Members of the National Football League Players Assn. went on strike Monday night, but the season apparently will go on without them, after a one-game interruption.
Club owners expected to find out this morning which players would honor the strike so they could supplement their rosters accordingly with non-union personnel. The plan is for the season to be resumed Sunday, Oct. 4, and to continue without further interruption--presumably through Super Bowl XXII in San Diego next Jan. 31, if the strike lasts that long.
Games already played will count equally in the standings with those to be played by non-union teams.
Most of the new players will be free agents who were cut from NFL teams in training camp this summer and were subsequently paid $1,000 retainers to return to those teams in the event of a strike.
Gene Upshaw, the former Raider who is the executive director of the union, had set a strike deadline of today--in effect, at the conclusion of Monday night's game between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N. J.--but he appeared on television at half-time to announce that the players were walking out.
Expecting that, the NFL Management Council, the NFL's bargaining arm, earlier had instructed clubs to notify players not to report to practice Monday, if scheduled, but to come in at 10 a.m., local time, this morning. Through that move, the clubs hoped to determine which players would report back to play.
The new teams are expected to start practicing Wednesday.
Upshaw said: "Any (union) player who goes in is going to cut his career short. He'll never be the same again. His teammates won't like him, the bitterness will be there. You never forget the guy who tried to stab you in the back. And this is not the type of game that you need added incentive for anyone."
The NFL players also struck for seven weeks in 1982, but the owners simply shut down operations until a new collective bargaining agreement was achieved. That agreement expired Sept. 15, after a 60-day extension from the original expiration date of July 16.
Last week, the owners requested an additional 30-day extension, but the union refused.
The issues in this dispute are similar to those in 1982--free agency, guaranteed contracts, the pension plan, roster size and salary scale--but with greater emphasis on drug testing and the addition of the union's request for job protection for team player representatives.
There have been no negotiations since last Friday, however, when Upshaw last met with his counterpart, Jack Donlan of the Management Council.
Now, with the strike on, new issues due to be addressed include whether the non-union games will be televised by any of the networks and whether fans will be given refunds on their season tickets.
Network spokesmen indicated Monday that they would announce their plans today.
As for tickets, Dennis Curran, director of operations for the Management Council, said: 'There has been no specific (plan) developed as of yet. There will beed out."