Ed Garvey, executive director of the striking National Football League Players Association, said yesterday NFL owners have been telling players to expect a final take-it-or-leave-it offer on Thursday or Friday. He said the players are being told the season will be canceled if the offer is turned down.
"They will try to panic the players into accepting the offer by saying the season is in jeopardy. We are not going to fall for it," Garvey said.
But Jack Donlan, the executive director of the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, said no such plan is in the works. "As Alice said to the White Rabbit, 'I don't know whether he's wishing or hoping,' " Donlan said.
Meanwhile in New York, the NFL announced games scheduled for next weekend have been called off, making next Sunday the sixth straight that the players' strike has shut down NFL football. Under what the league describes as its scheduling constraints, calling off of next Sunday's games means a 12-game regular season schedule can only be played if the strike is settled in time for games scheduled for Nov. 7 and 8.
NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle has said previously that team owners had told him a 12-game schedule would be the minimum to preserve credibility. But yesterday he said "we might have to play less."
". . . It becomes important as to who you're playing. You've got to have a reasonable number of divisional games. If you go below that, it could be pretty chaotic. The fans will say you haven't got true divisional champions," he told Associated Press.
On the 36th day of the first regular-season players' strike against the NFL, Garvey; the union president, Gene Upshaw of the Los Angeles Raiders; and Mark Murphy of the Washington Redskins met with William Lubbers, National Labor Relations Board general counsel, trying to persuade Lubbers to go to court against the NFL.
The NFLPA wants Lubbers to persuade the five-member NLRB to seek an injunction against the NFL ordering it to bargain in good faith.
Garvey said the offer the players are being told to expect later this week is based on a plan by Al Davis, managing partner of the Raiders. He said it will include a percentage across-the-board pay increase and severance pay. Davis was unavailable for comment.
But Garvey said union members will be urged to turn it down because it only addresses one of the five main points that the players, in a meeting Sunday in Washington, reaffirmed must be included in a settlement. Those included an immediate and substantial salary increase, protection for older players from being cut for economic reasons, performance bonuses, elimination of pay inequities and a guarantee of a share of any future television revenues.
At his press conference yesterday, Garvey also said the Jan. 30 Super Bowl could be pushed back, making it possible to play a full schedule even if the strike drags on. Winter games in northern cities could be shifted to the Sun Belt or to domed stadiums, he said.
Moving back the Super Bowl would enable the NFL to "kill two birds with one stone," he said, because early spring NFL games would compete with the fledgling United States Football League, which opens its first season in March.
But Donlan denied the Super Bowl could be pushed back or northern games played in the south. "Garvey has made so many commitments to the players that he can't deliver on. Now he's promising them they're not going to lose any money," he said.
CBS Sports President Neal Pilson said yesterday extending the televised football season beyond the Super Bowl "would create serious scheduling problems for CBS," which has "extensive programming commitments" to such fare as NBA basketball, golf, the world figure-skating championships and NCAA basketball championships.
"We find it difficult to conceive of a situation where it would be economically attractive for the league to extend the season, because we (the network) would have to treat as costs . . . all those commitments that currently exist," Pilson said.