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Letter to De Smith: Send your lawyers packing

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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Dear DeMaurice Smith:

Hope this letter finds you well. I know you're busy. Something about a lockout. But take a second to read this. It'll be worth your time. Trust me. Ready? Here you go ...

Dump your lawyers.

Dump their asses.

Do it now.

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Or at the very least, DeMaurice, restrain them, because what has become clear is Jeffrey Kessler and Jim Quinn are wielding far too much power, and they are using that power, in my opinion, to push their own agendas instead of the agendas of the players.

This is a basic truth you have to face: While the owners have not always been honest brokers, for the moment it's your lawyers who are holding up a deal. Your lawyers are standing in the way.

Now, I have to give credit, because the only journalist in the country previously beating the Kessler/Quinn drum has been Mike Florio of Profootballtalk.com. I used to think Florio was off his lawyer rocker, but he has been right all along based on interviews I've done with several NFLPA sources over the past few days.

These sources make it clear that overall, they like what Kessler and Quinn do. The two attorneys fight ferociously for the NFLPA, and there's no mistake, the owners have a significant tactical advantage. If owners stacked their bank accounts on top of one another, the pile of cash could reach the edge of our solar system. In previous years, Kessler and Quinn have successfully used the courts to provide an ample force field against this formidable wealth advantage. They deserve credit for that.

But they've gone too far. Like owners have previously, the NFLPA lawyers, I'm told, have been recently picking stupid fights over petty technical issues and arguing over who is going to pay for retiree benefits when the league has offered a fair 50-50 split. All of these arguments have delayed the negotiating process.

Owners believe -- and I think they're correct -- the two men want to delay a settlement as long as possible so they can propel the Brady antitrust lawsuit to the brink.

If this happened, an entire season would likely be lost and the sport plunged into chaos. Once that occurred, the players could push for an antitrust verdict in their favor that could reach billions. If this happened, the players would then own a part of the NFL. This is ultimately the dream scenario for Kessler and Quinn.

This would be good for Kessler and Quinn -- see: hours, billable -- but horrible for the NFL. A missed season would be a disaster.

You've experienced some of your own frustration with the lawyers, DeMaurice. During one particularly fiery negotiating session with the owners, you told your lawyers to "stand down." Lawyers from both sides have at times been kicked out of the room.

The late Gene Upshaw would handle the lawyers differently. He'd allow them to drive talks to a certain point, then extricate them from the process when they became a problem. Then Upshaw took over himself and a deal got done.

Maybe you're planning the same, DeMaurice, but now is the time for you to lessen their influence. Not later. More important, you can emerge the hero from this ugly mess.

If a deal is done because you sparked talks and pushed the lawyers aside, the new collective bargaining agreement would be called the CDA: the Collective DeMaurice Agreement. There'd be parades down Main Street in your honor.

DeMaurice, when you meet with the owners, you are often the smartest man in the room. You have a law degree yourself. Don't let the owners push you around, but don't allow the lawyers to screw this up, either.

Reign them in. Keep their own selfish interests -- see: hours, billable -- from impacting the interests of the players.

You are one of the sport's gatekeepers. Remember that if the lawyers keep up the nonsense.

Dump 'em.

Thanks for listening.

Mike

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