Negotiators for the National Football League and the NFL Players Association disagreed sharply about bargaining procedures for unsigned players and the proper treatment for drug dependent players as talks between the sides resumed yesterday in Washington after a six-day recess.
At the bargaining table with the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, were Assistant General Manager Terry Bledsoe of the New York Giants, who came to negotiate a contract with running back Rob Carpenter, and Executive Vice President Eddie LeBaron of the Atlanta Falcons, who was seeking an agreement with wide receiver Alfred Jenkins.
Since the contract between the NFL and the NFLPA expired July 15, unsigned players are not permitted to negotiate directly with their clubs but must instead negotiate through the NFLPA. Seven rookies and 23 veteran free agents failed to sign by July 15.
"We learned in the discussions that the union has no intention of negotiating individual player contracts," said Jack Donlan, executive director of the management council. "They would isolate and ostracize about 30 players who will not have an opportunity to go to training camp and compete for their teams."
Responded Tom Condon, an offensive guard for the Kansas City Chiefs and a member of the NFLPA executive committee: "All they were willing to discuss was yearly salaries, and we have already covered that in our percentage of gross revenues proposal."
To bargain effectively, Condon added, the union needs access to all the already-negotiated contracts for this year, but the management council has refused to make them available.
On the drug issue, the union resubmitted its proposal that the NFL fund a player counseling and rehabilitation program to be administered and overseen by a third party with no relationship with any club or the league. Once again, the management council rejected the proposal, which would prohibit requiring any player to submit to a chemical dependency test.
"They say there should be no club involvement," Donlan said. "We say the clubs should be involved. They say there should be no testing. We say it should be more than just a voluntary program."
"We see a lot of problems with drug counseling on a club-by-club basis," said Mark Murphy, a member of the bargaining committee and the player representative of the Washington Redskins. "We read in the papers where the owner of the Miami Dolphins says he ships out all the drug users."
The talks are to resume today.