With this weekend's National Football League games all but certain to be called off, the chief negotiator for the striking NFL Players Association said yesterday that the games scheduled for Oct. 10 and 11 also are in jeopardy unless the 10-day-old dispute is settled soon.
"I think it will take at least 10 days after a settlement to get these teams back together," said Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA. "The teams are disintegrating around the country. Some of the Redskins have gone home. The New Orleans Saints have 25 guys in town."
Dennis Curran, the labor relations counsel for the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, disagreed with Garvey's prediction. "We would be able to play the next week after a settlement," Curran said.
An NFL spokesman said there has been no official announcement yet regarding this weekend's games, but management negotiators have conceded it will be virtually impossible to play them.
Talks between the two sides are scheduled to be resumed at 1 p.m. today in Washington, but prospects for a quick settlement of the dispute appear remote. Jim Miller, a spokesman for the management council, said management has no new proposals.
"We're waiting for a response to our proposal of last Sunday," said Miller. On Sunday, NFL management offered to guarantee what it described as a $1.6 billion package for player costs over the next five years.
But Garvey said he has already turned down the offer, contending that it does not meet the union's demand that a trust fund be set up to pay player salaries on a seniority-based scale with performance-incentive bonuses. Management says it will never accept that demand.
Garvey said he hopes today's negotiations could focus on such other issues as pensions and insurance, the establishment of a joint counseling program, participation of players on the NFL's competition committee and grievance procedures.
Garvey and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle are scheduled to testify this morning before the House Judiciary Committee on the NFL's request for a limited antitrust exemption, the first time the two have appeared in public together since the strike began.
The hearing is expected to focus on Garvey's contention that an agreement between the NFL and the television networks in which the networks agreed to pay broadcast rights for the first two games not played because of a strike is an antitrust violation.
Neal Pilson, president of CBS Sports, formally responded yesterday to Garvey's request for an explanation, saying in a letter that the agreement violates no antitrust laws. Executives of ABC and NBC have said the same and that they will be reimbursed if the games are not rescheduled.
Last night, the players association filed a motion in U.S. District Court here asking for a preliminary injunction that would clear the way for striking players to participate in up to 20 union-sponsored all-star games, beginning Oct. 10 at RFK Stadium.
The motion asked the court to declare invalid a section of the NFL standard-player contract that prohibits players from playing football for anyone but the NFL. A hearing on the request is scheduled for next week.
The NFL has said it will oppose the union games.