Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith appeared arm-in-arm at the NFLPA-sponored rookie symposium on Wednesday.
The fact that those two cooperated enough to address the 155 rookies in the rescheduled and reconstituted symposium in Sarasota, Fla., offered more evidence that negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement have at least not regressed.
The power duo, who traveled to Florida together, went back to Minnesota together to rejoin the second day of a four-day negotiating session under the guidance of U.S. District Court judge Arthur Boylan.
Their message to both the rookies and the media: “We’re still working at it.”
“We’re continuing to work hard,” Smith told the gathered media. “Both of us felt it was important to come down for this event. This event was important to ensure that our young men appreciated how important we think these few days are.”
Goodell said he tried to answer all the rookies’ questions during the hourlong visit, though he could not get into specifics because of confidentiality restrictions.
“They obviously have a lot of questions,” Goodell said. “We’re going to get back to work.”
The owners and players had committed themselves to the lockout’s longest negotiating session last week. The main issue of how the sides will split the league’s $9 billion (and growing) revenues remains at the core of the talks. The concept of a rookie wage scale was broached last Thursday.
Meanwhile, the rookies heard former Jets coach Herm Edwards give an impassioned speech, urging the players at the Ritz-Carlton to stay in shape during the lockout.
“When the lockout is over, no one cares that you missed 20 practices,” Edwards reportedly told the players. “You better be in shape and be ready to go.”