DeMaurice Smith hopeful for CBA deal

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.

Shortly before kickoff, players from both teams walked about 10 yards from the sidelines onto the field, raising their right index fingers in what was later said to be a message of union solidarity.

"Even though five minutes from then we were going to go out and bash each others' heads in, we're all one voice," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said, according to USA Today.

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.

"All we're hearing from ownership is they want to lock us out," Brees said, according to the newspaper.

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

"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 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.

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

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.