Holding out hope for a deal

By The Associated Press
Updated: September 10, 2010

NEW ORLEANS — The head of the NFL Players Association said the union would like to see a labor agreement with the league worked out quickly.

“I think the players would love to have a deal done by November,” NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said. “The game is what is most important to the players.”

Smith spoke before Thursday night’s NFL season opener between the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings.

Smith’s comments seem optimistic, given that both sides have spoken about a potential lockout next season.

“We’ve mentioned a lockout only because that’s what the league has been preparing for since 2007,” Smith said. “Our job is to prepare our players for the worst even while we hope for the best.”

Smith met with Saints players on Monday. He said the purpose was to fill them on where the negotiations stood.

Smith described his relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who was also in New Orleans, as excellent, saying both he and Goodell wanted the best for the players.

Smith dodged most questions, saying he wanted to concentrate on the game and the association’s partnership with “School of the Legends,” an online football training course.

“First and foremost, today is about the kickoff of the season,” Smith said.