Joe Gibbs and the rest of the Washington Redskin coaching staff will begin scouting college draft prospects today, a reflection of what Gibbs calls his "gut feeling" that the NFL season will not be resumed because of the players union strike.
"I am very, very pessimistic," Gibbs said. "Maybe they can work out something and the season can be played. But common sense dictates that you have to reorder your priorities. We've done about as much as we can watching film."
Gibbs' decision came on the strike's 50th day, equaling the length of the 1981 baseball strike. An NFL Management Council spokesman said there was no formal contact yesterday with the players union and that no date had been set for resumption of negotiations, which terminated Saturday.
But league officials also acknowledged that the NFL would attempt to resume play, if possible, at whatever point the strike is settled, even if it means playing a seven- or eight-game schedule. So far, eight weekends of games, including this weekend's, have been canceled. That supports the union's contention that the NFL has no intention of canceling the season.
And, for the first time, Ed Garvey, NFLPA executive director, said at a New York press conference that the next 48 hours are crucial because "even if you accept our timetable for moving the schedule . . . you do start to run out of time." The union has maintained that a full 16-game schedule still can be played.
Two more teams, the Los Angeles Rams and Houston, reportedly have voted to accept the last NFL proposal, according to league sources.
Oilers players voted 27-5, with four abstentions, to accept in principle the contract offer, Oilers linebacker Gregg Bingham confirmed last night. Bingham was careful to point out, however, that the owners would need to change several items in their offer, including guaranteeing the players 1982 wages and clarifying language in several other sections of the proposal.
"All they've got to do is change those few things and we can get back to playing football," Bingham said. "I've talked to the Steelers and Cowboys and a friend of mine on the team has talked to the Bengals. That's four teams right there who are basically saying the same thing."
The Rams' vote apparently was taken by only half the team. The only other team to accept the proposal is New Orleans, although these team votes have no formal impact on the union. Dallas players said they would accept the proposal with some changes. At least 15 teams have voted down the proposal.
In Denver, the Broncos' six captains met to look at the contract offer, but a spokesman said the entire team probably would not formally vote on the issue before today.
In other developments:
* The management council filed an unfair labor practices charge against the union for the NFLPA's alleged harassment of Russell Erxleben, New Orleans' player representative. Erxleben said yesterday that he had been indirectly threatened by union officials for public statements opposing NFLPA positions.
* In response to union claims that the league wants to eliminate the present four-man taxi squad, a league spokesman said the NFL would be willing to accept the 45-man roster plus four injured reserve positions for the rest of the 1982 season, and 49 uniformed players plus two on injured reserve for the first two weeks after resumption of play.
* Miami owner Joe Robbie, saying he is losing more than $1 million a week, said he would face "financial disaster before he would support giving control of the league to Ed Garvey."
* Pittsburgh President Dan Rooney said that resuming negotiations any time soon would be useless because the last round of bargaining was "a circus."
"The players don't know how to claim victory," said Rooney, considered by the union to be a moderate owner. "We made a very substantive wage offer . . . a tremendous offer. It's hard for me to fathom what they are doing."
Mark Murphy, Redskins player representative and member of the union's negotiating committee, said the players did bargain in New York, pointing to the union decision to move off its wage scale tied to a central fund proposal.
"They said the central fund was a problem so we came up with a new proposal, yet they still say we don't do any bargaining," Murphy said. In place of a central fund, the union now has proposed that each team guarantee a minimum salary pool each year. In 1983, that pool would be $10.85 million per team. In 1984, it would grow to $11.42 million. Each team would have to pay out its entire pool every year, through salaries, incentives and bonuses.
The management council's unfair practice complaint charges that "on or about Oct. 5, 13, 25, Nov. 8 and other dates both before and after those dates" Erxleben was harassed and threatened by union officials. Named specifically in the complaint were Gene Upshaw, union president, and Elvin Bethea, Houston Oilers player representative.
Erxleben said yesterday that "I have received threats, indirectly from several sources, saying that Ed Garvey would have my leg broken and all this stuff. When I called Garvey he laughed and denied it and said it was all bull, just people starting stuff. I'm not saying Garvey said it, you can figure that out yourself. He didn't say it directly to me."
Garvey denied the management council charges, calling them absurd.