NFL-NFLPA press conference transcript

NFL-NFLPA PRESS CONFERENCE ANNOUNCING 10-YEAR AGREEMENT 

WASHINGTON, D.C. 

July 25, 2011

DeMaurice Smith: Good afternoon. I’m pleased to have Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the National Football League, with several of the owners who have joined us today. Mr. Richardson, the chairman of the CEC, Mr. Kraft, Mr. Mara who have come by today. We’re happy that we got an agreement that we have reached. I’ll turn it over to Roger to say a few words and we’ll finish it up.

Commissioner Goodell: It’s been a long time coming. Football is back and that’s the great news for everybody. I want to thank De and all of the players for their leadership and for securing the long term future of the game.  Having a 10-year agreement is extraordinarily great for our game but most importantly our fans. Everybody worked hard, everybody had a passion and everybody believes in this game of football and what we can do to make our game better.  And I think this agreement is going to make our game better. We’re grateful for all the work that both parties did to make sure that we came to this day today and to make sure for the fans that we can stand here and say “Football’s Back.”

Jerry Richardson: This is a long time coming. I would like to say what a pleasure it has been for us to work with the players on negotiations. As a former player myself, the relationship and conversations we’ve developed will serve us well for a long time. We’re delighted we have an agreement that’s going to serve the NFL, our players, our teams and our fans for many years to come.

Robert Kraft:  First of all, I would like to — on behalf of both sides — apologize to the fans that for the last 5-6 months we’ve been talking about the business of football, and not what goes on on the field and building the teams in each market. But the end result is we’ve been able to have an agreement that I think is going to allow this sport to flourish over the next decade and we’ve done that in a way that’s unique among the major sports that every team in our league, all 32, will be competitive. We’ve improved player safety and we’ve remembered the players that have played in the past. I want to give a special compliment to Commissioner Goodell and De Smith. The Commissioner has to deal with 32 tough and demanding owners and he’s been able to keep that balance. But DeMaurice Smith has come in and he’s managing 1,900 players, a bunch of different professionals. It’s a new CBA with tricky language and he was able to keep all those things going and he was able to come up with an agreement that he and Roger did together with their two teams.  Lastly, what kept me at the table the last four-and-a-half months was seeing the player representatives that represented the league’s players. They didn’t just look at the short-term interests of their own playing careers, but they looked long term. Especially Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth. I was so impressed with them that they acted as principals at the table looking out for what was good for the game. I believe you’re going to see a great NFL over the next decade. And I hope we gave a little lesson to the people in Washington, because the debt crisis is a lot easier to fix than this deal was.

John Mara: We are obviously very pleased to be standing here today. It’s been a long and pretty difficult negotiation. But I think at the end of the day, neither side got everything they wanted. But what we did achieve was a fair deal that will stand the test of time and will be in the best interests of our league, our players, our clubs and our fans. I have a lot of respect for the players that we’ve been negotiating with. They were tough negotiators. They represented their fellow players very well as did De Smith.  I think at the end of the day we have something here that is going to serve the best interests of the National Football League for many years to come.

Kevin Mawae: On behalf of the players in the National Football League, it’s a great day. We’re standing on the eve of the day when football gets back to business. And our players can’t be more excited than going back and doing the thing they love the most. We always said throughout this process that we would do a deal when it’s the right deal and our players did that. We’ve stuck it out til the end. We fought for our ground and we worked with the owners to get a deal that we feel is fair for everybody.  We’re excited about today. We’re thankful for De and for Roger and for their leadership of our groups.  I’m thankful that our players have stood together. We stood strong at a time of uncertainty. But more importantly, I want to thank the fans. Through the rollercoaster rides, from two years out until today, you guys have stuck with us, and we’re here to tell you that football is back and it’s back for the long term and we’re excited about this season starting. And we couldn’t’ have done this without a strong Executive Committee, and our board of players. But I have to give a tip of the hat to Jeff Saturday and Domonique Foxworth who since June 28 have not missed a meeting. A lot of credit goes to those guys for pounding it out and doing the dirty work for us.

Jeff Saturday: Just to echo what most of these men up here have said, I think the part that was most impressive to me was when players and owners began to sit across the table from each other and dialogue, things began to happen. To Kevin’s point and to Commissioner Goodell’s point, this is a fair deal that we’re excited to present to our players. We’re excited about the opportunity to get back on the field instead of being in these meeting rooms and be in football meeting rooms, which I’m a big fan of. I would be remiss if I didn’t say a special thanks, and I know Fox feels exactly the same way, to my wife and to every man’s wife who stood beside, and a special thanks to Myra Kraft who even in her weakest moment allowed Mr. Kraft to come and fight this out and without him this deal does not get done. I don’t want to be climactic in any way, but he is a man who helped us save football and we are so gracious for that. We’re gracious for his family and for the opportunity he presented to get this deal done. Thank you very much. We really appreciate it.

