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Union Down to Five Candidates

The NFL Players Association's search committee has reduced its field of executive director candidates to five, including four former players and a D.C. attorney whose candidacy had been kept quiet.

According to sources familiar with the search, the five remaining candidates are DeMaurice F. Smith, a Washington-based partner at the law firm Patton Boggs, and former players Trace Armstrong, Troy Vincent, Ben Utt and Jim Covert.

The search committee eliminated attorney David Cornwell, New Orleans gas and electric company executive Roderick West and former players Mike Kenn and John Spagnola as candidates, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because no public announcements were made about the search. The candidates were interviewed Monday and Tuesday in Dallas.

According to sources, another round of interviews is scheduled for next month before the search committee settles on a group of finalists for a vote at the players' annual meeting in March in Hawaii. The union is seeking a permanent replacement for the late Gene Upshaw.

Smith declined to comment through a spokesperson at Patton Boggs.

"We can't comment on the NFL Players Association search for its next executive director," said Rebecca Carr, the director of media relations at Patton Boggs.

Smith is a Washington native and a former assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. who now specializes in white-collar criminal defense and tort liability trials.

According to Smith's biography on the law firm's website, he has been associated with an organization founded by former Washington Redskins players Art Monk and Charles Mann to help inner city children. The University of Virginia law school graduate also is listed as a frequent commentator on several television programs, including MSNBC's "Hardball."

Armstrong and Vincent are former union presidents who have been regarded by many players as being the favorites for the job from the outset of the search.

Kenn's elimination comes as a bit of a surprise to some observers. He also is a former union president and was regarded by some people familiar with the search as a possible compromise choice if the players couldn't settle on either Armstrong or Vincent.

The union is seeking a permanent replacement for Upshaw, who died in August only days after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Richard Berthelsen, the union's general counsel, has been serving as acting executive director since then.

It is a key election for the players as they prepare to open labor negotiations with the NFL's franchise owners, who voted last May to exercise a reopener clause in the sport's collective bargaining agreement and end the deal two years early. The deal now runs through the 2010 season; the 2009 season is the final one with a salary cap.

The players' search committee includes Berthelsen, union president Kevin Mawae and five of the 10 members of the players' ruling 10-member executive committee: Domonique Foxworth, Mike Vrabel, Tony Richardson, Jeff Saturday and Donovin Darius.

The other members of the executive committee are Drew Brees, Brian Dawkins, Keenan McCardell, Mark Bruener and Kevin Carter.

By Mark Maske  |  January 21, 2009; 8:40 PM ET  | Category:  Union Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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It should be a former player who has the future of the union and its best interest in mind and one can only hope that the retired players from the sixties,seventies, and eighties are included in the upcomming CBA negotiations as far as medical care and an upgrade in retirement money is concerned the young players of today had better remember that one day they will retire and they will want to be treated fairly.

Posted by: dargregmag | January 22, 2009 9:48 AM

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