Goodell, NFLPA executive director at odds

The two have been absent from league meetings
02/22/2013 6:56 PM ET
By Matt Hughes

In some NFL circles, the distant relationship between NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Player's Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is believed to be hurting the league's progress. 

A Yahoo! Sports article highlights the concern across the league about the frosty relationship between Goodell and Smith. Goodell and Smith have been conspicuously absent during this week's league meetings in Indianapolis where players, owners and team executives are discussing league business.

"I think the players weren't as sharp with their points because Roger and De [Smith] weren't there," one coach said. "I just think it creates a different atmosphere when they're in the room. I remember when Roger and [the late] Gene [Upshaw] were in there. I feel like the players spoke with more authority because they knew the big decision-makers were there. We need to have that."

Gene Upshaw was the long-time executive director of the NFLPA up until his death in 2008. Upshaw, a Hall of Fame player for the Oakland Raiders, had a strong working relationship with Goodell. Upshaw's ability to speak from experience as a former player was thought to be a catalyst for helping resolve difficult league issues during his tenure.

Goodell and Smith have never established a similar rapport. Neither Goodell nor Smith played in the NFL. 

"Neither of them understood the real pressure that the Saints players, or any player for that matter, faced in trying to say no to a coach," an NFLPA source said regarding the recent bounty scandal. "You have two guys who didn't play, don't understand the locker room very well, and don't know what they don't know."

League meetings have been ongoing leading up to this weekend's Scouting Combine. A league source said Goodell and Smith were planning to meet privately in Washington, D.C. to resolve their differences. 

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