NFL Commissioner Peter Rozelle yesterday advised the Washington Redskins their contract offer to full-back Jim Otis was not acceptable because of "an honest mistake made by a number of people.
But Ed Garvey, the executive director of the NFL Players' Association, said Rozelle "has absolutely no authority anything he says. It's not before him, he has no jurisdiction and it's almost laughable that he would try to get involved.
"As far as we are concerned, Jim Otis has been given an offer by the Washington Redskins and the St. Louis Cardinals (Otis' old team) have until Monday to match that offer. If they don't, Jim Otis will be a member of the Washington Redskins."
The Redskins have offered Otis, 29, a five-year contract calling for $80,000 in 1978 and 1979, $79,000 in 1980 and $30,000 in 1981 and 1982. The average-per-year salary would fall slightly under $60,000 a year, meaning the Redskins would have to compensate the Cardinals with a draft choice for Otis, a nine-year veteran.
The Cardinals had complained to the NFL that the $30,000-a-year salaries offered Otis for 1981 and 1982 fall below the NFL minimum salary of $32,000 for those years. That is the reason Rozelle advised that Redskins of his decision.
"We didn't formally kick the offer back at the Redskins," Rozelle said. "We just brought it to the attention of all parties concerned and urged them to get together and resolve this issue.
"At his point, I would say it's in limbo."
Garvey and Otis' attorney, Rick Bennett of Washington, strongly disagreed with Rozelle.
"I am totally uninterested in what he says about this," Garvey said. "Rozelle can issue proclamations or do anything he wants to do. But we fought for five years to get him out of this area. It comes under the collective-bargaining agreement, not the commissioner's office."
Added Bennett: "I am aware of no provision in the collective-bargaining agreement which gave the commissioner's office the jurisdiction to determine any of the questions raised by the Cardinals on this contract.
"It is my opinion that Jim Otis and the Redskins have entered into a valid and binding offer sheet and the Cardinals have until Monday to match it."
In St. Louis, Cardinal Owner Bill Bidwill said there was no question that "Jim Otis is our property. No, we haven't had any discussions with the Redskins today."
What would happen if the Redskins revised their offer so that the final two yeqrs were at the NFL minimum?
"As far as we're concerned, the deadline for revising the offer was last Monday, "Bidwill said. "Quite frankly, I'm not sure where we go from here We're exploring new territory here. Yes, we want Jim Otis on our team."
Dick Myers, Redskin assistant general manager, said yester day the club would not comment other that to say, "the situation has not totally been resolved. But it's certainly not a dead issue."
Other sources indicate the Otis affair most likely will ultimately be settled by the Player-Club Relations Committee, made up of equal representation of management and players.
"One of two things will happen," said Terry Bledsoe, assistant executive director of the NFL management council. It will be revolved among the parties [WORD ILLEGIBLE] will be placed into the grievance machinery."