Negotiators for the National Football League and the striking NFL Players Association return to the bargaining table in New York today amid indications that NFL owners have prepared as many as five plans to present to mediator Sam Kagel in an effort to resolve the dispute, which enters its 40th day today.
While the NFL Management Council said flatly no new proposals will be forthcoming, other league sources said various plans for resolution of the dispute will be submitted to Kagel.
The plans were reported to have been unsolicited owner proposals from outside the management council, the league's bargaining arm.
Nevertheless, it was considered unlikely anything in the package would trigger a breakthrough. According to sources, all the plans fail to address three of the five major player concerns: elimination of wage inequities, a guaranteed fair share of future television income and protection for older players from being cut because they make too much money.
Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, met yesterday in Washington with the union's nine-member executive committee for a planning and strategy session. There was no change in the union's basic demand that the NFL establish a trust fund from which players would be paid on a seniority-based scale with performance incentive bonuses.
Garvey said earlier, however, the union would consider alternate proposals provided they meet five key NFLPA concerns, which also included immediate salary increases and performance incentive bonuses.
The talks beginning today, the first since Kagel called a recess in the bargaining a week ago after 12 days of attempting to mediate a settlement in Cockeysville, Md., are considered crucial because they may represent the last chance to preserve a 12-game regular season, the minimum many owners say is needed for a credible season.
With six games already lost to the strike, the NFL says a 12-game season will only be possible if there is a settlement in time for the players to return to practice facilities early next week to prepare for the Nov. 7 games.
No more than two games in the NFL's regular 16-game schedule can be made up, the league says, and the Jan. 30 Super Bowl date is inflexible.
But Garvey contends plans are already underway to move the Super Bowl -- scheduled to be played in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. -- back two weeks and play a 14-game schedule if a settlement is achieved early next week. The league denies this, saying moving the date of the Super Bowl would create a logistical nightmare.
In a related strike development, Garvey yesterday filed additional charges with the National Labor Relations Board charging Los Angeles Raiders managing partner Al Davis, Donlan, player agent Marvin Demoff and all NFL teams with violating federal labor laws by attempting to bypass the union and sell a settlement directly to the players.
According to the complaint, the plan is known as the Davis plan. It was reported to include salary increases and severance pay for all current players.
Donlan and the management council vigorously denied having anything to do with any such plan. Davis and Demoff could not be reached for comment. One high league source described the Davis plan as "being so ridiculous the owners and the players would both reject it."