The National Football League's Management Council yesterday asked federal mediators for help in resolving the league's contract negotiations with the NFL Players Association.

Jack Donlan, executive director of the Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, said he expected the mediators will ask to meet with the two sides -- separately or jointly -- some time next week. Donlan and Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, have been invited to testify Tuesday before the House subcommittee on government and manpower, which oversees the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

But Garvey questioned the usefulness of seeking mediation. "I don't think this is the answer," he told The Associated Press. "I think it is premature to get a mediator into a dispute when management doesn't have a serious offer on the table. It places the mediator in a virtually impossible position."

A spokesman for the players association said participation of the federal mediators in the talks would be discussed when the union's nine-member executive council convenes Monday in Chicago to discuss strategy.

That meeting was called after talks broke off after a four-hour session here Wednesday with negotiations at am impasse. "We thought we might not get a whole lot out of that meeting and that this would probably be an appropriate time to do it (ask for mediation)," Donlan said.

Before Wednesday, no negotiations had been held since July 23 because management would not agree to the union's request that the talks be held near a training camp so a player could be present. That could disrupt the training schedule, management negotiators said.

A spokeswoman for the mediation service said she was not sure if Donlan's request for assistance had been received and had no immediate comment on how the agency might act. The mediation service has no power to impose a settlement, but when asked can bring parties together and suggest possible avenues to an agreement.

Since contract talks between the players and management began last February, there has been virtually no progress toward a settlement and no agreement on anything.