- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2009

DeMaurice Smith wasted no time during his first full day as executive director of the NFL Players Association.

“There isn’t a day where I don’t hope for peace,” Smith said Monday in a conference call with reporters. “But at the same time, there isn’t a day where I don’t prepare for war.”

An Anacostia native and a partner in the D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, the 45-year-old Smith was referring to collective bargaining agreement negotiations with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, an effort he planned to begin with a phone call later Monday.

Smith also echoed late predecessor Gene Upshaw’s promise that if the salary cap disappears in 2010 - as it will if a CBA extension isn’t signed by next March - he will never agree to its reinstatement.

Smith, who never played football after high school, also displayed the political skills that impressed the 32 player representatives, leading to his unanimous election over attorney David Cornwell and former NFLPA presidents Troy Vincent and Trace Armstrong.

“The men who play this game know about sacrifice. They know about honor. They know about duty,” Smith said of the economic tailspin that has battered the nation. “This game is bigger than them. There are people… who rely on those game-day checks - the people who park the cars, who work in concessions, the people who support this game in each and every way. I don’t want a lockout for our men and for those people who need those eight paychecks.”

Unlike Hall of Fame guard Upshaw, who battled his fellow retired players over benefit packages, Smith stressed that those men are part of the NFLPA family.

“We all have a moral obligation to them,” Smith said. “We want them to be part of our team. I will meet with them when they want. I will talk with him when they want. We will be one team.”

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees called the choice of Smith “very easy.” NFLPA president Kevin Mawae of the Tennessee Titans said the union’s leaders never viewed Smith “as an outsider or someone who had to sell something to us.”

As the Redskins began their offseason conditioning program Monday, center Casey Rabach said he was glad the player representatives hadn’t chosen another former player to follow Upshaw.

“[Former players] know what we go through, but I wanted someone who can do a good job of negotiating for us,” Rabach said. “I’m not sure how much experience at negotiations Troy and Trace have.”

Smith served as assistant U.S. attorney in the District from 1991 to 2000 and then as counsel to Eric Holder when the current attorney general was a deputy attorney general. The graduate of the University of Virginia’s School of Law has taught trial advocacy at American, George Washington and Virginia; he also has appeared on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” all of which served as preparation for his new job.

Smith was part of an elite group tasked with helping the Obama presidential transition team craft new justice department policy as part of a review of federal agencies.

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