Quarterback Danny White is expected to cross the picket line today and join the Dallas Cowboys' strike team, and running back Tony Dorsett may be on the verge of coming back, according to newspaper reports late Tuesday night.
Cowboy Coach Tom Landry said Tuesday night that he expects White to be on the practice field today and to be the starting quarterback in Sunday's game between the non-union teams of the Cowboys and New York Jets at the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J.
White would become the second Dallas starter to cross the line since the National Football League players walked out last week. Starting defensive tackle Randy White, citing financial reasons, crossed the line last Wednesday.
White laid the groundwork for crossing in a Monday meeting with the players, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and Dallas Times Herald reported.
The players said White told them that "economic problems" were forcing him to break the eight-day strike by the NFL Players Assn. White has been saying for two weeks that he might return to work.
"He figured that it was time for him to go in," Dorsett said. "He has an economic situation where he needs to go back to work."
Another player, who asked not to be identified, told the Star-Telegram: "He said he was 100% behind us and that he was not going across because he was with the owners. He explained the whole situation to us, and I think everyone understood and is behind him."
Although Dorsett has been one of the most outspoken supporters of the union and was harshly critical of Randy White for breaking ranks with the strikers, Dorsett told the Times Herald Tuesday night that he also might be forced to cross the picket line.
He said he received a letter from the club Tuesday informing him that his multimillion-dollar annuity would be in jeopardy if he doesn't return to work.
"I don't want to be specific about what the letter said," he told the Times Herald. "I will stay out just as long as I can. That is all I can do."
Randy White said last week that his $3-million annuity would be in jeopardy if he hadn't returned to work.
Although Danny White has participated in workouts with striking players and has attended union meetings, he has not walked the picket line with his teammates.
To receive a game paycheck this week, White does not have to report to the team until 9 a.m. Friday.
White said last week he would lose $45,000 for every game he missed. Unless he struck a deal with the club, White lost $45,000 for the Buffalo game, which the NFL canceled.
Landry said Tuesday that he had not talked with White since the players walked out. But Landry did say White talked with Tex Schramm, Cowboy president and general manager, earlier this week.
San Francisco quarterback Joe Montana and wide receiver Dwight Clark are among an estimated 10 striking 49ers who are considering a return to the team soon, the San Francisco Examiner reported.
"To be honest, I can't decide what I'm going to do at this point," Clark said. "I'd like to say I went out with all the guys and I'm going to stay out with all the guys, but it's not that simple."
The newspaper said safety Ronnie Lott and kicker Ray Wersching reportedly were among the players who have told teammates they may return as early as this week unless there is dramatic progress in negotiations.
Keith Fahnhorst, the team's co-player representative, denied that any of his teammates have threatened to rejoin the team. However, he said he heard that striking players throughout the league have become restless.
New Orleans Saints nose tackle Tony Elliott said he has talked with some of his striking teammates and still intends to cross their picket lines and begin practice today with the non-union players preparing to meet the Rams Sunday.
"It's not a financial matter," he said. "I'm not hurting. I could quit playing football tomorrow and not have to go out and get a job to live. I don't need money, but I don't need to lose $250,000, either, if the strike goes on like it did in 1982."
He said he believes the union's quest for free agency is a lost cause and not worth striking over.
At Houston, starting nose guard Doug Smith became the first member of the Oilers' 45-man roster to cross the picket line. "It felt better on the inside of the fence," Smith said.
Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said he had "no doubt" some the striking players will return. But linebacker Ricky Hunley, the club's player representative, said: "There's been talk around the league that Chicago's going back in, that San Francisco's going back in and that Denver's going back in. But I guarantee you Denver's not going in. You might see one or two guys go back in, but that's about it."
Hunley said he has a "good idea" which Denver players might cross the line, but he refused to identify them. Players known to be lukewarm toward the strike include quarterback John Elway and offensive tackle Dave Studdard.