NEW YORK -- Players are not ready to support commissioner Roger Goodell.
"Perception of something stems from what they see and what they feel," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told The Sports Xchange on Thursday when informed that some players said this month they still don't trust Goodell.
Smith said membership did not specifically air its distrust of Goodell, but he senses it still exists because of Goodell's handling of "Bountygate," the 2012 investigation and punishment -- ultimately overturned -- of players and others involved in a pay-to-injure plan with the New Orleans Saints. It resulted in a yearlong suspension for coaches Gregg Williams and Sean Payton.
"Probably one of the most divisive and incendiary things we've gone through," Smith said, "and really was more incendiary than the lockout."
Goodell delivers his state of the league address on Friday. He will no doubt tout unprecedented television ratings, expansion of the NFL International Series and progress toward an increasingly tardy agreement with players toward human growth hormone testing.
Outgoing NFLPA president Domonique Foxworth told The Sports Xchange that he is sensing progress in the fractured relationship between players and Goodell, but there are many miles to be traveled before the commissioner's approval rating climbs.
"I don't know that it has gotten better," said Foxworth, who played six seasons in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens. "There feels like there has been some movement in that direction. Collaborative effort is the best way to get there. I worked with them on the Pro Bowl; we'll need to do more."
Foxworth said he is likely limited to what he, personally, can achieve to abate gigantic issues -- perceived or otherwise -- such as trust and misuse of power.
"The way to do that, he will need to have successes to point to, you show he's not looking for a dictatorship," Foxworth said. "Things like the Pro Bowl. When we get this drug (policy) wrapped up.
"It's really difficult when we get a proposal and guys just crinkle it up because they know where it's coming from. I think those successes, it will only make it easier for him and for us."
Retired player Sean Gilbert wrote a book -- in which he announces his candidacy to replace Smith as the next executive director of the NFLPA -- focused primarily on Goodell's strong leadership and expert negotiating entitled "The $29 Million Tip: How Roger Goodell Earned His Big Payday." The title focuses on the commissioner's earnings -- $29.49 million -- in 2011, but also points the finger at Smith for "losing" the locket.
Gilbert, who now represents his nephew, Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis, writes, "What Goodell did was negotiate a 10-year deal that figures to shift more than $4.5 billion from the players to the owners."