Although Redskins players are bored, anxious to start playing again and not all in agreement on the wage scale concept, a vast majority remains solidly behind union leaders in negotiations with the National Football League.
"What you have here is a gutty bunch of guys who are sticking to their guns," said quarterback Joe Theismann, a long-time wage scale opponent who conducted a brief telephone survey of teammates Tuesday.
"My position has never changed, but you are at a point (in the strike) where you have to go with a majority of your team, no matter what you feel," said Theismann, who left a team meeting Tuesday night convinced that speaking out against the wage scale would hurt the union.
"That majority strongly backs the union. What are we going to do now? Crawl back on our knees and beg for mercy? We've come this far, we have to get something out of the strike."
Interviews with striking Redskins, conducted this week by The Washington Post, plus previous interviews with Washington players prior to the first union all-star game Oct. 17, support Theismann's conclusions. Twenty-six players were interviewed.
* The players believe this is an ideal time for the owners to make a new proposal, even if it doesn't contain the union's wage scale tied to a central fund.
Although a small number of Redskins don't support the wage scale, every player interviewed said he was puzzled by the owners' refusal to make a new contract offer. The players say they would seriously consider a new proposal, as long as the owners are willing to give significant, guaranteed salary increases and other long-term benefits.
"We've got five main points we want the owners to answer with a proposal," said middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz. "I support a wage scale because that seems to be the only way to cover those five points. But if the owners have another idea, let's see it. It seems to me they want this to happen. If they wanted to have solved it, they could have given us something good in training camp and half the guys would have taken it and this would be over."
* If the NFL invited players back to camp, no more than a handful of Redskins would report, perhaps none.
"The majority of the team won't go in and I've got to live with the majority of the team," said LeCharls McDaniel, a second-year cornerback who supports the wage scale "because in the long run it will benefit players like me who had to come up the hard way."
* Some players want owner Jack Kent Cooke to become involved in strike talks. They believe he could end the stalemate.
"Mr. Cooke already has said we deserve more money," tackle Mark May said. "I think he has the expertise and the experience to negotiate a settlement. I don't understand why the league doesn't utilize his talents."
Since the strike started, Cooke has declined to comment publicly.
* Most players say they can survive financially despite the continuing strike. A few said they might have to look for a job if the work stoppage lasts more than another two weeks.
* Almost every player agrees with union leaders, who say the season will not be cancelled no matter how long the strike lasts. But not every Redskin is convinced that a full 16-game schedule can be played or that the Super Bowl can be rescheduled.
"This season will be salvaged," Theismann said. "I think they will play up to 14 games, at least. There is too much at stake for both parties to let the season slide away."
Theismann said he began his phone survey "out of curiosity. No. 1, to make sure the guys understand what is going on and, No. 2, I wanted their opinion outside of a peer pressure situation." He declined to reveal the outcome.
Among those on the team opposed to the present wage scale concept are Theismann, safety Tony Peters, safety Curtis Jordan and rookie tight end Mike Williams. Probably another six or eight players also would prefer that the union drop the demand if that would lead to a settlement. But there are another 25-30 who would support the wage scale strongly, at least until the owners offer a viable alternative. A few players, mostly rookies, have no opinion.
"The wage scale isn't for me," said Williams. "Maybe one way to do it would be to increase each person's salary by a certain percentage. I still support the union, but if the season is cancelled, the union should be disbanded."
But first-year receiver Charlie Brown said "a lot of people are underpaid and the wage scale would get a fair share for everyone. Everyone feels that way, I think."
Peters, who would perfer that the season be resumed while the negotiations continue, is concerned about losing one of the last peak years of his career.
"I've played eight years and I haven't got many left," he said. "I just wouldn't want the whole season ruined because of the wage scale. No one figured it would go this long. But for now, we are all going to wait a while longer and see what the owners do. Everyone thinks they'll come up with a proposal by the end of the week. I hope that's true."
Linebacker Rich Milot: "I think management wants us to be a weak union when this is over; that's their long range goal. The guys know that and it's making us stronger . . . We just want a fair settlement."
As the strike moves into its 38th day, the Redskins find it difficult to combat boredom and frustration.
Players involved in the passing game work out together frequently. Defensive end Mat Mendenhall has used the time to hone his skeet shooting techniques. Safety Mike Nelms has dropped 10 strokes off his golf game. McDaniel says he's become "a professional television watcher." A few players now are soap opera addicts. May reads novels.
Halfback Nick Giaquinto spent a few days in the Bahamas when the strike started, then visited relatives in Connecticut. Now he has lots of time and not even a TV to watch. "When (roommate) Pat Ogrin went home to Montana, he took everything he owned, including the TV," said Giaquinto. He's avoiding looking for a job "because I hate to work. That's why I'm playing football."
McDaniel had hoped to save money to fund his studies for a master's degree. "Instead, my savings are going out instead of coming in," he said. "It'll get tighter next week, when everyone's rent comes due.
"This strike . . . it's like living with nothing again, just like I did when I was in college. I made it then, and I'll make it now. I guess we all will."