INDIANAPOLIS --- Predictably, the NFLPA's mandatory meeting for player agents today produced declarations of solidarity, and not a lot else. Union chief DeMaurice Smith told agents he could not get into details of the federally mediated talks toward a new collective bargaining agreement, which are scheduled to continue next week. But the overall sense was of a group girding for a fight.
"I came away with two impressions," said agent Mark Slough, after emerging from the session. "This is not going to be resolved soon, and the agent community is solidly behind De. I left feeling more confident in our union leadership. The owners are trying to send us back to pre-1987 levels. We don't need to go there. We won't go there. I came to a better understanding of our positions after an hour-and-a-half of DeMaurice Smith answering questions."
Slough spoke right after an NFLPA-orchestrated media appearance by a group of agents some reporters dubbed "The Fab Four" --- Drew Rosenhaus, Tom Condon, Joel Segal and Ben Dogra.
Smith spoke very briefly about an hour later, as the afternoon session was about to convene.
"We want to get a deal done," Smith said. "I work for 1,800 guys who want to play football."
Smith did not answer questions.
"I love the position the union is taking," said Rosenhaus, who said Smith wanted to "make sure the players are prepared if there is a lockout, prepare themselves, should we miss the season, to be strong, to be unified."
Rosenhaus said the union started warning agents and players to be prepared for upcoming trouble in 2009. "I know that the agents and the players have done that," he said. "We're ready."
There was some confusion about something Smith apparently said during the meeting about the league possibly stipulating that agents couldn't talk to teams about college players at such activities as college pro days, if there is a lockout. Condon said all normal activity with draft-eligible players will continue through the April 28-30 draft. If there is a lockout, though, there will be no talks toward signings of draftees or undrafted free agents, and of course, no postdraft minicamp.
Rosenhaus said he'd "like to see more teams follow the lead of the Oakland Raiders," who have been more aggressive than other teams in signing their own players to new deals. "I'm ready to make deals. I'm happy to talk," Rosenhaus said, pointing to a used Acura with a "lo, lo miles" sign on it. (OK, that last part didn't really happen. Forget I blogged that.)
Segal was asked about client Michael Vick, who received the exclusive franchise tag from the Eagles but hasn't accepted it. Segal was asked if he would advise Vick to consider himself an Eagle, and not a free agent, during the prospective impasse.
"Mike is always excited to play football," Segal said.
Later, Segal held a confab with Eagles general manager Howie Roseman in a corridor outside the meeting. They seemed very happy to see one another.
Before Smith's sesson in the Sagamore Room of the Indiana Convention Center, one agent said he and his cohorts feel powerless in the process. That agent said he didn't think any of the 700-plus or so agents or the NFLPA has any idea what will happen, whether there will be a lockout, whether it will start next week.
"The only guy who knows that isn't here," the agent said. He was referring to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Another agent said there really is only one issue -- the percentage split on revenues. Once that is resolved, matters such as the rookie wage scale will fall in line, the agent said.
That agent also thinks the talks will be extended next week, past the March 4 "lockout" date.