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{ Annual State of the Union press conference took place on January 30, 2014 at the Sheraton Times Square in New York City. }
Author: NFLPA Communications Posted: 1/31/2014

GEORGE ATALLAH:  For our players.  The gains that we've made just in this past year are tremendous.  We wanted to start off with a couple of highlights, and our staff has been working tirelessly over the last year to put together our Third Annual Collegiate Bowl [presented by Panini] which this year was broadcast on ESPN 2 on January 13th.  We had 110 of the top college prospects who will hopefully get drafted in May, and we wanted to show you a quick highlight reel of what that game was about.

            Our mission at the NFL players association is to serve players past, present and future, and today we'll be focusing a lot on the history of how far our institution has come.

            For a lot of you in the room that have covered our game for a long time, you'll know that it's the 20‑year anniversary of free agents.  So the free agency list that you'll receive today as members of the media, this will be the 20th time you'll get that, and it's because a legacy of players fought hard to earn that right.

            We talk about past, present and future.  We've also reached back into the past and tried to work hard to help players transition out of football successfully so that they have the skills and opportunities to be successful beyond just the roughly four years that they play in the NFL.  We're very proud that we've been able to establish the trust, and we will now show you a short clip about what that institution is about and how our organization continues to serve its former players.  (Video played).

            GEORGE ATALLAH:  Thanks to Chester, Spice and Hunter for adding a little spice to that video.  As Chester said, it's a benefit that players earned, and you'll hear a lot today about the legacy of benefits and other rights that players have earned over the years, including we're going to start off with a special announcement.  So without further adieu, I'm going to introduce DeMaurice Smith, the executive director of the NFLPA.  (Applause).

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for attending our all in all press conference.  Before we started one of the things that we wanted to do as an organization was recognize that we certainly stand on the shoulders of those who came before us, and not only in the context of NFL football, not even in the context of professional sports, but in the context that hundreds of men and women throughout history have sacrificed and made commitments in order to make the lives of these players and indeed our organization better.  One of those things is always characterized each and every year with Black History Month, the Super Bowl is always played in February, and this is a month where we wanted to recognize the contributions of others in order to make our lives a lot better.  So on behalf of the players of the National Football League, I would like Lonnie Bunch, who is the director of the Smithsonian's National African‑American Museum to come on up and join us.  You can give him a hand.  It's okay.

            Each and every year the players of the National Football League are going to make a presentation to the African‑American history museum, and this year we've selected four players from this year's Super Bowl teams, and their jerseys, along with their signatures, will hopefully be permanent collectibles in your wonderful museum.  It's our way of saying that we have a lot to owe to those who came before us.  We wanted to share that tradition of the African‑American museum.  Thank you for your leadership, and we look forward to a wonderful partnership.

            LONNIE BUNCH:  Thank you so much.

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Say a few words.

            LONNIE BUNCH:  Let me, first of all, thank you, DeMaurice, for all that you've done for us, because this is a significant contribution to the Smithsonian's newest museum, the National Museum of African‑American History and Culture.  I cannot express how pleased I am to enter into this relationship with the NFLPA, because this partnership will not only help us build the Smithsonian's newest museum, but more importantly, it's central to ensuring the preservation of an important story, the history, the achievements and contributions of African‑Americans in the NFL, both on and off the field.  The impact and legacy of African‑Americans in football is in part about athletic achievement.

            This museum will help us remember the power of Marion Motley and Jim Brown, or the grace of Paul Warfield and Jerry Rice, or the tenacity of Ray Lewis and Willie Lanier.  But this is also a story about how sports reflects the best and the worst of American society and how these athletes by their actions helped to change the racial dynamics in America.  When Fritz Pollard became the first African‑American coach in professional football in the 1920s, America began to change.  When Art Shell became a head coach in the NFL, it changed more than football; and when Doug Williams won a Super Bowl, American attitudes changed in a profound way.