Domonique Foxworth: I think it’s all pretty much been said. I feel the same way as Jeff. I have a tremendous amount of love for Jeff. The biggest thing that I needed to say is a great deal of appreciation for my wife who is taking care of our eight-month-old daughter and studying for the bar at the same time allowing me to be here.  Other than that, I think they just put me up here for eye candy because obviously I’m more attractive than anyone else who has been up here. I just like pissing De off as much as possible. I’m done guys. Thanks a lot.

DeMaurice Smith: Thank you. We have a little bit of time for questions between the two of us but before we do that, I want to say thanks to everybody who’s been involved with this. It’s been a very long process. Like I said, there’s a next step for us to reconstitute as a union. There are issues we need to address very quickly — issues of health, safety, benefits, other collectively-bargained issues that we have addressed back in March but really haven’t addressed thus far. I know and I have a great deal of confidence that both sides are going to engage and take that process with the sobriety and the good faith that we have shown over the past few months to get this deal done.

Last two things to echo what Jeff said about Mr. Kraft, we couldn’t have done it without you. We took a day off on Friday to remember a great woman and her great family. I’m thankful for what she meant to the city of Boston. I’m especially thankful for what you mean to the game of football. And to my wife, there’s going to come a time when I’m not going to be on the road. I don’t know whether she thinks that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but there’s going to be a time when daddy is going to be home.

On the relationship between Commissioner Goodell and DeMaurice Smith:

Smith:  I think that if we don’t have a good relationship, it hurts the game and the business of football. And I can tell you that I’m not sure that any two people have ever come together in a more compressed, public, interesting time than Roger and I, but I’m proud to say that our relationship has grown.  I can tell you that even up to the last minute, and we’ll leave that to the book one day, even up to the last minute, it required both of us coming together to take stock of what’s important and get the job done.  So I know that’s going to be our relationship going forward.

Goodell:  I’d say relationships are built on respect.  And De and I have that for one another.  We have a trust that we’re both in this to do the best we can for the game of football and our constituents.  And I think you can’t reach a 10-year agreement without that.  And he’s a great leader for these players, he never lost his passion.  We listened to one another, which I think is critically important, and we have respect for our various constituents.  I think the players under De’s leadership here, have done an extraordinary job.  And I think it was Jeff who said when we met as principals, and it was principals talking to one another, that changed the dynamic of this negotiation in my opinion because the players did an extraordinary job of representing themselves and showing that they wanted to secure the long-term interest of the game.  Not just for the players, but also for the people who played the game before and also our fans.

On any problems that may arise with getting the approval of the entire body of players:

Smith:  To answer your question, do we see any problems on the horizon for the group of players, no.  I mean, thanks to Dan Kaplan, I am still waiting for the 70 breakaway players to show up, but I don’t believe that there’s going to be a problem with the unity of the players getting together.  And I think as we go forward, we’ve got serious and critical issues that we need to address.  I think part of the good news is that while we were just a few blocks up the street in March for just a couple of hours, we managed to talk about a lot of the things that I think make football better and safer.  And so I think we have a little bit of a head start on those issues and I think that the faster we can resolve them, the better it is for the game of football and for the men who play it.

On remaining issues after recertification:

Smith: There are a number of issues that have to be collective bargained and they are collectively bargained issues.  Some of the issues relate to health and safety, some relate to pensions, some relate to grievances, commissioner discipline, and it’s sort of a list of issues that I think the good news is this—you can only talk about them if you’re a union.  And you can only negotiate about them if you’re a union.  So at the end of the day, I think that there are some things we got to get to, but our first step is we’re committed to getting to all of our teams in a very short of amount of time, that was important to our players and I know important to the league to make sure that we’re together to make those decisions and then we’ll take the next steps.

On officially getting the CBA ratified:

Smith:  Well I think I second ago, I alluded to that at some point real soon, I hope to be daddy again.  It won’t be until I log a few miles on the road meeting teams.

On potential issues:

Smith: Our job is to get it done.

On if there are damages that need to be repaired:

Goodell:  Well, I would say from the Commissioner’s perspective, we know what we did to frustrate our fans over the last several months.  They want football and our job is to give them football.  We think that through a 10-year agreement here, we’ve secured the future of the game to ensure that pledge to bring great football to our fans.  I think we have some work to do though to make sure they understand that we are sorry for the frustration we put them through over the last six months, but our commitment is to bring them better football going forward.  I think we ought to make sure that we understand that our bond with our fans is probably the primary issue that all of us have to keep focused on, whether you’re a player, or you’re an owner or you’re the Commissioner.

On reaching goals:

Smith:  Our issue from the beginning of this was to craft and structure a deal that was good for players and good for the owners and for the game of football.  I think to answer your question as succinctly as possible, we worked hard to get a fair deal done.  We didn’t get everything that either side wanted. There’s a lot of things that I’m sure players wanted and owners wanted that we didn’t get.  But we did arrive at a deal that we think was fair and balanced.

On the importance of a deal:

Smith:  I think the importance is on making sure it’s a good deal for players and owners.

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