Commissioner Goodell & DeMaurice Smith interview transcript

After signing the new 10-year Collective Bargaining Agreement today on the steps of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith sat down for an interview with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen.

Following is a transcript of that interview:

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell & NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith interview with NFL Network’s Rich Eisen

August 5, 2011

Rich Eisen: Look what I have here: I have here a signed Collective Bargaining Agreement in my hands. And I have the head of the NFL Players’ Association DeMaurice Smith, good to see you. Commissioner, good to see you. How about us? All of us together with this signed agreement. The fans are all here in Canton, Ohio. What emotion do you have right now, De?”

DeMaurice Smith: “It’s a great day for our fans. Anytime you can be in a place like Canton and be surrounded by the men who made our game great, and to do it on a day where we’re celebrating the signing of a Collective Bargaining Agreement is special. For the players and for the NFL, it was a certainly a very long, sometimes arduous, process to say the least. But today I think that we can celebrate something that’s great for the fans and great for the game of football.”

Eisen: “How about you, Commissioner?”

Commissioner Roger Goodell: “Relief, because we know how much the game means to our fans. People want football, and football is back. We think the agreement that we reached is going to be great for the game, it’s going to be great for the fans and we are going to be able to grow the sport. I think this is a true partnership in trying to get that done.”

Eisen: “You hear the media all the time talking about the turning point. What in your estimation in the negotiations, De, is there one moment when the two of you got on the phone or the two of you met somewhere that we don’t know where you met? Is there some point that you can pinpoint during the process?”

Smith: “I think virtually every restaurant in America where we had dinner knows where we were meeting. I don’t really think that there was one single moment because over the process of opting out, certainly the election of the executive director, getting to the point in March where the season ended and the CBA came to an end, all of those things are a continuum. I look at this way: there were always a number of points where we could have not ended up here today. And I think the reason why we were able to end up here today is very strong leadership on both sides, a vision to get this thing done and to ensure that football was going to be played and we weren’t going to miss games. So if there is a turning point, I think it’s that commitment to making sure that we can get this done. For both Roger and I, I think early on we committed ourselves to working as hard as we could to get that done.”

Eisen: “Do you have a moment in this whole process?”

Goodell: “I think De is right. I think the one point in time which I think was critical for us is when we had the five players and De, and five owners and myself meet together. Nobody else was around for three days, and we really had an opportunity to sit down and talk about how important this was to us, to the league, to the players. The players did an extraordinary job with De, and I think the owners did a great job because we listened. There was a tremendous amount of respect and an attempt to find solutions. Once we understood each other and we understood that that was what we were there for, we got it done.”

Eisen: “The one issue that a lot of people are talking about right now because it was one of the last one that you guys were talking about: the HGH testing. What exactly is in this CBA in regard to that aspect?”

Smith: “It became clear to both of us that we believe in the integrity of the game and we believe in engaging in any course of action to make sure that the game is clean. So we both agreed that HGH testing is something that we should strive for. We put a target goal that we’re going to try to get it done. At the same time, we want a procedure that is safe and reliable for the players. And that’s something again, if you wanted to look at a moment where I think we got something done, it was coming up with solutions to get something done rather than identifying problems.”

Eisen: “Has the testing been identified? The exact details of how this is going to be administered?

Goodell: “I think that’s what we want to work through in the next few weeks but we’re both committed to getting it done by the start of the regular season because we do believe in the integrity of the game and we do believe that’s a critical feature. We think it’s best for the health and safety of the players also. So we’re going to get it done, but we want to get it done right.”

Smith: “There are all sorts of things in that document that we think are important. Our ability to reach back and take care of former players is something that is both historic and monumental, especially given what we’re doing today.”

Eisen: “And the room that we’re in. Not just obviously these gentlemen, but the room is a testament to what’s come before us.”

Smith: “But that piece is critical. And all throughout that document, while there might be things that folks in the media bite on sooner rather than later, when we look at the neurocognitive disability benefit and we look at changes that we’ve made in the disability process, those are things that over and above whatever test we’re going to give to any player, those are things that we fought for and the owners fought for as well where we know that document now becomes something living for the men who played this game and the families who support us. So for us, it’s a tremendous day because I do believe that we took a tremendous step forward.”

Goodell: “I think one of the things that is important anytime you enter into an agreement like this is that you’re just starting a partnership. There are going to be plenty of things that we’re going to have to continue to work on, there are going to be challenges that we’re all going to be faced with over the next 10 years. Our job is going to be able to make sure that we can all look back 10 years from now and say that was a good deal for both sides.”

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