When the 24-day NFL strike ended in October, the league continued to enforce the provisions of the 1982 contract with one notable exception -- no longer would union dues be subtracted by the teams from players' paychecks and forwarded to the NFL Players Association.
Instead, player reps would have to collect the substantial collections -- $2,400 a year for veterans, $2,900 for rookies.
From all indications, that's causing some trouble for the NFLPA.
While Gene Upshaw, the NFLPA's executive director, said this week that dues were coming in, he refused to say how many teams or how many players were still paying.
Moreover, a seven-page pamphlet sent by the union to the 1,600 players contains several exhortations for money. "THE MESSAGE? PAY YOUR NFLPA DUES!" it concludes.
"You can go it alone against the club and league office or you can stick together with your NFLPA teammates across the league," it says. "The choice is yours, but the only way to make the choice fdor solidarity is to pay NFLPA dues. Without voluntary financial support from all players, the NFLPA will disappear and the owners will make all your choices for you."
In fact, the NFLPA is indeed on the defensive since the strike.
Players on several teams, including the Cleveland Browns and those on the West Coast, are grumbling about striking and gaining nothing. They talk about replacing Upshaw with a labor professional, along the lines of Marvin Miller, who ran the baseball players union and aided the NFLPA with strategy at the end of the strike.
Other complaints include the size of the union budget and staff: 40 people, more than twice as many as the baseball player's union and 10 times as large as the NBA union's,
Moreover, agent Art Wilkinson is trying to start a rival union -- "You don't need someone from the outside making decisions for you, offering a pre-set package of policies and staff," the NFLPA says in its pamphlet.
How about rookies of the year who missed training camp and only started playing midway through the season. Can anybody argue against Bo Jackson as offensive rookie and Cornelius Bennett on defense?
It would seem improbable, but this is an improbable season.
More Improbabilities: Joe Dudek, Lee Morris, Sean McInerney and Eugene Seale.
All have been named either AFC or NFC players of the week this season. None is still in the league.
And more: Charles White of the Los Angeles Rams, who replaced Eric Dickerson when Dickerson was traded to the Colts, leads the league with 952 yards rushing. Dickerson is second with 860.
An asterisk: White played in the three strike games.
And more: The New York Giants, despite their 3-8 record, remain one of the NFL's solid teams in personnel. Moreover, their dismal 1987 season could help vault them right back to the Super Bowl next year.
For one thing, they'll get a draft pick higher than they should, somewhere in the top ten, where the chips are blue.
But more important, they now have a good chance of finishing last in the NFC East -- they're two games behind Dallas, Philadelphia and St. Louis with four games to go.
That means they'll get a fifth-place schedule next year, filled with legitimate patsies like Detroit twice, Atlanta and Kansas City. No Chicagos, no Minnesotas, although San Francisco and New Orleans would be there, but in any case a lot easier than the rest of their division will have.