NFL Players May Lose Health Coverage in Lockout, Union Executive Says

National Football League players may be left without health coverage if a new labor accord isn’t agreed upon before the start of next season, the head of the players’ union said.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, told Georgetown University graduate students last night that he expects owners to lock players out when the collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2010 season, and that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell hasn’t guaranteed health coverage will continue for players.

“We’re preparing our guys for the worst,” Smith told the audience of about 200 students. “We told them that, in all likelihood, they will lose their health care.”

Smith couldn’t say how much NFL teams would save if health coverage is cut. Owners haven’t decided whether to extend health care, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail last night.

“The way to avoid this decision is to reach agreement on a new CBA before March,” Aiello said.

The NFL and its players are negotiating a new labor contract and are in disagreement over what proportion of league revenue players will receive. Rookie salaries, the length of the season, health coverage and drug testing are other points of contention, Smith said.

The union has about $200 million in a lockout fund, Smith told Bloomberg this month without saying how he planned to use the money.

Canceling next season will cost each city with an NFL stadium about $140 million in lost jobs and revenue, Smith said.

“Every state and local jurisdiction made the choice that we’re going to invest in a stadium because that’s something that will create revenue and create jobs,” Smith said. “Now we know that, if a lockout occurs for a year, it will cost each and every one of those cities $140 million.”

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