Leaders of the National Football League Players Association appealed to NFL management yesterday for a resumption of contract negotiations, but management promptly turned down the request as the NFL's first regular-season players strike completed its 52nd day.
In a one-page message to the union, Jack Donlan, the NFL's chief labor negotiator, said the memorandum accompanying the request for resumption of talks "provides no basis for a settlement or the resumption of meaningful negotiations."
The NFLPA urged that the talks, which collapsed Saturday in New York, be resumed "in a spirit of compromise. . . we think it is time for you to realize that the union will not break, but we will bend."
Yesterday's exchange of messages came as players throughout the league met to vote on or discuss details of management's latest offer. That offer was presented to union negotiators Saturday, then sent to the NFL's 28 teams.
Predictably, management and union versions of how the offer was being received by rank-and-file players varied widely. By the union's count, only 125 players support accepting the offer while 1,455 are either opposed to it or don't think it is worth voting on.
Management says 10 clubs -- the Los Angeles Rams and Raiders, Dallas, Minnesota, New Orleans, Buffalo, Cincinnati, Denver, Houston, and Miami -- have voted approval of the package in one form or other. The union contends many of those clubs have attached so many conditions to their approval that they have, in fact, rejected it. Management denies this.
Donlan acknowledged, however, regardless of how players vote on the offer, he still must deal with union negotiators. He described sending the management offer to the clubs as "getting the facts out in response to an obvious need."
With eight weekends of NFL football already called off because of the strike, the sides are more than $200 million apart for 1983 and 1984, and are divided conceptually over whether the major portion of a player's salary should be paid according to a wage scale or negotiated individually.
For the current season, they are at odds over a bonus plan called "money now." Management has offered $60 million in bonuses of up to $60,000 per player once a contract is signed. The union wants bonuses of $91 million with larger bonuses for veteran players.
Donlan said yesterday he is confident the NFL owners "will want to revise the offer downward in the not too distant future to reflect the loss of revenues" if more games are called off because of the strike.
But he said management has compromised enough. "The vast economic and conceptual differences between us call for realism, not compromise," he said in his message to the union.
In requesting resumption of bargaining, the union said "compromise is the key word," but it also appeared to take seriously for the first time warnings by management that the season may be lost.
"We know that some of you could survive a nonseason, but we are confident none of you want that situation," the union said in its memorandum.
Last night, the union's executive committee and its board of player representatives were meeting in New York to consider further action.
In a related development, Val Pinchbeck, the NFL's director of broadcasting, confirmed he has begun meetings with officials of the television networks to discuss terms of refunding the $132.5 million the NFL has received in advances on telecasts of this season's games.