PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- The NFL Players Association wants the support of various groups of retired players in its upcoming contract talks with the league.
"I don't represent active players. I don't represent retired players. I represent all NFL players. We are one team," said DeMaurice Smith, the union's new executive director, on Saturday at a meeting of the NFLPA Retired Players Organization.
Smith was selected in March to succeed the late Gene Upshaw. He is trying to get the retiree groups behind the union in negotiations to extend the contract that expires after the 2010 season. Talks start on Wednesday, although both sides concede little will be done then except perhaps to set ground rules for more pertinent discussions.
Smith has urged the league to provide the union with audited financial statements, an early point of contention in the talks. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has insisted that the union has all the financial data it needs for the negotiations.
The group also called on the other retired players -- NFL Alumni, Gridiron Greats and Fourth and Goal, among others -- to join the union in asking the league for additional financial information. All those groups -- many of them meeting in Las Vegas this weekend -- were critical of Upshaw and often clashed with him over benefits and other matters.
Smith has emphasized that his position on retired players differs from that of his predecessor. He stressed common ground in his talk to the retired players. He noted that if there is a lockout by the owners in 2011, retired player benefits would be reduced by 80 percent while it lasts.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press