            And now, thanks to this partnership, we'll be able to capture a new generation of athletes who will now leave their imprint on the National Football League.  So today, I want to say how much we appreciate the fact that this first step in the preservation of a legacy is crucially important.  This will allow the Smithsonian to collect artifacts, and it will allow us to work with players to create educational programs that explore the history of the African‑American in athletics, and so I am honored and humbled to add these materials to the Smithsonian collection.  These jerseys and our collaboration will help make this museum even more exciting when it opens to sports fans two years from now.  My only regret is I'd like to see a little giant blue.  (Laughs).

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Well, on behalf of the players that wanted to make this absolutely just a wonderful contribution, Russell Wilson is this year's contributor as well as Richard Sherman from the Seattle Seahawks.  From the Denver Broncos, Champ Bailey and Mr. Von Miller.  (Applause).

            GEORGE ATALLAH:  First, before we started the remarks, in addition to Lonnie Bunch, I wanted to recognize a number of our special guests here today.  Our current players, Eric Winston is in the room, Charlie Batch and Domonique Foxworth are in the room.  Thank you very much for coming along.  Mickey Washington, who is on our executive committee.  I'd also like to send a special thanks and hello to Walter Palmer and Jeff Raymond from Uniglobal.  Uniglobal's mission is to basically extend the rights of collective bargaining to every athlete in the world, and they are truly our special guests.  So if Walter and Jeff would stand up, I'd truly appreciate it.  (Applause).

            Lastly, Ramogi Huma from All Players United and Tim Walters, my buddy and my friend from the United Steel Workers are here today, and I'd like for them to stand up as well.  (Applause).

            On April 12th of 2012, then executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association, Mike Weiner, gave his last speech at the National Press Club and discussed collective bargaining within of the context of his union, management and the rights of people everywhere.  As many of you know, Michael passed away on November 13th of 2013, but his words that day that collective bargaining is the only realistic leverage workers have against management.  It gives them a voice still rings true today.  Today, in tribute to his passion for workers' rights, in tribute to the great work of Marvin Miller before him and Don Fehr after that and the historic fight for fairness of all workers, I wanted to on behalf of all players of the National Football League, dedicate and rededicate our resolve to that process.

            It is not an easy one.  There are times, whether it's baseball's strike in 1994, 1995, NFL player strikes in 1982 and 1987 or more recently our 136‑day lockout in 2011.  The bargaining process, the failure to adhere to it, the fight to reestablish it, and in some cases the embryonic stages of its birth speaks to a time‑honored resolve that those of the few are willing to sacrifice for the many.

            Kain Colter, quarterback for the Northwestern football team, wanted to be here today, but he is having ankle surgery.  This week he and other college athletes at the university took the same solemn steps that the Sleeping Car Porters took in 1925, the United Farm Workers took in 1962, and the brave steps that millions of workers worldwide have taken throughout history.  The organizing efforts of Ramogi Huma and student leader Kain Colter resulted in the first college players, the first, to collect union cards in college athletics.  That was not, however, the first victory for Ramogi and All Players United.  Ramogi successfully lobbied the California State Legislature to pass the first Athletes' Bill of Rights, and why is that important?  Because thanks to his legislation, athletes who play for state universities will never have to worry about being saddled with injuries after they leave college sports.  They will not have to worry about crushing medical bills for injuries that they suffer playing a sport for a state university.  I dare say, Ramogi, that you have indeed outdone yourself with Northwestern University and the work of Kain Colter, and what I'd like to say ‑‑ you can give him a hand.  Stand up.  (Applause).

            As you know, the National Football League Players Association has supported the efforts of All Players United for the last two years, including a resolution from our own meeting, but our help pales in comparison to the help that they've received from my brother, Tim Walters, and the brothers and sisters at the United Steel Workers.  And Tim, you've been a tremendous friend to me.  You were one of the first labor leaders to take me in and really teach me what it means to organize, what it means to stand up for solidarity, and I wanted to thank you on behalf of our players for all the work you've done with Northwestern and with All Players United.  Thank you very much.

