DeMaurice Smith speaks to the media Thursday in South Florida.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — With labour fears looming, the NFL Players Association held a press conference on Thursday. 

If you want to call it that.

It was more like an elaborate presentation, complete with rap music, hip and loose lingo and an overall unconventionally casual feel. It’s clear that as the players and the league prepare to dig in for a treacherous labour battle, public favour is an important factor.

Players association executive director DeMaurice Smith was smooth and to the point, stating that his fear there’ll be a lockout before the 2011 season is strong.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 14,” he said. “It’s that serious.”

If a deal isn’t struck by March 5 of this year, the 2010 season will be uncapped. One year after that, the current deal expires.

Cliff’s Notes on a deep and complicated battle: the league won’t open its books and reveal annual profits, something the players association feels is necessary to rationalize the 18 percent salary reduction the owners are asking them to accept.

Smith’s argument was compelling.

“How many people here would make an investment decision, knowing how much money goes into something, without knowing how much comes out?” he asked. “How many people would buy a restaurant without knowing what the profit margin is?

“My guess is nobody in this room would make that investment. You know what? Neither would I.”