NFLPA director DeMaurice Smith held a press conference in New York City on Thursday and took a less contentious stance with the league on some issues than he has in the past.
He applauded the league’s drug program and their willingness to revisit issues over time, for example. One way they’re doing that is working toward an agreement on HGH testing, something that Smith said is 98 percent done. The two sides continue to disagree about a neutral arbitrator that would rule on any disputes instead of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Smith cited a recent case from baseball as part of the union’s belief that a neutral arbitrator is necessary in all cases rather than the limited form the league wants.
“The two exceptions that the league wants to that general statement of neutral arbitration is in two instances,” Smith said. “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 the player has engaged in a violation of the drug policy. The best example of that, of course, is the Alex Rodriguez circumstance. We believe that neutral arbitration is one that enhances and strengthens our system entirely. Our players are not in favor of any of those carve-outs.”
That’s been an issue for quite a while now, although the offseason may provide more time to hammer out an agreement.
Smith also reiterated his support for the attempt to unionize by Northwestern football players and said that he had no comment on talks about expanded playoffs because the NFLPA has yet to see a proposal from the league on the subject. Smith also said that the NFLPA has wrapped up its investigation into tackle Jonathan Martin’s alleged harassment by Dolphins teammate Richie Incognito and lamented the fact that Martin didn’t speak to the union and the way both players have aired grievances publicly this week while complimenting the work the league did in their investigation.