            Before we go on and leave Northwestern, just a short message to you, Ramogi, and to Kain and to all of those brave athletes at Northwestern.  Each of you has decided to stand up for athletes that you will never meet and possibly never know.  Those who oppose you will come after you, but you should not and you cannot fear confrontation, because it will serve as the confirmation of the very rights that you fight for.  In December of 1956, ironically at the Waldorf Astoria, just a few steps from here, a player named Don Shula, a player named Norm Van Brocklin, a player named Frank Gifford decided to come together and fight for NFL players and for their rights, and our union was founded in 1956, in this city.  I will tell you, Ramogi, for the fight that's going to come to you, I suspect that they will be similar to the fights that we had.

            In 1956 the owners responded to the formation of our union by doing something insidious.  They ignored us.  It wasn't until a year later when the United States Supreme Court upheld the rights of a player named Bill Radovich.  Bill left the Detroit Lions in 1946 after he came back from World War II.  He was let go and then blackballed by every team in the National Football League.  Why?  Because he dared, dared to leave the Detroit Lions and move to another team when an owner told him that if he did, he would never play a down of football.  They told Bill that he would never play again, and they told him that they would break him in half.

            They were only true about one thing.  Bill Radovich never played again.  They didn't break Bill Radovich in half.

            In February, ironically, the month that we are now in, one year later, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Bill Radovich, ruled in favor of one man who decided that he was going to fight for the rights of players that he would never meet and players that he would never know.  And it was then that that ruling served as the same basis for the ruling that we filed in our lockout against the National Football League.  So when we fast forward some decades of years, and we see the names Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Vincent Jackson, Mike Vrabel, Ben Leber, Brian Robison, Logan Mankins, Osi Umenyiora, and then Texas A & M linebacker Von Miller, in the name of the plaintiffs, who just like Bill Radovich decided to sue the National Football League for players that they've never met and those that they will never know, we know that everything you're doing at Northwestern is exactly the right thing.

            So on behalf of the Players of the National Football League, I want to say thank you, but also one other thing.  You're not alone, my friend.  You're not alone.  We may not be sometimes as tough as the steel workers, but we're getting there.  And we're going to be with you 100 percent.  Thank you very much, Ramogi.  (Applause).

            On this Black History Month we are reminded that the fights, the struggle and the successes and even the failures of the past would not have been possible without the courage of those people who wanted to stand up and fight.  And those folks fought courageously rather than anonymously.  And let me say that one more time.  Courageously rather than anonymously.  They would rather stand up and declare their solidarity than hide in the shadows and embrace the invisibility of cowards.  Last year, as a matter of fact, I was told that there were some anonymous agents at the combine who chafed and claimed that they were a little offended when I said that the history of collective action by our union mirrored the history of those fights in the civil rights movement, the fights for women's suffrage and the fights for unionization for people worldwide.  Well, as we say in the business, this is for them.

            I told you, George, I would be nice most of the time.  I'm reminded of an earlier time.  This picture, 1967, when a group of athletes gathered in Cleveland, Ohio in support of a fellow athlete fighting for his religious rights.  In June of 1967 Jim Brown's organization, the Black Economic Union, brought together fellow football players, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Jim Shorter, Walter Beach, John Wooten, Curtis McClinton, along with Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul Jabbar and former Green Bay Packer standout Willie Davis.  They all converged in support of another athlete, not for what he would do on the field, but to support him for the convictions that he had in his heart.  I'm a beneficiary of the courage of others.  Our players are beneficiaries of the courage of others.  College athletes will be the beneficiaries of the courage of others.  And know that our union will stand side by side, arm in arm, step in step, whether it's athletes from other universities, workers at the steel workers, folks at Unite Here, and anyone else who fights for collective action for the rights that we believe are important.

