NFL Players Union Chief Hints League Is Involved in Collusion
Smith, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, said during an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" Wednesday that the union will be "aggressive" in ensuring that the league lives up to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties, even as NFL owners have opted out of the agreement for 2010, leaving this season as an uncapped year.
"You guys want me to say the collusion word, of course," Smith said. "Oh, wait a minute. There it goes."
Smith noted many thought without a cap to restrict pay, that some teams would pay exorbitant salaries to certain players. Instead, none of the 32 players chosen in the first round of April's draft have been signed as training camps begin later this week and next and veteran quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, each in the final year of their respective deals, have yet to reach agreement with Indianapolis and New England on new contracts.
In Smith's mind, that smells fishy.
"Systems work as long as individuals play by the rules," Smith said. "You can have all the rules in the world, but if you have people who want to break them, bend them, that becomes a problem. It's our job to take a look at the real evidence, the anecdotal evidence and for me to make a decision about where and if to bring an action."
"As you guys know, we haven't been shy about being aggressive in protecting players rights. If we have to be aggressive to enforce the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you can bet that we will."
Smith also pledged to be vigilant, up to and including seeking criminal complaints against player agents who offer improper payments to players with collegiate eligibility before that eligibility runs out. This comes amid reports that four schools, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida, are investigating claims that players on their 2009 rosters may have had impermissible contact with agents.
"Frankly, God help those agents if they're found to be in violation," Smith said. "I've given our players, our card (agent certification) committee the green light to take the most aggressive steps that they want to take. If those steps include me or someone else in our office making a criminal referral under certain circumstances, that's what we'll do."