National Football League teams are about to play what their coaches like to call the "tighteners," the exhibition games in which they try to set their opening-day lineups.
As of yesterday, nearly a score of players counted on pretty much as regulars haven't even made it to training camp yet.
Some are envious of the big contracts landed by such as Billy Sims at Detroit, Charles White at Cleveland, Johnny (Lam) Jones with the New York Jets, Curtis Dickey at Baltimore and Johnnie Johnson at Los Angeles.
Of the first-round draftees, defensive end Bruce Clark of Penn State didn't like the prospect of being a double or triple-teamed nose tackle for Green Bay and signed with Toronto of the Canadian Football League.
Defensive end Doug Martin of the University of Washington still is playing the waiting game out of camp, although the Minnesota Vikings are re-making their front four with Carl Eller and Jim Marshall in retirement.
Renegotiating contracts is becoming ever more prevalent as a bargaining tool. The drudegery of training camp is another factor frequently coupled with the demand for more money, and the threat of retirement is another weapon.
Larry Csonka tried all three and apparently overplayed his hand. Owner Joe Robbie of the Miami Dolphins says he offered the fullback a $100,000 raise, but when Csonka still sought $20,000 more, Robbie played his trump card.
He asked waivers on Csonka and there were no takers. The fullback was out of camp and out of a job.
John Riggins reported to camp, then left to get bargaining leverage, and he and the Redskins are playing a high-stake game. Lemar Parrish walked out, and now says he wants a raise from $141,000 to $185,000. Joe Lavender is also absent, apparently for reasons of health.
Center Jim Langer did not report to the Dolphins because he says he doesn't want to play in Miami, but would accept a trade to Green Bay.
The Los Angeles Rams have four holdouts -- premier defensive end Jack Youngblood, linebacker Jim Youngblood, guard Dennis Harrah and defensive tackle Larry Brooks.
When they read about the contract given defensive back Johnnie Johnson of Texas, they remained out of camp as a negotiating wedge.
The New England Patriots also have four holdouts -- running back Sam Cunningham, quarterback Tom Owens, cornerback Mike Hayes and defensive lineman Richard Bishop.
Their defections have resulted in an acrimonious debate between their agent, Howard Slusher, and the Patriots's management.
The die was cast early, when New England drafted a running back, Vagas Ferguson of Notre Dame; traded for another, Chuck Foreman of the Vikings, and drafted defensive back Roland James of Tennessee.
Detroit became a target after signing all-America Sims to what the Lions says is the richest contract ever for a rookie. But the Lions are big earners in their 80,638-seat Silver-dome.
Defensive end Al Baker was rookie of the year in 1978. He was not so effective in 1979, but reportedly renegotiated his contract in March of this year. He reported to camp in July, then left, unhappy with his renegotiated pact.
Six-season defensive tackle Doug English sounds like a newly successful businessman who is waiting for the Lions to make up his mind for him. He has stayed in Europe for several weeks on business instead of reporting to camp and has said, "I can't see myself playing football again."
Guard Joe Delamilleure of Buffalo has skipped camp after a dispute with Coach Chuck Knox. Defensive end Sherman White also has failed to report. c
Defensive end Fred Dean of San Diego is a quality player who figures his absence will sway the Charges to pay him more money.