49ers Vet Praises New Union Boss

New players' union executive director DeMaurice Smith plans to meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday.

The union says this will be a chance for the two of them to get acquainted and no bargaining of any kind is expected. On Monday, Smith had a brief phone conversation with Goodell.

Smith was en route from Hawaii on Wednesday, three days after he was elected to replace the late Gene Upshaw as the NFL Players Association chief. He plans to announce his transition team Thursday. That group likely will include the other finalists for the job the 32 player representatives chose Smith to fill.

The other finalists — all with extensive pro football backgrounds, something Smith lacks — were former NFLPA presidents Trace Armstrong and Troy Vincent, and attorney David Cornwell. Also mentioned as a candidate for the transition team is former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy.

The 45-year-old Smith is a Washington attorney with connections to President Barack Obama and new Attorney General Eric Holder. He was the outsider among the candidates to replace Upshaw, who died last August after 25 years as executive director.

But Smith impressed the player reps when he presented the union with a comprehensive plan and assembled roughly a dozen advisers, including Wall Street financiers, labor lawyers and sports licensing experts. His stated goals for the union include increasing health care and opportunities for former and current players. He says the union has "both a moral and business obligation to retired players."

"DeMaurice was very creative," said 49ers player rep Walt Harris. "He brought to the table a lot of strategic ideas that we were not aware of. His poise, his confidence and his background — he's been in places that a lot of these candidates have not been in, and because of that, it stirred confidence in all of us, knowing what we're about to get involved in with the CBA."

Labor talks are foremost after the owners opted out of the collective bargaining agreement last year, meaning it will end after the 2010 season instead of after the 2012 schedule. And 2010 will be an uncapped year if there is no new agreement before then.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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