INDIANAPOLIS -- NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith expressed confidence the players will approve the new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL, but said he understands why some players might be upset.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is also the team's player rep, J.J. Watt and Russell Wilson have been among the higher-profile players to publicly speak out against the proposed agreement.
"Man, democracy is messy," Smith said before addressing agents at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "And when you urge players to become part of a union, when you decide instead of having sort of a bubble that excludes people, that you want people not only to become involved in your union but become reps in the union, to take leadership roles in your union, how could you ever take a position that you have some sort of adverse effect if they express their feelings, right? Can you imagine a role where you go through this whole thing and nobody cared?"
NFL player reps voted to approve the 10-year agreement with the league on Tuesday in Indianapolis, but Smith did not provide a timetable as to when the full membership would vote. A majority of the voters would have to approve the deal for it to be put in place.
"The process is that, as you could imagine, getting the language right is somewhat tortured as well," Smith said. "As soon as the package that has all the final language goes to the players, then that process will begin."
As for the addition of a 17th regular-season game, Smith said he understands why players would be reluctant and said that was a big reason that the process took as long as it did.
"For a player that doesn't want 17 under any reason, those players will vote their conscience," Smith said.
Smith said there was a concerted effort in the negotiations to help the "core players," those 60% of the players who he said make the league minimum. As part of the new deal, minimum base salaries will increase by $100,000 in 2020. For the players who make more than $4.25 million, they will receive a regular game check instead of having their weekly pay capped at $250,000.
Smith said the percentage that will go to the players could rise above 48.5% in the future, which could mean a $3 billion to $5 billion increase over the life of the deal to the players.
Smith said there was a thought about having opt-out language in the new CBA but he did not believe that would be prudent.
"If $5 billion is projected to come to players over the course of the deal," Smith said, "and let's say there's a change in the way people are viewing this game, there's a massive change in ratings, there's a change in the financial markets, I would rather be in a world where we have long-term deals that insulates us against those things rather than a deal where people who are already rich can decide that they don't want to pay you anymore."