Amid a series of legal maneuvers by the National Football League, the NFL Players Association is expected to decide today whether to proceed with plans to hold an all-star game Sunday in RFK Stadium.
"We don't want to mislead the public," Ed Garvey, NFLPA executive director, said. "If we can't play the game because of all the NFL legal actions, we'll call it off."
At least three NFL teams have gone to court to get injunctions preventing their players from practicing for or playing in the game. The NFLPA, in turn, asked a U.S. district court judge here yesterday to block the league from interfering with union-sponsored all-star games. But there was no indication when Judge John G. Penn would rule.
Meanwhile, the NFL Management Council apparently has decided not to open up training camps this week, although it appears a move to lure back disgruntled members of the striking players union could come as early as next week.
League sources refused to say whether the council, which met in executive session yesterday in New York, would bring owners to the bargaining table in exchange for a union promise to consider mediation of the labor dispute.
The management council did not issue any statements regarding actions taken by its executive committee. But sources said any move to open camps likely would come only after sufficient long-term notice is given to players. Many league officials feel it would be best for the NFL to wait another week to open the camps, thus creating more economic pressure on the players, who will miss a third paycheck if games are canceled this weekend.
William E. Willis, the lawyer for the management council, said the clubs plan to sue players who attempt to participate in the games. He said the clubs will be "in contact and communication" with each other about the suits.
In Buffalo Sunday, the Bills became the first team to act against individual players by obtaining a temporary restraining order. The order prohibits 11 Bills from practicing or playing in the NFC East vs. AFC East game. A hearing on that order is scheduled for Wednesday.
The Cowboys followed their lead and yesterday won a temporary restraining order preventing fullback Robert Newhouse from participating. Later in the day, the Miami Dolphins sought an injunction that would prohibit their six players from participating.
Lawrence Lucchino, Redskins counsel, said the team is "examining the question and talking to the players who reportedly have been selected to play . . . No decision has been made regarding what action we will take."
The NFLPA maintained yesterday that the vast majority of the 80 players announced Sunday to play in the first game would show up, even though Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann has withdrawn officially and there were indications other players also would back out. Initial practices for the game have been moved back a day, until Wednesday.
Roy Jefferson of the NFLPA, who is assisting Brig Owens in organizing the games, said that Theismann is the "only player we are aware of who is not going to play and he hasn't let us know directly."
Theismann, who indicated Sunday he almost certainly wouldn't play, made it definite on his Monday morning sports show on WPGC radio. "I'm not going to play," he said. "I have plans with my family next weekend."
Sources in New York said that linebacker Lawrence Taylor would not play because of a bad foot and that punter Dave Jennings, who has been critical of the strike, also was pulling out.
Some players apparently are waiting to see whether the game will be played. On Wednesday, a Buffalo court will hear a league-backed request to block Turner Broadcasting Company from televising the game. Turner has guaranteed the union at least $500,000 for each game, and Bob Wussler, Turner's president, said the figure might be as high as $750,000 or $1 million. Other problems about the games, according to some players yesterday, center around insurance and the size of the winners' share. That share has been set at $3,000, although some players thought it was going to be $6,000.
Jefferson said the insurance, issued by Lloyd's of London, calls for a $150,000 base policy to cover a career-ending injury, with a rider to cover players who earn more than $150,000 a year. Players with career-ending injuries, he said, also would receive $40,000 next year but would not be covered for the full term of their existing NFL contract. There also is insurance to cover any permanent disability.
"No one is telling us they can't play," Jefferson said. "Everyone we named told us directly they would play with maybe three or four exceptions. When we couldn't get in touch with those players, we went on the advice of our player reps, who told us they were sure those players would play."
In the court case yesterday, arguing before Penn, union lawyer Joseph A. Yablonski asked for a declaratory judgment holding unenforceable the provisions of the NFL's standard player contract that prohibit participation in games not sanctioned by the NFL.
Yablonski also asked for an injunction prohibiting the management council from filing lawsuits against individual players in state courts in an effort to stop the games.
"I am asking you to enjoin the defendants from romping around the country with their massive resources, initiating hundreds of lawsuits against players . . . having marshals wake them by knocking on the door at 3 o'clock in the morning," Yablonski said.
But Willis said the league considers the clause vital to the league's health. "Preservation of exclusivity is at the heart of the success of the NFL," Willis said. "Joe Theismann is not going to be as valuable to the Redskins or to the National Football League if he plays for another team."
In his arguments, Yablonski said that since the collective bargaining agreement between the NFLPA and the management council expired July 15 and the parties are engaged in a labor dispute, the contract's exclusivity clause should no longer be enforceable.
Yablonski also argued that the standard NFL player contract should be voidable at the option of the player, since the players are given no option other than signing it if they wish to play in the NFL.
But Willis, noting that the player contracts all have a termination date after the end of the NFL season, argued that "all we are asking is that the players live up to the contracts that they signed."
Willis also argued a no-lawsuit covenant between the league and the NFLPA, negotiated in 1977 as part of the settlement of an antitrust suit against the league, prohibits the union from prosecuting the lawsuit. But Yablonski argued that covenant expired with the collective bargaining agreement.