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NFL PLAYER STRIKE: DAY 11 : More Players Return, Setting Up Mismatches

October 03, 1987|From Staff and Wire Reports

Thirty-eight more striking National Football League players returned to their teams Friday, bringing the total of defectors to 86 and setting up some remarkable mismatches for the first weekend of the non-union games.

While a dozen St. Louis Cardinals walked back in, 13 other teams haven't had any. One of those teams is the Washington Redskins, who will play the Cardinals Sunday at RFK Stadium.

"This is one of the bigger underdog situations I've ever been in," said Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs, whose team would normally be favored by more than a touchdown.

"Nothing against our guys, but every time you look out there and see (Cardinal receiver) Roy Green, who has burned us so many times, you worry a little."

Green is one of the Cardinal defectors.

Friday's defectors included defensive end Ed (Too Tall) Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, cornerback Raymond Clayborn and guard Sean Farrell of the New England Patriots, wide receiver Steve Watson of the Denver Broncos and defensive linemen Joe Klecko and Marty Lyons of the New York Jets.

Klecko, still rehabilitating an injured knee, will not play Sunday.

There were also some near-defections. At Redwood City, Calif., striking 49ers set up their first picket line of the walkout, and as many as a dozen players who had planned to report were talked out of it by Coach Bill Walsh, who told them he preferred they act as a team. Among them were quarterback Joe Montana, wide receiver Dwight Clark and running back Roger Craig.

"I didn't realize everyone felt that strongly," Clark said. "We'll see how they feel next week after they miss another paycheck."

Guard Ron Wooten, former assistant player representative of the Patriots, broke ranks and accused union chief Gene Upshaw of racial "maneuvering."

"I've been wavering since we walked out," Wooten said. "When Gene made it public he's making this into a racial issue, I didn't think I could be a party to that kind of maneuvering."

Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Assn., said Thursday he is viewed by league owners as "black, militant and hostile." He said the owners may try to divide players "along the lines of black and white."

Strike Notes

Management was also feeling the pinch as the strike games approached. Nearly 300,000 tickets, more than one-third of the total sold for Sunday's games, had been returned by fans. Philadelphia Eagles fans alone had sought refunds on 40,000 of the 62,000 sold. Three major car manufacturers and the Miller Brewing Co. have pulled their ads from the telecasts of the replacement games, putting additional pressure on the networks. . . . Pittsburgh Steelers Coach Chuck Noll said he is losing patience with striking players unhappy with salaries averaging $230,000 a year. Noll called them "leeches" bent on bleeding pro football financially, and he warned the strikers that they may be released. . . . Seattle Seahawks player representative Kenny Easley has put all his striking players back together again. Center Stan Eisenhooth, the only defector, rejoined his picketing teammates. . . . Walter Murray, the Indianapolis Colts wide receiver who started out with the strikers, then rejoined the Colts, then returned to the pickets, was back in the team's uniform Friday.

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