Shalise Manza-Young will be posting the comments by and about Patriots owner Robert Kraft, but here are some selected comments from some of the other key people in these negotiations from the press conference that just concluded in Washington, D.C.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell: "This is a long time coming and football is back, and that’s the great news for everybody. I want to thank De and all of the players for their leadership and for securing the long-term future of the game. Having a 10-year agreement is extraordinarily great for our game, but most importantly for our fans. Everybody worked hard, everybody had a passion and everybody believes in this game of football, and what we can do to make our game better. And I think this game is going to make our game better. We’re grateful for all the work that both parties did to make sure that we came to this day today and to make sure the fans that we can stand here and say football is back."
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson: "This is a long time coming. I’d like to say what a pleasure this has been for us to work with the players in the negotiations. As a former player myself, the relationships and conversations we’ve developed I think will serve us well for a long time and we’re delighted that we have an agreement that’s going to serve the NFL, our players, our teams and our fans for many years to come."
Giants owner John Mara: “We’re obviously very pleased to be standing here today. It’s been a long and pretty difficult negotiation but I think at the end of the day, neither side got everything they wanted, but I think what we did achieve was a fair deal that will stand the test of time and be in the best interest of our league, our players, our clubs and our fans. I have a lot of respect for the players that we’ve been negotiating with, they were tough negotiators, they represented their fellow players very well, as did De Smith and I think at the end of the day we have something here that is going to serve the best interest of the National Football League for many years to come."
NFLPA president Kevin Mawae: “On behalf of the players of the National Football League, I just want to say it’s a great day. We stand on the eve of the day when football gets back into business, and our players can’t be more excited than going back and doing the thing they love the most. We always said throughout this process that we would do a deal when it was right and it was the right deal, and our players did that. We stuck it out to the end, we fought our ground and we worked with the owners to get a deal that we feel was fair for everybody. We’re excited about today, we’re thankful for De and Roger and for their leadership of our groups. I’m thankful for our players who have stood together. We stood strong at a time of uncertainty. But more importantly I want to thank our fans. Through the roller coaster ride from two years out to today, you guys have stuck with us. We’re here to tell you football is back, it’s back for the long-term and we’re excited about the season starting.”
NFLPA executive committee member Jeff Saturday: “I think the part that was most impressive to me is when players and owners began to sit across the table from each other and dialogue, things began to happen. This is a fair deal that we’re excited to present to our players, we’re excited about the opportunity to get back on the field instead of being in these meeting rooms, being football meeting rooms, which I’m a big fan of.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith: “Thanks to everybody who’s been involved in this. It has been a very, very long process. There’s a next step for us to reconstitute as a union, there’s issues we need to address very quickly on issues of health, safety and benefits, other collectively bargained issues that we had addressed back in March but really haven’t addressed thus far. I know and I have a great deal of confidence that both sides are going to engage and take that process with the sobriety and good faith that we’ve shown over the last few months to get this deal done.”
Question: How important was it for the two of you (Smith and Goodell) to develop a close relationship to hash out issues?
Smith: “I think if we don’t have a good relationship, it hurts the game and the business of football. I can tell you that I’m not sure that any two people have ever come together in a more compressed, public, interesting time than Roger and I. But I’m proud to say that our relationship has grown. I can tell you that even up to the last minute, and we’ll leave that up to the book one day, it required both of us coming together to take stock of what’s important and get the job done. So I know that’s going to be our relationship going forward.”
Goodell: “Relationships are built on respect, and De and I have that for one another. We have a trust that we’re both in this to do the best we can for the game of football and our constituents. And I think you can’t reach a 10-year agreement without that. He’s a great leader for our players. He never lost his passion. We listened to one another, which I think is critically important. And we have respect for our various constituents. I think the players under De’s leadership have done an extraordinary job.”
Question: How long will the vote by the players and do you foresee any problems?
Smith: “To answer your question, no. I don’t believe that there’s going to be a problem with the unity of the players getting together. And I think as we go forward, we’ve got serious and critical issues to address. In March we managed to talk about a lot of the things that make football better and safer. I think we have a little bit of a headstart on those issues and I think the faster we can resolve them the better for the game of football and the men who play it.”
Question: What topics have to be resolved after the union recertifies?
Smith: “There are a number of issues that have to be collectively bargained. Some of them relate to health and safety, some relate to pension, some relate to grievances and commissioner discipline. I think the good news is this, you can only talk about them if you’re a union. And you can only negotiate about them if you’re a union. At the end of the day, I think there are some things that we have to get to. We’re committed to getting to all our teams in a very short amount of time, that was important to our players, and I know important to the league to make sure that we’re together to make those decisions and then we’ll take the next steps.”
Question: Do you look at this as no harm done to the sport or is there damage that must be repaired?
Goodell: “We know what we did to frustrate our plans over the past several months. They want football and our job is to give them football. We think that through a 10-year agreement here that we’ve secured the future of the game to insure that pledge to bring great football to our fans. I think we have some work to do, though, to make sure that they understand that we are sorry for the frustration that we’ve put them through over the past six months but our commitment is to bring them better football going forward. So I think we need to make sure we understand that our bond with our fans is probably the primary issue that all of us have to keep focus on, whether you’re a player, an owner or a commissioner.
Question: How important was the non opt-out?
Smith: “Our issue from the beginning of this was to craft and structure a deal that was good for players and the owners and the game of football. We worked hard to get a fair deal done. We didn’t get everything that either side wanted, there’s a lot of things that players wanted and owners wanted that we didn’t get, but we did arrive at a deal that we think was fair and balance… I think the importance (of 10 years) is making sure it’s a good deal for players and owners.”
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