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michael89156

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: September 29, 2013, 02:37:36 AM


Sean Gilbert taking aim at DeMaurice Smith's job

 Jarrett Bell, USA TODAY Sports

 9:21 a.m. EDT September 27, 2013




(Photo: Chuck Burton, AP)


Suddenly, it's campaign season.

With an aggressive opening salvo, former NFL defensive lineman Sean Gilbert is in a three-point stance taking aim at DeMaurice Smith to become the next executive director of the NFL Players Association.

Gilbert, 43, released a 23,000-word e-book this week, The $29 Million Tip, in which he outlined his concerns about the NFL's 10-year labor deal with players and proposes a few solutions that he would seek as players union chief.

It is not idle chatter.

"I'm not sure if the players are ready to overthrow De Smith, but I believe the players are ready to come together for the purpose of leverage," Gilbert told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday. "They're just getting clobbered on the business side and the physical side."

This is going to be interesting.

Smith ran unopposed when re-elected in 2012, but his term expires in March 2015.

With the victory by owners in the collective bargaining agreement that was struck in 2011 -- which Gilbert says shifted $4.5 billion from the players to owners over the 10-year term, leading to a $29 million payout in 2011 for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell -- conditions seem ripe for a serious challenge to Smith's job.

There was much angst among veteran players and agents during the offseason about the soft free agency market.

But what qualifies Gilbert?

During his 11-year NFL career, Gilbert pulled off a stunning negotiating power play. He skipped the entire 1997 season with Washington while rejecting its contract offer, then was traded the following year to the Carolina Panthers for two first-round draft picks -- and received a seven-year, $46.5 million deal that at the time was a record for defensive players.

Since retiring after the 2003 season, Gilbert advised his nephew, Tampa Bay Buccaneers start cornerback Darrelle Revis through multiple contract disputes with the New York Jets. It ultimately led to Revis signing a six-year, $96 million deal this year with the Bucs.

In his book, which he will distribute to NFL players, Gilbert demonstrates a keen sense of NFL economics and the inner workings of the league. He makes a powerful argument about how the NFLPA gave up its legal position to sue owners for collusion by agreeing to penalties imposed on Washington and the Dallas Cowboys for violating salary cap rules during an "uncapped" year in 2010.

Yet Gilbert has never held an executive position. He isn't an attorney. When he played, he wasn't even active in NFLPA matters.

The only office he's run for was to become treasurer of a retired players group.

"What disqualifies me?" he said, speaking from his home in Charlotte. "I have 19 years of experience on this side of the business. I know how to negotiate and operate on the business side. It's a matter of understanding your leverage and worth.

"Players should look at what qualifies me to fight for the players."

Neither Smith nor the NFLPA's chief spokesman responded to requests for comment from USA TODAY Sports. The NFL declined comment.

Still, Gilbert could have a tough sell with a pillar of his proposed solutions:

The 18-game season.

Nothing galvanized players during the last labor battle like their disdain for extending the 16-game season. Yet for the leverage Gilbert talks a lot about, an 18-game schedule is also the best thing the players have to bargain with while hitched to a 10-year labor deal.

Under the previous CBA, the NFL could have extended the season without approval from the players union -- although Goodell repeatedly stated the league would not extend the season without the blessing of the players.

Now that's included in the new CBA, a clause barring an extension of the season without approval from the NFLPA.

Gilbert maintains that extending the season would generate an additional $2 billion per year in revenues. He proposes allowing players to become unrestricted free agents to three years (rather than four), believing that would entice players to accept 18 games.

With a long-term CBA in their favor and long-term TV contracts secured, it seems unlikely that owners would want to renegotiate.

"If I'm the executive director," Gilbert says, getting back to the 18-game season that owners desire, "we'll both be sitting at the table trying to accomplish the same thing."

By laying out his strategies in his book, perhaps Gilbert has increased the risk of counter-attacks or provided a road map for other parties to protect their interests.

He's not worried about that.

"There's a lot of stuff that I haven't revealed," he said.

Maybe he will get the opportunity to do just that. Gilbert says he's digging in for a long, serious campaign.

Maybe this will be part of the stump speech:

 If you think you're better off than you were four years ago, then vote for .DeMaurice Smith
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