Terry Metcalf and Joe Sullivan, director of operations for the St. Louis Cardinals, have worked out the biggest flip-flop since pancakes.

"We satisfied him by not renegotiating his contract and by giving him less money," Sullivan said of the little all-purpose running back who was so unhappy in the 1976 season that is measurably affected his performance.

"He was signed to a good-sized salary for 1977 and 1978," Sullivan went on, "with quite a bit of money in incentive bonuses. Now he has signed a new contract for just one year - 1977 - with a great reduction in salary and no incentives.

"Now he's happy. His attitude is great; he is the Metcalf of old, he wants to be in there every minute. He would not have been happy otherwise. There was some give-and-take. We don't renegotiate contracts, but if somebody wants to give back a big money contract for less, we're ready."

Sullivan pointed out that what Metcalf wants to become after this season is a free agent, eligible to shop every club in the league. "But we'll have the right to match any other club's offer, and if we don't we will receive compensation from the club which does."

Sullivan said he never has heard of such a change in contracts being negotiated.

Metcalf balked at returning kicks unless he was paid extra last season, but later asked to do it again when he was not able to get more money, and found his total yardage slipping. In 1975 he set a league record with 2,462 net yards. In 1976 it dropped to 1,438.

Sullivan, former assistant to George Allen, chuckled at the news that the Redskins have not benefitted yet from luring away from the Cardinals conditioning instructor, Jim Curzi, who put in exercises with broomsticks to reduce the incidence of minor muscle pulls.

Yet, Sullivan conceded Curzi's program worked in St. Louis: "It kept the piddling little injuries away from us. Don Coryell liked it. The program needs a full year." Personally, Sullivan said, he feels fine and is down 42 pounds, to 190, since undergoing bypass heart surgery.