WASHINGTON—The NFL Players Association hosted 27 NFL players for an office tour, breakfast and discussion Friday morning, giving them an important overview of the services, advice and assistance the union provides.
Three-time Pro Bowler Maurice Jones-Drew, two-time Pro Bowler Antoine Bethea and one-time Pro Bowler Matt Fortè attended the session, which also included eight rookies new to the NFL experience. Players from the Rams, Bills, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots, Steelers, Cardinals, 49ers, Ravens, Redskins, Titans, Colts, Bears and Eagles also came.
Pro Player Insiders caught up with Fortè to gauge his thoughts on the event.
“It was awesome,” Fortè said. “I wish we would have this when I was a rookie because when you’re going into the league, there’s a lot of information. It was good to hear from the people that work for the NFLPA and work for us. The information’s there, but a lot of guys that play in the league don’t really utilize that help that you have.
“It’s very helpful to learn that stuff so you can use it in your career and even after football.”
The players were in the nation’s capital for the Dow Lohnes Sports and Entertainment 2012 retreat, which included a trip to the White House before the players headed to their union’s headquarters with NFL agent Adisa Bakari.
NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth addressed the group, pointing out the importance of having a strong post-career transition plan.
“It sneaks up on you quickly,” Foxworth said of transitioning out of being a football player. “While football is your focus, you should be thinking about your transition.”
Fortè said, “You can’t play football forever. So I’m always thinking about how to make the transition easier, better and worthwhile. It’s a great retreat and I’m glad we came here to do it.”
The central portion of the players’ visit to the NFLPA was a presentation from DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA. Smith touched on key takeaways of the CBA.
“Our job was to make sure that we got a deal that was fair economically,” Smith said. “You have an opportunity to build wealth in a very short amount of time.”
He also went over improvements made on the players’ side, such as more downtime during the NFL offseason and new training/workout rules. Smith said that approximately 30 percent of players utilize money set aside for going back to school, and while 47 percent of players come into the league with college degrees, 95 percent believe that they don’t need one. Emphasizing the importance of being employable when their playing days end, Smith and the union want to help alter those statistics going forward.
“The real issue over the next 10 years is how we, as a group of men, utilize football so that you and your families will be fine over the balance of your lives,” Smith told the players. “You will be non-football players longer than you will be football players.”
The union’s job is to make players’ lives better tomorrow than they are today. “I love what I do. I’m proud of each one of you and of our staff,” Smith said.
Several staff members, including Teri Patterson, Jason Belser, Tim Christine and George Atallah, also spoke. Christine educated players on security and travel services, including player transportation link, a confidential transportation service available to NFLPA members aimed to prevent players from driving while impaired.
Atallah, the union spokesman, discussed the platform players have to act as their own, independent media outlets.
“The new wave of communication is that you are networks yourselves,” he told them. “Each one of you has power, influence and marketability, and we’re here to help enhance that.”
By Khalil Garriott