The National Football League Players Association says it's planning an alternative season, with fewer than 28 teams, in the event of a players strike or a lockout by team owners.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, said he hopes to conclude an agreement this weekend with the Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting System to televise the games on the TBS cable network.
But Jim Miller, a spokesman for the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, said a clause in the standard player contract bars the players from playing football for anybody but the NFL. In the event of a strike, he said, the contract authorizes the owners to seek an injunction to stop the players from playing elsewhere.
The situation is less clear in the event of a lockout by the owners, Miller said. "Our lawyers are studying it," he said.
Garvey said the NFLPA began preparing for an alternative season following a Washington Post story that said most owners want to lock the players out if there has been no agreement on a new contract by Sept. 12, the opening date of the regular season.
He said the union was also responding to suggestions that the entire 1982 season might be canceled if a work stoppage lasted longer than four weeks.
"We felt we might have to do something to make sure our members would not give in under threat of a total shutdown," Garvey said.
"We started exploring the possibilities with the cable systems, and Turner was very enthusiastic. It's early to say there is an agreement, but there is a general agreement on the concept. The lawyers have to get together and work it out."
Many of the details of the NFLPA-sponsored season are still being worked out, Garvey said. Teams would probably be organized along the lines of NFL divisions, with one or more teams representing the National Football Conference, Eastern Division, one or more representing the NFC Central and so on.
"We have secured stadium locations," Garvey said, but he would not reveal the cities where the stadiums are located.
The length of the alternative season would depend on the length of a strike or lockout, Garvey said. But there are plans for playoffs and a championship game should a work stoppage last that long, he added. "So much of it turns on negotiations. It would be a week-by-week decision."
Garvey said there would be no trouble getting coaches for the NFLPA teams. "There is a great reservoir of talented former players." That would be the least of our problems," he said.
The contract between the NFL and the NFLPA expired July 15, and the negotiators last met July 23 in Washington. So far they have been unable to agree on anything, including where to meet next.