NFL notes: NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith calls a work stoppage in 2021 'a virtual certainty'

The NFL is four seasons away from an almost certain work stoppage, the executive director of the league’s players association calmly predicted during an interview with Sports Illustrated released this week.

“I think that the likelihood of either a strike or a lockout in ’21 is almost a virtual certainty,” DeMaurice Smith said, referring to the year that the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement with its players expires.

Smith then rattled off a bunch of grievances the NFLPA has with the current agreement.

“If it doesn’t get fixed,” he said, “you head into a certain small-a Armageddon.”

Maybe (hopefully) Smith is just cranky after his association’s war of words with the NFL on Wednesday over the league’s six-game suspension of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Exhibitions

-- Jay Cutler ran onto the field with the Miami Dolphins for the first time, and the fans greeted their new quarterback with a loud ovation. They had little else to cheer about as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Dolphins 31-7. Cutler played the first two series for the Dolphins, his debut as injured starter Ryan Tannehill’s replacement in Miami. He completed three of six passes for 24 yards, and his highlight play was one that didn’t count, a 31-yard reception erased by a holding flag.

-- Philadelphia cornerback Ronald Darby intercepted former teammate Tyrod Taylor’s pass and returned it 48 yards and also broke up two passes in his first game since the Eagles acquired him from Buffalo last week, and the Eagles beat the Bills 20-16. Alshon Jeffery, a former Pro Bowl wide receiver signed by the Eagles in the offseason, caught his first pass from Carson Wentz and finished with two receptions for 23 yards.

-- Jacksonville Jaguars backup quarterback Chad Henne got some work with the first-team offense in a 12-8 loss to Tampa Bay, fueling speculation about Blake Bortles’ grasp on the starting job. Bortles completed eight of 13 passes for 65 yards against the Buccaneers. He doesn’t have a touchdown in two preseason games. Henne completed six of 10 for 44 yards.

In other NFL and training camp news:

-- Denver quarterback Paxton Lynch has gotten most of the work with the first-team offense this week and will start Saturday’s exhibition against the San Francisco 49ers as the Broncos look for either Lynch or last year’s starter Trevor Siemian to emerge in the competition. “We’d like the decision made by itself,” Broncos GM John Elway said. “We want one of them to take the reins and take over. We’ll get through this game and see what happens.” ... Seattle center Justin Britt signed a multiyear extension that will keep the anchor of the offensive line in place beyond the 2017 season.

-- The Seattle Seahawks and center Justin Britt have agreed on a contract extension that keeps the anchor of the offensive line in place beyond the 2017 season. Coach Pete Carroll said Thursday that they were “really close” to finalizing a deal for Britt and the team announced later in the day that the deal was finished. It's believed to be a three-year deal and takes away any concern that Britt would leave after this season when his rookie contract expires.

-- San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Reuben Foster has a mild AC joint sprain in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Foster was held out of contact during practice Thursday with the Denver Broncos because of the injury. The team says the injury is not related to the torn rotator cuff that Foster had an operation on before the draft. The former Alabama star, who has been impressive so far in camp, has moved into a first-team role at linebacker and is expected to be able to play in Saturday's exhibition game against Denver.

-- Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly will have surgery on his injured foot and is out indefinitely. Coach Chuck Pagano made the announcement Thursday, the final day of training camp. Kelly was injured during a joint practice with the Detroit Lions last week and did not play in Sunday's preseason opener. The Colts have had right guard Joe Haeg and left guard Jack Mewhort snap the ball occasionally in practice but Deyshawn Bond, an undrafted rookie, started the preseason opener. Indianapolis plays at Dallas on Saturday.

-- The Cleveland Browns announced Thursday that they have partnered with the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton and Greater Cleveland Sports Commission to potentially host the annual three-day NFL draft, which has swelled into a made-for-TV spectacle and showcase for the league — a virtual football-palooza. The group delivered its application to league headquarters in New York last week, and as luck would have it, Commissioner Roger Goodell visited the team's headquarters on Thursday.

-- The New England Patriots said former nose tackle Lester Williams, who started in the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance during the 1985 season, has died. He was 58. The team says Williams died at home on Wednesday in Birmingham, Ala. It did not give other details. The 27th overall pick in the 1982 NFL draft, Williams played in 40 games for the Patriots from 1982 to 1985. He also played one season for San Diego (1986) and Seattle (1987). Before joining the Patriots, Williams played for the University of Miami. He was inducted into the Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

charles.schilken@latimes.com

Twitter: @chewkiii


UPDATES:

2:30 p.m.: This article has been updated with notes from around the NFL.

This article was originally published at 1:20 p.m.

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