The National Football League Players Assn. is seeking a court order declaring 527 players--about one-third of all NFL players, including such stars as John Elway and Steve Largent--free agents beginning Feb. 1. Their contracts will expire that day.
Union officials also admitted that 20% of the membership have not paid dues since the strike but predicted support from the National Labor Relations Board on unfair labor charges against the league.
Union lawyer Ed Glennon said that the court order would prevent teams from applying the current player reserve system, including a club's right of first refusal on players whose contracts have expired and compensation for lost players in the form of draft choices.
The announcement was the union's first since Oct. 15, when NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw sent striking players back to work without a contract and filed an antitrust suit against the NFL owners.
Glennon said he will ask Judge David Doty in Minneapolis Federal District Court to issue a temporary restraining order against the application of the terms of the collective bargaining agreement that expired Aug. 31. He said a hearing is scheduled on the issue for Dec. 30.