• 43°

Smith says NFL strike strong possibility in 2011

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The question to DeMaurice Smith was simple, coming from Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco, asking how serious he viewed the possibility of football not being played in 2011.

“On a scale of 1 to 10,” Smith said Thursday, “it’s a 14.”

With that, the executive director of the NFL Players Association painted perhaps the bleakest picture yet regarding prospects of labor strife in the league, which could be looking at a 2010 season with no salary cap and, if the collective bargaining agreement expires as scheduled in March 2011, a lockout that year.

“I keep coming back to an economic model in America that is unparalleled,” said Smith, who often repeated phrases for emphasis. “And that makes it incredibly difficult to then come to players and say, on average, each of you needs to take a $340,000 pay cut to save the National Football League. Tough sell. Tough sell.”

Smith said the NFL would receive $5 billion from its network television deals even if no games are played in 2011. He regarded that as proof owners are preparing for a lockout.

“Has any one of the prior deals included $5 billion to not play football?” Smith asked, referring to previous contracts that were extended or redone. “The answer’s no.”

Some of Smith’s nearly hour-long question-and-answer session during Super Bowl week was spent reiterating past claims, such as team values increasing “almost 500 percent” over the last 15 years. There was also a call to have all 32 NFL teams open their books to show who was losing money and how much.

Smith also said he wanted teams to contribute what, ultimately, would be millions into what he called “a legacy fund” that would better support retired players.

Most of his focus, however, was on getting a new CBA.