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With No Talk of Settlement, NFL Players Taking a Walk

September 22, 1987|BOB OATES and RICH ROBERTS | Times Staff Writers

National Football League players went on strike for the second time in five years Monday night, but this time the owners will try to play without them.

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Assn., announced on television at halftime of Monday night's game between the New England Patriots and New York Jets at East Rutherford, N.J., that he will stick to his extended strike deadline and order the players out, effective today.

During his appearance, Upshaw, speaking from Washington, exchanged rhetoric with Jack Donlan, executive director of the NFL Management Council, who was in New York.

The only new revelation was Upshaw's response to a question about future negotiations: "As far as who's gonna make the first move, I've already initiated a move to a person who I feel has some authority, a person that hopefully can bring this process to a speedy and fast conclusion."

At the time, he didn't explain who the person was, and ABC announcers Al Michaels and Frank Gifford failed to follow up.

However, later in the telecast, ABC checked back with Upshaw and quoted him as saying: "Hopefully, we'll be able to tell you something about that tomorrow."

Meanwhile, the owners prepared to bring in non-union free agents, who were cut during training camp, and continue the schedule, after one week off.

Upshaw said picket lines will go up Wednesday, instead of today, "because the owners changed when the scabs come in until then."

Earlier Monday, Upshaw told reporters: "I have something up my sleeve I'm going to reveal later," inspiring hope for a last-minute settlement.

But he backed off later, saying: "I have nothing up by sleeve but my arm."

NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle said he is just an observer of the dispute between the NFLPA and the league's Management Council. "They are so far apart it wouldn't make sense for me to intervene right now," he said.

The strike raises many questions, some of which are addressed below:

Q: Will all teams play games with non-union players?

A: Yes, by league directive. There will be no games next weekend, but the schedule will resume Oct. 4.

Q: Will those games count in the standings? And what about the two each team has already played?

A: All games will count equally.

Q: So, conceivably, if the strike lasts all season, Super Bowl XXII at San Diego next Jan. 31 could be played with non-union players?

A: Yes.

Q: Do you mean the strike could last that long?

A: Upshaw said: "When you walk out, you're walking out for the season."

Q: What about next weekend's games?

A: Most likely, they'll be erased from the schedule, which will pick up with Week 4.

Q: If the strike is settled quickly, can't Week 3 still be played?

A: Not likely. Both sides have indicated that unless a settlement is reached today, by the time it could be put in writing it would be too late.

Q: Will Week 3 be made up?

A: Probably not. Each team will have just 15 games.

Q: Will the non-union games be televised?

A: That's uncertain. The NFL says the networks are obligated by the contracts, but the networks haven't conceded that.

CBS says that moving some college games to Sunday to replace the NFL telecasts is "a possibility we're investigating," but it's "not definite."

NBC says there "is no possibility" it will do college games but isn't saying what it will do.

Since ABC's only contract is for Monday night games, it can be speculated that the network will televising inferior games during prime time.

ESPN's contract to do Sunday night games starts Nov. 8, "so we have plenty of time," a spokesman said. "We might not be affected at all."

Q: What will be on TV next weekend?

A: CBS and NBC plan expanded versions of their "NFL Today" and "NFL Live" shows on Sunday, and CBS will re-run its telecast of last January's Super Bowl XXI, in which the New York Giants beat the Denver Broncos. ABC has announced no plans for Monday night.

Q: Will some players continue to play, or are they all on strike?

A: That should be learned this morning, when they have been ordered to report to practice.

Q: What strike benefits will they receive from their union?

A: None.

Q: How much will the new players be paid?

A: The current minimum of $50,000 or whatever their previous contract called for, pro-rated for 13 games. Most have already received salary advances of $1,000 to sign provisional contracts, in the event of a strike.

Q: Do players who were already on injured reserve or other reserve lists get paid?

A: Only if they cross the lines.

Q: Are the two sides trying to work this out?

A: They haven't talked since last Friday and had no meeting scheduled as of Monday night.

Q: What effect, if any, will the baseball arbitrator's collusion-issue decision Monday have on the pro football fight?

A: The players say it will strengthen their resolve to get free agency themselves. The owners say it won't affect their opposition. "(The owners) will modify the system, they won't change it," said Management Council attorney Dennis Curran.

Q: How united are the players?

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