations and reiterated his belief there will be a lockout in 2011.

Speaking with Shan Shariff on KCSP-AM in Kansas City, Mo., Smith used the rookie wage scale issue to demonstrate his points.

"We went to the owners, and they raised the issue about the rookie wage scale," Smith said. "We said, 'Fine, let's cut every rookie's contract to three years, instead of six years.' That would pull $200 million out of the draft. We proposed giving $100 million to retired players to improve their pensions, and we said, 'Use the other $100 million and guarantee it to veteran players in the locker room.' The owners said no, that they weren't willing to guarantee that money to proven veterans in the locker room."

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NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been a proponent of lowering rookies' guaranteed contracts, most recently saying the current structure is "wasting money."

"We have done everything we could to address the owners' concerns as to why they believe that this CBA (collective bargaining agreement) is not a good one," Smith added. "They have yet to turn over any audited financial statements. They have yet to say that any team is losing money. They have yet to say that any team has decreased profits over the last few years."

The league had no comment on Smith's remarks.

Smith also touched on the controversy surrounding Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, who reportedly asked rookie wide receiver Dez Bryant during a pre-draft interview if his mother was a prostitute. Bryant eventually was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, and Ireland later apologized to the receiver publicly and privately.

"My first reaction was that I felt for the young man," Smith said. "For a person who has a deep family history and understanding of what my parents went through, my grandfather went through, I felt for a young man who in 2010 has to sit down for a job interview and be confronted with that type of question. My first thought was to Dez, but my further thought was to reach out to the rest of our players to start to understand what types of questions were being asked in these interviews and what we could do to change it."

For more labor news, visit NFLlabor.com.

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