DeMaurice Smith Tells Players They Could be Hindering Negotiations

Howard Balzer

Nine days ago, NFL medical director Dr. Thom Mayer sent a message to all players urging them not to participate in private workouts.

That suggestion wasn’t heeded, most notably by Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and teammates.

Murray tweeted a video Monday of the workouts that occurred in Dallas, Texas, last week. Brady posted multiple comments about what he was doing, including when he parroted former President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who famously said more than 70 years ago, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Tell that to the families and friends of the more than 120,000 people that have lost their lives to the coronavirus in the last three-plus months.

The actions of those players prompted NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to provide a compelling argument beyond safety issues for why it wasn’t a smart move by the players.

In talking with USA Today, here's what Smith had to say.

Those practices are not in the best interest of player safety. They’re not in the best interest of protecting our players heading into training camp. And I don’t think they are in the best interest of us getting through an entire season.”

Most important, Smith referenced the ongoing negotiations between the union and the league over workplace-related rules that will implemented for the scheduled beginning of training camp July 28 and the season to follow.

“I certainly understand how competitive our players are and I get that. At the same time, we are in the process of trying to negotiate, we have to negotiate with the league what happens when a player tests positive during the season. Does that player go on injured reserve? Do they go on short-term IR? If you test positive for the virus after training camp, is that a work-related injury? Are you covered under workers comp? What benefits are available to you if you have downstream injuries from contacting COVID-19?

“All of the things that players may want to do during the offseason have a direct impact on how well we can negotiate protections for them once the season starts. We sent out the guidance because that was in their best health and safety interests. Let’s just say for some of the players who have practiced, we’ve made sure they heard the message.”

Unfortunately, hearing the message might not be enough. After all, it was Simon & Garfunkel in the song Sounds of Silence that referenced “people hearing without listening.”

It’s time for all of us to really listen.