This Was The Week That Wasn't

No games and no progress—that was the news as the first Sunday of the NFL's strike passed with the players still calling time-out
October 03, 1982

•It took the NCAA all of three days after the National Football League players went out on strike on Sept. 21 to grant approval for Sunday college football.

"I knew it would happen," said Art Rooney, the 81-year-old owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers. "Some of these newer people don't remember the old days when we were battling the colleges for the fan's dollar. Now we've taken a step backward.

"What gets me is why this whole thing wasn't negotiated a long time ago. It was foolish to wait this long."

•It took the bookies all of two days to release a betting line on the Canadian Football League's games. On Thursday the New York Daily News published the standings for the CFL; on Friday the paper accompanied the standings with a full column of agate type explaining the Canadian rules.

•"There's kind of a disjointed feeling," said the Miami Dolphins' Bob Kuechenberg. "Your body says it's time to play football. Your mind says you're on strike."

•"All the wives say, 'We have to stand by our husbands in this time of trouble,' " said Page Hannah, wife of New England All-Pro Guard John Hannah, "but you can't just put your life on hold. Life goes on. Your family goes on."

•So does the USFL. The Tampa Bay Bandits sold 300 season tickets the day the strike started, boosting their total sales to, they say, 5,000.

•Elsewhere in town, a Tampa Bay Buc had asked a club official on the eve of the stoppage, "If there's a strike, where do I get my check?"

And thus, with many pangs and withdrawal symptoms, the NFL trudged through Week 1 of the 1982 strike.

NFL owners and officials were divided on the idea of fielding teams of free agents and anti-union veterans, and on whether any so-called "scab" games should count in the standings. Dallas President Tex Schramm said those games would be a sham. Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson said, "People want to see football and we've got to give it to them." Few coaches relished the idea of coaching a rinky-dink team, even if everyone else were in the same boat. "I have no intention of coaching a scab football team," the Eagles' Dick Vermeil said. It was reported that the Rams got a jump on the rest of the league by trying out 14 free agents, en masse. The report was at first confirmed by Coach Ray Malavasi—and then denied. It aroused some bitter feelings.

"If the report is true," said Steeler President Dan Rooney, "then I feel that some people have a very shortsighted view of this whole thing. They think they're very clever, they think the answer is to have their free agents go out and beat your free agents 100-0. They don't seem to understand that we're all in this together."

San Francisco 49er Coach Bill Walsh immediately saw the competitive side of the cancellation of last week's schedule. "The game we lost was against the Bears," he said. "That makes the rest of the schedule that much harder."

Team captains and player reps lined up health clubs that had weightlifting facilities, and found local high school and college fields for informal squad workouts. Some workouts had close to a 100% turnout. The Raiders, on the other hand, were scattered from L.A. to Oakland, making it impossible to get together. "Strike headquarters," said Raider Linebacker Ted Hendricks, "will be at Dave Dalby's house in Lake Tahoe. You can call me at a bar called The Cave."

Dallas Defensive Tackle Randy White said Tom Landry told his players, "The team that comes back from this strike in the best condition will be the team that wins the Super Bowl." That's the Cowboys, always looking for an edge.

"You can do all the running and lifting you want," White added, "but the bad part is that it takes you a couple of weeks to get in shape to hit. There's no way you can do that without wearing pads."

The union-proposed Ted Turner network All-Star games, designed as a boost for the players' strike fund, received little endorsement. Stars such as Philadelphia's Ron Jaworski, San Diego's Kellen Winslow and Denver's Randy Gradishar said they wanted no part of it. Fear of injury. "I'm not going to risk my career for $4,000 or $5,000," Gradishar said.

The owners have presented a unified stand in support of their negotiating team, headed by Jack Donlan. A $100,000 popoff fine guaranteed that. The players, though, showed some cracks. One newspaper survey, taken after the strike began, listed 17 players who opposed the strike and most of them said they'd cross a picket line to go back to work. Ram Guard Dennis Harrah said, "At least 20 players on our team voted against striking." New Orleans kicker and player rep Russell Erxleben said he'd talked to 40 Saints players and they were unanimous against the union's demand for a wage scale. But last weekend, after a talk with Ed Garvey, executive director of the Players Association, on the phone and a visit from Stan White, the Detroit linebacker who is a member of the NFLPA's executive committee, Erxleben changed his tune and said the Saints supported the wage scale.

"The players still don't realize how statements like [Erxleben's] damage their position," said Marvin Miller, the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association. "Every time a player says something like, 'I'm solid now but I don't know how I'll be in two weeks,' he's just prolonging the strike. When we were on strike last year I figured the owners had an automatic multiplier in their heads—for every player who spoke out against our position, they figured 85 others were in silent support."

It took a whole week after the strike was called for the two sides to get back together, to no avail. They planned to meet last Sunday at what was supposed to be "an undisclosed location." That turned out to be Hofstra University on Long Island, the site of the New York Jets' training complex. It was such a secret that as Garvey and Union President Gene Upshaw arrived there fresh from Upshaw's appearance on Face the Nation, they were being followed by a cavalcade of cars carrying reporters, photographers and TV crews.

At Hofstra, management made what it ballyhooed as a major step by guaranteeing the $1.6 billion it has been saying it would pay the players over the next five years. But tied to that guarantee were several conditions, including the proviso that the wage scale the players have proposed be abandoned. Management wants players to continue to negotiate contracts individually, and Sunday, in response to Garvey's well-known animosity toward player agents, the owners said they would have no objection if the union wished to act as agent for each of its members in individual negotiations. According to John Bunting, an alternate on the NFLPA's executive committee, the owners didn't bring up the subject of a guarantee until Sunday's meeting, which lasted nearly five hours, was winding down.

The players later insisted that they would not drop their wage scale. "They didn't jump up and down at our proposal," conceded a Management Council man. "They kept their game faces on."

Game faces but no games. That was Week 3 of the NFL season.

PHOTO TWO PHOTOSWorkouts bored Louie Kelcher, but they were of passing interest to Cincinnati's Charles Alexander (40) and Ken Anderson.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)