SAN DIEGO — While the Chargers cleared out their lockers and prepared for a strike Monday, Steve Ortmayer, team director of football operations, was busy putting together a team of non-roster players.
All 45 Chargers on the roster will strike, according to Charger player representative Wes Chandler. But Ortmayer said the Chargers home game against Seattle Sunday has not been canceled and that the Chargers have 35 to 40 non-union players ready to join the team by late today. He said it will probably be Wednesday or Thursday before a final decision on Sunday's game is reached.
Of the non-roster players contacted, Ortmayer said at least half were at the Charger training camp this summer and are somewhat familiar with the Chargers' game plan.
"We are going to field the most competitive team we can," Ortmayer said. "Our job here is to field a football team. It is to field a winning football team."
Ortmayer would not name specific non-union players the Chargers have contacted because he said some of the commitments were not yet confirmed, but he did say that quarterbacks Rick Neuheisel, Tom Flick and Mike Moroski--all of whom were cut this year--have been contacted.
Meanwhile, the roster players are going to picket and practice on their own.
"We have to do what we have to do," said Chandler Monday afternoon after a team meeting. "If that means picket, we'll picket. If there is a strike, the San Diego Chargers will be out of Jack Murphy Stadium. All the 45 players, including Dan Fouts."
Fouts, who is not a member of the NFL Players' Assn., would not say Monday whether he will cross the picket lines.
Monday night, after the strike had been officially announced during a televised football game, Chandler told a local television station: "We're disappointed. We were optimistic. But it's apparent there is no time left."
Coach Al Saunders has a team meeting scheduled for 9 a.m. today, but it remains to be seen if any roster players will show up.
Saunders said that with a team of non-roster players, the Chargers schemes will obviously not be as be sophisticated or complex.
"It will be much like the exhibition season in terms of what you are able to do offensively and defensively," Saunders said.
Both Saunders and Chandler, like many football people, wonder if the fans will buy it?
"I think all the fans would prefer to see Dan Fouts, Kellen Winslow, Wes Chandler, Billy Ray Smith, Chip Banks," Saunders said. "I would prefer to see them on the field too. They are the best at what they do. We'll do the best we can to provide the best show we possibly can with those people. But the fans have to determine whether they're interested in seeing that."
Chandler doesn't think the fans will be that interested.
"I don't think you can fool the public for one minute," Chandler said. "Before these games are played, the public is well aware the real players will not be at work . . . There's some great young talent, but we are the game. How many Dan Fouts?, Dan Marinos? Walter Paytons are there? How many of these do you know in the world? There's only one kind. Let's be realistic about this. Last time I saw something of a scab performer, it was called the USFL. The USFL folded . . . Is that the type of football you're used to seeing? You want to see?"
Chandler said there are eight issues that must be discussed, and that free agency is a primary one.
"It's a form of slavery," Chandler said. "When you're on revenue sharing, there's no incentive (for the owners). Why should they go after a quality player?"
Chandler said he thinks the Players' Assn. is considerably stronger now than it was in 1982, when they last went on strike.
"I think we're very, very strong," Chandler said. "Two hundred per-cent stronger than we were in 1982. Financially stronger and mentally stronger."
Director of football operations Steve Ortmayer said the Chargers have looked into hiring security personnel to work at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium during the strike. "We have a plan that we're ready to implement," Ortmayer said . . . San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium manager Bill Wilson said the stadium stands to lose a gross of $198,000 and net of $187,100 for each home Charger game that is not played. Under the gross loss ledger, the stadium would lose $87,000 in ticket receipts, $60,000 in parking revenue, $45,000 in concessions and $6,000 in novelties. Subtract the savings of $9,500 for cleanup, $700 for game days expenses for staff and $700 for field preparation and the net loss is $187,100. "If you multiply that times seven," Wilson said, "Wow." That would come to a net loss of approximately $1.3 million. The Chargers have played one home game, were scheduled to play host to Seattle Sunday, but then have three consecutive road games.