Originally posted on This Given Sunday  |  Last updated 10/19/12
I could be making too much of a simple tweet, but I'm a blogger. It's what bloggers do. NFL PA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith tweets that he talked to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. WHAT? I have been in touch with Roger. He has formally notified me that he will recused himself. Paul Tagliabue will step in. — DeMaurice Smith (@DeSmithNFLPA) October 19, 2012 He says Goodell might do something that he apparently suggested. DOUBLE WHAT?? I've seen no official announcement, or even nice things, said about Goodell on NFLPlayers.com, but we could be the verge of worldwide peace in western civilization, meaning the NFL.This is a hold on to your butt moment. I assume Smith's tweet, which appears authentic, refers to the ongoing conflict between Jonathan Vilma and suspended New Orleans Saints players and the Commissioner's office. We've learned three things about that conflict. 1. The commissioner is supreme and El Supremo has wide authority to run pro football because the labor union voted for him to have it. 2. El Supremo does not have unlimited authority to act, but the limits are within the CBA, not from the Courts. Those three judge panels you read about are formed under the term of the labor agreement. Courts bow to the authority of labor agreements. They have to. It's federal law.   3. Maybe the players are beginning to get it. Hard nose bargaining, not the Courts, is how to deal with hard-nosed owners. This brings us back to Smith's tweet and the hope that solutions to the Saints' suspension and other disputes will be settled at by negotiation. A handshake agreement after bare-knuckled bargaining is cheaper, faster and better than a Court ruling. The late Gene Upshaw knew this. Upshaw knew that the owners intended to lock out players after the 2010 season. His bargaining chip was the salary cap. If the owners locked out the players, Upshaw intended that players would never again agree to the cap. Upshaw passed away in 2008. The players hired a sharp courtroom lawyer, Smith, as executive director. Smith played the role well, including knowing when to quit before suffering Appeals Court setbacks. Owners feared losing the cap more than anything, yet the players never played that chip. The players set their goal as opening 2011 training camp on time, rather than bargaining for fair deal in all respects – the commissioner's authority to punish being one example. They opened camp on time, later to realize that cap levels declined from 2010 and the commissioner remained unchecked. We cannot say how Upshaw would have handled matters. He was no lawyer. Upshaw bargained like a Hall of Fame lineman run blocking downfield. I wonder if he would have seen training camp as important as protecting cap levels as it was. I wonder if he would have forged a working relationship with Goodell that he enjoyed with Paul Tagliabue that might have made lawsuits unneeded. Upshaw was the rare labor leader who bargained hard for his members, but understood that labor had a role to play in the health of its industry. It was the league and the union, Tagliabue and Upshaw, working together under terms of the CBA to keep Maurice Clarett out of pro football when all of America saw that as a good thing. Here's hoping that Smith and Goodell find the way to bargain tough when they need to and work together when they ought to in order to reach agreement without suing the other. All western civilization depends on it. Image: Roger Goodell with DeMaurice Smith, August 4, 2011, Jason Miller/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com. Image: Gene Upshaw before U.S. Congress, February 27, 2008, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images North America via zimbio.com. Enjoy this story? Like it on Facebook and Tweet it to your Followers. Click the buttons below.      
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