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NFL STRIKE: DAY 6 : Roundup : NFL Suffers 14 Losses on Weekend It Probably Won't Get Back

September 28, 1987| From Times Wire Services

The NFL strike claimed its first day of games Sunday, apparently without hope of making them up later in the season, as coaches continued to train non-striking players for replacement games next weekend.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' owner, Hugh Culverhouse, chairman of the NFL's executive committee, said it appears unlikely that the 13 games scheduled for Sunday and the Denver-Cleveland game scheduled for tonight will be replayed.

Union boss Gene Upshaw held a 2 1/2-hour meeting in Los Angeles with representatives from West Coast NFL and has regional meetings set later this week in Chicago, Atlanta and East Rutherford, N.J.

Coach Don Shula of the Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, admitted the replacement product will not be "as sophisticated" as fans are used to watching, and some players warned that "scabs" could pay a price for defying the strike.

Chicago Bear running back Walter Payton was asked on CBS-TV what would happen if the striking players scrimmaged against non-strikers. He said, "They'd have to use a lot of body bags."

Many of the striking players took the weekend off from the picket line, and there were reports that some will cross them today. Other teams reported their players were solidly behind the strike, which entered its sixth day Sunday.

Management has said the lone unsolvable issue remains free agency. The union wants unrestricted free agency for any four-year player. The union also says there are other key issues, including pensions and minimum salaries.

Negotiations broke off Friday in Philadelphia, and NFL Management Council spokesman John Jones said he doesn't expect talks to resume until Thursday.

That heightened the prospect that the strike could not be settled in time to get the regulars back to work next weekend and that owners will go ahead with plans to stage games using lower caliber players who have been working out for about 10 days.

"The NFL is going on, and any players who want to, have a place to work," Jones said.

In San Francisco, 49er quarterback Joe Montana, who was critical of the 1982 strike, indicated he might cross the picket line.

Appearing on KFOG radio, Montana was asked if he would play in replacement games, and he replied: "There's always that possibility."

While not commenting directly on union solidarity, Jones said all indications are that players feel "free agency is not an issue to walk out over.

"I would expect there are players wondering what's going on, but I don't think you can read that as any question of solidarity," the management spokesman said.

The games not played Sunday were: the Raiders at Houston, Cincinnati against the Rams at Anaheim, Atlanta at New Orleans, Buffalo at Dallas, Chicago at Detroit, Green Bay at Tampa Bay, Indianapolis at St. Louis, Minnesota at Kansas City, New England at Washington, New York Giants at Miami, New York Jets at Pittsburgh, Philadelphia at San Francisco and Seattle at San Diego.

When NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle called off these games last Thursday, he did not say whether they would be canceled or would replayed at another date. The NFL executive committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday in New York to decide the issue.

"Every indication is that it will not be feasible to make up the games," Culverhouse said.

It was thought the games could be made up at the end of the season, delaying the opening round of the playoffs by one week and eliminating the open week between the conference finals and the Super Bowl on Jan. 31 in San Diego.

Culverhouse said the networks have indicated they have commitments for that open weekend that they would like to keep.

Dan Rooney, president of the Pittsburgh Steelers, appearing on NBC, said any replacement games played during the strike will count in the final season standings. CBS is the only network that has committed itself to showing replacement games.

"We will proceed with these games, and they must count," Rooney said. "We've told everybody they will count, and they will."

Shula, appearing on the same show, said he was encouraged by recent workouts of his replacement team but admitted it couldn't compare with a real NFL team.

"We've got some players who just missed making our team," Shula said. "These should be high caliber players. But we have others who are not in the best shape and others who are not good enough to play in the NFL. Certainly, we're going to have to gear down. We won't be as sophisticated as we normally are."

In Cincinnati, Bengal assistant general manager Mike Brown said his club might be a little better prepared than most for the replacement games because he took the prospect of a strike more seriously.

Bengal Coach Sam Wyche said the games probably would be like "the first preseason game. We don't know what the opponent will be like, and they don't know what we'll be like. There'll be some mistakes made. There always are early in the season, and this is as early as it gets for these guys."

Earlier in the strike, Buffalo Bill defensive lineman Fred Smerlas warned that any "scab" players who remained after the strike would be "dead men." While not making physical threats, Smerlas warned Sunday that he would have "no respect" for anyone crossing picket lines.

"Veteran scabs or whatever, I don't know if anyone will have respect for them," he said.

Bill quarterback Jim Kelly said he is honoring picket lines, at least in part, because he wants "to play a couple more years in the NFL, and I don't want anybody taking cheap shots at me."

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