            The story of the athletes at Northwestern, the summit of athletes in Cleveland, on this day is the narrative of our union as we celebrate 20 years of free agency.  The players of today and those who will join us through the draft, free‑agent signings will all have minimum salaries, injury protections, pensions, tuition benefits, transition services, health and safety rules, and most importantly, all of them will have the fight of collective bargaining, because of the work of people who came before us.

            As Mike said on that day, labor peace is never the goal.  The collectively bargained relationship is the goal, and the benefits that result of it is what we strive for.  The last 20 years of free agency and the fights for us to get there is the essence of our union.  The courage of our players, the dedication of their staff, the collective history of the leaders that we have been blessed to have, I personally want to thank them.  I want to thank Ed Garvey, I want to thank Gene Upshaw.  I want to thank the presidents that have served this union.

            I want to thank Reggie White, Freeman McNeil, John Mackey, Marvin Powell, James Lofton, Steve Jordan, Dan Marino and the hundreds of other players who stood up courageously rather than anonymously to protect who?  Players that they've never met, players they'll never know.  And on behalf of this union and for Domonique Foxworth, our leadership of our executive committee, thank you for all of the work that you've done.  It hasn't been easy.  Sometimes it's indeed been fun, but it's never been easy.  I want to thank those who have come here before, Charlie Batch, Marvin, for all of the folks who have served and fought with us.  For the players in the back of the room who continue to serve, I want to say thank you.  And now, with that, any questions.

            I've given you stunned silence.

            Yes, sir, the young man in the wonderful fedora.  And lay that down somewhere.  (Laughs).

 

            Q.  My name is Chris Murray.  I'm from the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.  My question to you is what was your reaction to the situation at Grambling University when the players walked out?  And would you be open to giving them any type of assistance when something like that ever happens again?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Well, you know, and again, for those who don't know about the situation in Grambling, I'm going to paraphrase it and overly simplify it, but players were concerned about the working conditions that they had, certainly concerned about the coaching changes, and they staged a walkout refusal to go to practice.  You know that great player Doug Williams was the coach there.  And I applaud any action by a group of any individuals, in this case, obviously athletes who come together, meet and discuss what they are going to do collectively as opposed to simply saying is someone in this room going to stand up and do anything about it.

            So we are always available to give advice to anyone who asks.  I look at their situation as one that took a tremendous amount of courage.  For those of you in the audience who have been college athletes like myself, you know, you can rarely understand what level of courage it would take to step outside of that role as an athlete who generally simply responds to whatever the coach says, and to stand up as an individual and collectively say that we together are going to do something to benefit all of us.  And any day that happens and it happens constructively, it seems to me to be a great day.  Any other questions?  Yes, sir.

 

            Q.  With the record number of early entries to the draft, what more can be done to ‑‑ for rookies who come in and struggle in the league in their transition?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  You know, our mission frankly is to make sure that our players understand and appreciate the business of football.  One of the things that we have had a history of doing through the past, and this is something we've done with the league over a number of years, is to not only work to prepare those players who have dedicated themselves to entering the draft, but reaching back to those players while they are in school.

            Do I think that there are efforts that could be done to enhance that, yes.  I would love to see a requirement that makes any player who wants to be eligible for the draft, that they would have had a mandatory number of hours in financial literacy.  I would love to see a world where our colleges and universities are working either with the NFL players association or the NFL as they have, in order not so much to prepare a young man to enter the game of football, but I'm pretty sure that that mission was to prepare them to enter the game of life.  And if football becomes a part of that, that's wonderful.  If football is that, that's a problem.

 

            Q.  The league and the owners have spoken of their interest in possibly expanding the playoffs ‑‑

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  I'm sorry.  I can barely see you.  There's a blinding light.

 

            Q.  The league and the owners have spoken of their interest in possibly expanding the playoffs by one team per conference and perhaps pairing that with the reduction of the preseason.  What is the union's position on that, either separately or together?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  And you know, Mark, we never comment about a speculative proposal that might come from the league.  We have not seen a proposal from the league to expand the playoffs or to make any changes in the preseason.  If and when we do, we'll have a position.

