From Miami to Seattle, from Dallas to Minnesota, the portrait of the National Football League is the same. Paint it with dull colors and call it "Status Quo."
It's as if the strike began yesterday. The players can't use team facilities. The two sides are hardly talking and everyone -- players, owners, fans -- wonders when the season will start again, if ever.
The owners had predicted many players would break ranks with the union. That hasn't happened. Except for a brief problem in New Orleans, the players have held together strongly. There appears to be less dissent within the union than there was last summer, mainly because most big-name quarterbacks apparently decided that team unity was more important than breaking with the union over its demand for a wage scale.
The union had predicted that the television networks would pressure the owners for a quick settlement. Instead, the networks have paid the league more than $100 million and the more moderate owners have had to restrain the more radical ones from trying to break the union immediately by continuing the season with free agents.
But sources say the league's own surveys of member teams have shown that opening camps now and calling in players would be a public relations disaster. There is not enough indication of union dissent to warrant such a move, and the resulting bitter confrontations between strikers and any returning players.
To keep the union solid, members of the NFLPA negotiating committee spent last week and early this week attending team meetings throughout the league.
"I found it remarkable that everyone was pretty patient and seemed willing to stick it out," said committee member Mark Murphy, who visited three teams, including Pittsburgh, in the past a weak union team. But 30 or so Steelers showed up to listen to Murphy, including Lynn Swann, who has said he is not on strike.
The message from Murphy and his peers was the same: two games have been postponed, but the league says it can make those games up. So you haven't really missed a paycheck yet. The feedback Murphy says he received centered on the players' dislike of management negotiator Jack Donlan, who has come to represent the owners' stubborness in the eyes of many athletes.
But the message the league's public relations arm is spreading this week is different.
NFL sources are saying the players will start feeling more pressure now because games canceled this weekend won't be made up, unlike the first two. So players finally will miss their first real paycheck Monday.
The management council said Wednesday that until the union drops its wage scale proposal negotiations are meaningless. Essentially, the owners are saying if the players don't move off the wage scale, the season could be over.
Leave it to the Cowboys to be different.
A majority of league teams still is holding formal workouts, usually at some local high school field. The Cowboys use the Cotton Bowl.
Receiver Butch Johnson helped promote a concert in the Cotton Bowl last summer, so he had the right connections when the players were hunting for a facility.
Dallas hardly is a strong union team. Only one Cowboy, player representative Robert Newhouse, has agreed to participate in the union-sponsored all-star games, and he scarcely plays anymore. Quarterback Danny White admits he has frequent talks with President Tex Schramm, one of the NFL's most powerful members.
Union leaders often point to cornerback Everson Walls, whose salary was $37,000 last year when he made the Pro Bowl as a rookie, as an example of how bad the current league pay system is. When Walls' salary was brought up again at a union meeting last week, he finally protested.
"I said, 'Great, everyone knows my salary throughout the league now, so how about leaving me alone,' " Walls told reporters afterward.
Most players don't appear to be scrambling for jobs to make up for those lost paychecks. Many are using the time to return home and visit relatives. Others have offseason jobs that they can turn to during the strike. Still others are doing little else but waiting.
Atlanta's Mick Luckhurst is selling jewelry. The Rams' Dennis Harrah is tending bar in his own pub. San Francisco's Joe Montana is appearing nightly as a television sportscaster. Cleveland's Mike Robinson is helping coach a high school football team. A couple of Patriots are chopping and selling wood. Several Denver Broncos jokingly said they might try out for the Denver Nuggets basketball team.
Keith Willis, a 6-foot-1, 250-pound tackle Pittsburgh Steeler rookie, couldn't afford a car, so he rides the bus. Another Steeler rookie, Mike Merriweather, says his only possessions are his clothes. "It's like living at the beach," he told a Pittsburgh newspaper recently.
But the union wasn't laughing earlier this week when Detroit's Billy Sims said he wouldn't play in any all-star games and that he would consider returning to the Lions if owners opened the camps. He said he didn't like any proposal, such as a wage scale, that would decrease his high salary.
Nor were union leaders smiling late last month when New Orleans appeared on the verge of falling off the NFLPA bandwagon.
Russell Erxleben, the Saints' new player representative after Benny Ricardo was cut, produced a petition signed by most of his teammates rejecting the wage scale. After phone calls from union headquarters and a visit by Stan White, an executive committee member, the Saints reversed themselves and said the wage scale was okay after all. Erxleben has since stopped returning phone calls.
"We aren't worried," Doug Dieken, the Browns' player representative, told reporters. "If we get in any financial trouble, we can always borrow money from Tom Cousineau." Cousineau reportedly is being paid $500,000 a year.
A radio station in Texas is broadcasting mock Dallas Cowboy games every week, just to keep the fans entertained. In one game, Coach Tom Landry activated himself to punt and wound up scoring the winning touchdown. Landry appeared on the show and explained he put himself on the roster because he needed one more game to qualify for a share "of that $1.6 billion that everyone is offering."
Even Landry says he is bored. Coaches spend their time breaking down game films and working short days. Staffs at San Diego, Pittsburgh and San Francisco are starting to scout college players. Detroit's Monte Clark helped fill a local television story on life without pro football by playing his bass fiddle at home.
But fans in Pittsburgh still appear to have their enthusiasm. The first weekend of the strike, thousands turned out for a party in the parking lot of Three Rivers Stadium. This weekend, at least 2,000 are expected to attend a testimonial dinner for owner Art Rooney in the new convention center.
There is so much interest in the dinner that it will be televised. Live. By two Pittsburgh stations.