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Negotiators Meet for Much of Day in Philadelphia

September 24, 1987|Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — Full-scale talks aimed at quickly ending the NFL strike began Wednesday as non-union players crossed picket lines and began practicing to replace the striking players.

Among those reporting were two union defectors--Randy White of the Dallas Cowboys and Mark Gastineau of the New York Jets.

The NFL, meantime, said Sunday's games have not been officially canceled.

Negotiators sat down at 3 p.m. EDT, midway through the second full day of the strike. By 7 p.m., they were just starting to discuss what was expected to be the most critical item of business--free agency.

The negotiators broke for dinner at about 9 p.m. but returned about an hour later to continue the talks.

"The two sides are continuing to meet. There is no indication how long the meeting will last," John Jones, a spokesman for the NFL Management Council, said at a press briefing. "Free agency is the key issue. There is dialogue and discussion but no sense that a settlement is at hand."

From 3 p.m. until 7 p.m., the two chief negotiators, union boss Gene Upshaw and management head Jack Donlan, met twice face-to-face and twice reported back to their respective executive committees.

"I'm hoping we can get it done. That's why we're here," Upshaw said before the bargaining session started. "There is no time-frame. Our agenda is to reach an agreement, however long it takes."

Said Donlan: "The next two days are critical. If there's no movement after two days, we're looking at a long one."

The union is demanding free agency for players with four years' experience. Owners, so far, have refused to modify the current system under which teams are compensated if a player signs with another team. Only one player in 10 years has changed teams under that system.

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