 

            Q.  We've got an issue now with defensive players who are not aiming high because they don't want to be penalized, they don't want to be fined.  You've got Brandon Merriweather who flat out said he's going to have to aim for knees.  Look, you had the statement that you released to us, but I'm just curious ‑‑

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  No.  I was actually sighing because I've talked to Brandon.

 

            Q.  I know you have and you said it in your statement.  And the league's competition committee said they're going to take a look at this.  How much conversation have you had with them?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  I'm sorry.  Who's the them?

 

            Q.  Them, being the league, and what are you hearing from your players, basically?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Yeah.  Look, I think that one of the ramifications of any rule, even if it's a rule that we would all agree makes sense, is seeing how that rule plays out, and you may have actually unintended consequences of a well‑intentioned rule.  Do I also believe that the fines that come from that also present a ‑‑ or could result in an unintended consequence, yes.  We've had conversations with the league this year about what we believe are ways to change that.  I think that it's important to simply embrace that we're trying to keep our players safe.

            If we are doing things that have unintended consequences, then we should try to figure out how to change those things.  But look, our players are candid.  There has always been an unwritten rule in football that you didn't go after the moneymakers, and every player will tell you that that was their knees.  If there is a world where that target is now lowering because they don't want to be fined or they want to comply with the rules and yet it has a ramifications on injuries, I think we should look at that, but I also think that any decision we make should be grounded in what we know as opposed to what we think.  So I know that there may be some questions about the most recent injury data.  I went through some of it a few weeks ago and continue to go through it.

            I know that there were a number of comments by coaches throughout the year about their pondering about why injuries were occurring and when they were occurring and where they were occurring.  You know, I think that it's important to look at the data and to understand whether data is statistically significant or not and make decisions based on what you know.

 

            Q.  I have a Dolphin‑related question for you.  The past couple of days we've seen a series of charges, countercharges related to the Richie Incognito‑Jonathan Martin situation.  I'm wondering what the union's position is on that situation, where it stands now, the cooperation or lack of cooperation you may have received in trying to get to the bottom of what happened down there.

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Well, we've had full cooperation with virtually everybody involved in the matter.  The only person that we were unable to interview was Jonathan Martin, and that was a decision by him and his lawyers, and we're stuck with that.

            With respect to the union's position on the current investigation, I know that the league hired an outside person to conduct interviews.  We've been parties to those interviews.  Our lawyers have been in those interviews of players.  We conducted our own workplace safety investigation that we will be concluding within the next few weeks, but I will say this.  The manner in which the league has conducted this investigation has been in the manner that we believe is consistent and the right way to do it.

            When we went through the issue of bounty, we raised a number of concerns about who conducted the investigation, whether it was impartial, the manner in which it was conducted, the statements that were put out before the investigation even started.  This is one where there has been a tremendous level of cooperation between the players union and the league on this issue, because I do believe that we both have an interest in making sure that our work places are as safe and conducive to best practices.  I look forward to talking with Roger when that report is done, and we'll continue to have the conversations that we've had about improving our workplace.

            Let me say one more thing, because you did raise a statement about sort of the recent days back and forth.  I don't think that any good is being served when either side plays this publicly.  Both sides have been a part of the investigation by the league.  One side has been a participant in the investigation by the union.

            The players have been extremely forthcoming.  We've worked extremely well with the lawyers on both sides.  But I do not believe that it is in the best interest of either player to play these charges, countercharges publicly.  So I have an expectation, and our players here have heard it a hundred times.  I think given the names of the guys that I've mentioned who are part of our history, we have an expectation about how our young men should conduct themselves in the business of football, and our leadership reflects that.  And that's how I would hope that every player in the National Football League conduct themselves.  You got a followup?

