Negotiators for the National Football League and the striking NFL Players Association met for more than 10 hours of contract talks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel near Capitol Hill, but recessed just before midnight last night with virtually no progress reported.
Bargaining is to resume at 11:30 a.m. today.
Union President Gene Upshaw said, "Absolutely nothing of substance came out of the meeting. The only thing we did agree on is that we'll meet tomorrow. It is a sad, sad state of affairs. We are dealing with a group of people that has no concern for the players."
Jack Donlan, executive director of the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, agreed: "There was no progress made today."
But he blamed the union. "We talk money and the union talks control."
Earlier in the day, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle and Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, revealed they had met secretly Wednesday night for the first time since the strike began Sept. 20.
Yesterday's negotiating sessions began with two hours of discussion on what the union considers its main proposal, that a trust fund be set up to pay the players on a seniority-based scale with performance incentive bonuses.
But Donlan said management is unalterably opposed to that concept because it represents a fundamental change in the system of individual contract negotiations that the NFL has followed for 63 years.
"We are not going to scrap our system for a system that has substantially more union involvement just because they want it," Donlan said.
After two hours of futile discussion on the wage scale yesterday, the talks moved to the area of player concerns in health and medical care.
John Bunting, the Philadelphia Eagles' player representative, said the discussions were also at an impasse on the issue of what medical information the players are entitled to receive.
"They are telling us they don't need to disclose all medical information to the ballplayers," Bunting said. "We say we have a right to all the information about our bodies."
Donlan said the union's proposals on medical rights "would emasculate the clubs. They're trying to take the clubs' rights away." Donlan also said players are entitled to a doctor-patient relationship with club physicians, but as a practical matter it is difficult to reduce the details of those relationships to a written contract.
Garvey said yesterday he is not sure Rozelle "knows there is a strike yet. He just showed me that he is not familiar with the issues or the wage scale proposal." The meeting, requested by Rozelle, took place in Washington. Upshaw also attended.
"He (Rozelle) has an aloofness about it that comes about because the league still is getting television money," Garvey said. "He didn't seem interested in getting involved anymore."
The union has been lobbying to involve Rozelle in the stalemated negotiations, as a representative of management. Rozelle has declined, a stand he maintained yesterday after testifying in the morning before the House subcommittee on monopolies and commercial law.
Rozelle said the three men discussed only generalities.
"I don't have any reason to be optimistic about a settlement," he said. "The only role they see for me is to negotiate on behalf of the owners. I don't want that role. The owners have a paid negotiator."
In response to a question, Rozelle confirmed that the league received from the networks television contract payments of about $75 million in September, even though the NFL already had missed one week of games and yesterday officially canceled this weekend's 14 games.
He revealed for the first time the networks also paid about $20 million to the league in the spring. He said the schedule could be juggled so games missed to date could be made up, by eliminating the first-round playoff games between the second wild-card teams and by using the free weekend before the Super Bowl.
"In effect, Rozelle is saying there really has been no strike so far," Garvey said before talks had resumed yesterday afternoon. "The league can already make up both (weekend's) games that have been missed and they have the television money coming in. What pressure is there for them to settle? The pressure is all on the players."
Rozelle: "Anything beyond two weeks and we would have to draw from a hat. There would be inequities. We can only make up two weeks."
In a letter to Rep. Peter Rodino (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Rozelle wrote that "games lost (up to two weeks) do not require immediate (ticket) refunds but are reserved for such 'make-good' arrangements as may later turn out to be feasible."
Garvey, who also appeared before the subcommittee, asked Rodino to involve the Judiciary Committee in the dispute over the networks' payments by requesting the league provide the committee with the contracts.
Otherwise, Garvey had said earlier, the union would consider going to court to force the league to show the contracts to the NFLPA. "The television money could prolong this strike late into fall," Garvey said.
Rozelle encountered some pointed questions from the subcommittee over the NFL's attempt to reverse the Raiders' move from Oakland to Los Angeles by getting Congress to pass a bill giving the league a limited antitrust exemption.
He defended the bill, especially the segment that would force the Raiders to return to Oakland. He also reiterated there could be immediate league expansion should the bill pass, but probably no expansion should it fail.
In Buffalo, a judge granted an application by the Bills and seven other teams aimed at preventing players from participating in the NFLPA's proposed series of all-star games involving striking players.
Justice Rudolph Johnson of the New York State Supreme Court ordered Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and affiliates to show cause Oct. 6 why they should not be barred from getting NFL players to play in the games while they are under contract to their teams.
Ralph Halpern, the Bills' attorney, filed the action Wednesday, one day after a schedule of games was released. "It could have been filed in 28 sites," he said. "It was a league decision."