SARASOTA- NFL players union head DeMaurice Smith and league commissioner Roger Goodell took a break from their sometimes contentious labor negotiations to address rookies this morning at the Sarasota Ritz Carlton Hotel.
After addressing the first-year players, who are going through a two-day rookie symposium, Smith and Goodell held a brief news conference that lasted about 1 ½ minutes and did not take questions.
“We just wanted to come out and say we are continuing to work, and thought it was very important to come down for this event,” Smith said. “Obviously, what we are doing about football on the macro-scale is getting a fair deal done and trying to get back to the game of football as quickly as possible. “This event (rookie symposium) is to ensure that our young men appreciate how important these few days are and I am thrilled that Roger could come down with us and talk to the rookies in a very direct way.”
All the drafted rookies were invited to the symposium, which is also being held at the IMG Academie,s and the union said 155 players were in attendance for the visit by Smith and Goodell.
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“It was a great opportunity for us to sit down with the rookies, and obviously they had lots of questions,” Goodell said. “We answered them as best as we could, though you all know we are under some restrictions. We are taking a break (from negotiations) because we felt it was important to be down here with the players, and we have great respect for the players.
George Atallah, the NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs, said most of the questions asked by the players were lockout related and they were trying to find out where both sides are in the process.
“They (Smith and Goodell) were as transparent as they could be given the court order maintaining confidentially,” Atallah said. “It was important for us to show the relationship between the players and the league is really significant and that we consider it a necessity to have a positive working relationship with the league and the two principals, Smith for the players and Goodell for the owners and the league.”
After their meeting with the players, Smith and Goodell flew back to Minnesota on the same plane to continue labor negotiations.