 

            Q.  Just real quick, the league has said that Ted Wells will file a public report when he's done.  Do you plan ‑‑ is there any chance that you would file your own report to the public as well?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  You know, we would certainly discuss it.  I think that I always consult the leadership of our players, and that's certainly something that I would do before we released anything publicly.  But look, our interest is on the sanctity, security, safety of the workplace, and I do believe that that is certainly why we conducted it, and our findings, at least our findings about that workplace and what we recommend will be public.

 

            Q.  First of all, are you any closer to an agreement with the league on HGH testing?  And second of all, about the three‑year rule where you were talking about earlier with college players before they can go to the NFL, what are your feelings about that and is that something that the NFL would ever challenge ‑‑ I'm sorry, the NFLPA?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  I started to say, if you're asking me to speculate ‑‑ well, tomorrow I am accepting that position of being commissioner, so I can tell you ‑‑ (laughs).  Yes, and the world as we know it exploded.

            Well, I think that we never engage in speculative positions.  So I think that we would always take a look at whatever rules and how they impact people moving into the workplace.

            With respect to your first question about HGH, the HGH policy is done.  It's been done.  The drug policy overall is 98 percent done.  We both agreed to conduct a population study for HGH.  We agreed that the results of that population study would set a decision limit with scientific rig or about the level of normal HGH in our players' body.  We've discussed and agreed upon what the fines would be or discipline would be.  The only two remaining issues on our drug policy is in the area of neutral arbitration.

            For the first time there is neutral arbitration in every aspect of the proposed drug policy, and that is something that was clearly something that the players fought for and fought hard for.  The two exceptions that the league wants to that general statement of neutral arbitration is in two instances, one in which a player has been adjudicated either criminally or civilly as violating the drug policy or one where the suspension is not based on a positive test, but based upon evidence that the player has engaged in a violation of the drug policy, and the best example of that, of course, is the Alex Rodriguez circumstance.

            We believe that the neutral arbitration is one that enhances and strengthens our system entirely and our players are not in favor of any of those carve outs, and I do believe that regardless of which side you personally think about the Alex Rodriguez case, that was one where discipline was imposed.  Both sides went into it with full due process rights, and I know that the recent filings, some people may disagree with that, but the union represented the player.  The league defended their position.  The neutral arbitrator came out and upheld a substantial portion of that ruling, and you had Bud Selig come out and commend the collective bargain process of neutral arbitration.  I believe that neutral arbitration in cases like that make our system better, and we look forward to a world where all of our players can rejoice that their collectively bargained drug process and program is in full force.

 

            Q.  (No microphone)?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Yes, sir.  For those two categories.  Does that make sense?  Somebody here on the left.

 

            Q.  With the arrest of Kellen Winslow in November, you have a drug that's illegal in most jurisdictions.  It's synthetic marijuana.  It's illegal in most states, but not on the banned list.  What do you think of possibly a player being punished for something that's not on the ban list because of an arrest, and do you expect this substance to be part of the joint agreement?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Again, I think the second part of your question, or the end part of the question is speculative, so I don't know.  But our drug policy as envisioned or proposed is one that has strict and well‑defined drugs that are banned.  If they are not on that list, they cannot serve as a basis for discipline.

 

            Q.  Do you see a time where you're going to put this on the list and test for it?  There is a test out there.

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Well, again, it goes back to it being speculative.  I mean you could almost ask yourself that question about a whole number of things.  If the league or the NFLPA wants to make additions or modifications to that drug policy, the process for that is collective bargaining, as brutal and ugly and messy and imperfect as it is.

 

            Q.  Last year here, or New Orleans, you had strong words about the medical staffs, in particular the Chargers doctor.  I was wondering, you cited a survey that I have not been able to find and I wonder if that has been made public, about three‑quarters of the players have been dissatisfied, and I also wonder, has it gotten better in a year?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Well, to answer the latter part of the question, does it get better, it gets better when we are able to confidentially poll our players and talk to them about the issues that concern them.  I can tell you that as the head of this union, there will never be a day when our union is quote, unquote satisfied with where we are.

            Our job as a union is to consistently and at times aggressively fight to hold employers accountable for the obligations that they have to their employees and in the case of doctors, their patients.  So we have had cases this year that we've conducted investigations where we have believed that a doctor's care or decisions or team management decisions have fallen below the acceptable level of care that we would expect.

            I don't know whether that means that we think things are getting better or worse.  It just simply means that even if more people say that things are good, that doesn't mean that we're going to turn a blind eye to those instances where we believe that the conduct or decisions have fallen below an acceptable level of care.  With respect to the survey, we gave you the results of what that survey is.  We believe that it's important for us to be able to confidentially talk to our players.  And that's what we'll always do.

            If management believes that they want to insert themselves into the confidential discussions between the union and its members, then my guess is that's probably going to be a matter for the department of labor.

 

            Q.  Kind of a bit of a followup.  In terms of medical marijuana, is that something that you think that the players are interested in exploring in terms of options, and is it something that you're close to talking to the league on or that you would consider talking to the league on?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  We've had certainly preliminary discussions, but I'll be extremely blunt.  I mean, look, the basis or framework of our relationship, the framework for our discussions with the National Football League on any drug, whether it be potentially medical marijuana or anything is really in the drug policy.  So our focus of our conversations so far haven't really been on one‑off issues like medical marijuana.  It's been how do we close this deal on coming up with what we believe is the goal standard for a drug program in professional sports.  And let me say that again.  I truly believe that the work of Fox, Charlie, our executive committee, Heather, the lawyers and staff of the National Football League, and Roger, Adolpho and the people over at the league, I honestly believe that what we have negotiated is the goal standard in a drug policy, because we have done things in this policy that no policy has ever done.  It's championed transparency.  It's championed following the science.  It's championed coming up with a specific standard as it relates to football players in this context, and it also envisions a world where we can constantly update or modify that and that's something that you frankly don't see in any other policy.  You certainly don't see it with LOTA's policy, because I'm not sure they can use the word transparent.  (Laughs).  I told you I was going to be nice.

            But again, to me, when you have a system ‑‑ and again, I commend the National Football League on this.  When you have a system where you are willing to engage in transparency, that demonstrates the strength and belief that you have in your system.  Yes, sir.

 

            Q.  Let's keep the marijuana thing going.

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Yeah.  What kind of joint is this?  Right.  (Laughs) here we go.  Tip your waitresses.

 

            Q.  Has there been any thought within the league taking that even a step further, with some of the decriminalization efforts going on in various states, to decriminalize, a sense that the players want that removed from the drug policy altogether?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  Yeah.  I'll repeat the answer.  The framework of our discussions about any drug is the drug policy, and I really believe that it's incumbent upon both sides to try to get that matter resolved soon and then we can have other discussions.

 

            Q.  I also wanted to ask you about the Josh Freeman investigation with the medical records.  What was the results of that that you found, of that investigation?

            DEMAURICE SMITH:  We are, I think fair to say, almost done or nearly done with our interviews, and I expect that we'll be wrapping up that investigation very quickly, and certainly informing people of what our conclusions are.

            One last thing that I wanted to go through just quickly.  One of the things that we have tried to do with our union and our mission of supporting our players, both past, present and future, is to as you saw with the trust, engage in a rigorous and dedicated and comprehensive plan to assist our players in transition.  And I just wanted to welcome Bahati, who is here today, who is the executive director of The Trust.  It is his task and his solemn and not so small issue to really not only prepare our players for football, but also to prepare them for what we know will be the life after football.

            And again, from all of our players, I just want to say, Bahati, thank you for all of your hard work, and you have a lot of hard work to come, but we know that we have found the right person.  We're 100 percent behind you, and I know that our players tomorrow will be much better than today.

            Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

           

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