Ed Garvey, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, said yesterday "there is not a lot of sentiment to go back out on strike" even if the union's members fail to ratify the tentative settlement reached last week with the NFL.
The general membership of the NFLPA will vote Dec. 3 on whether to ratify the agreement, while player representatives from the 28 teams vote next Tuesday to recommend its acceptance or rejection. Tentative agreement on terms of the accord, reached Nov. 16 in New York, ended the union's 57-day strike against the NFL, the longest walkout in professional sports in the nation's history.
Representatives from 24 teams met all day in Washington yesterday to discuss the proposed settlement and to decide on the ratification process for the five-year contract that sets aside $1.6 billion for player costs. Representatives not present were polled by telephone.
Gene Upshaw of the Los Angeles Raiders, president of the NFLPA, said a majority of the player representatives would not recommend accepting the agreement "as it stands now."
Players will be asked to sign their ballots "so we know where everyone stands." Should ratification fail, the union's executive committee has the authority to call the players back out on strike, although Garvey said sentiment was against that.
By the time players vote a week from Friday, each team will have played two games since the season was resumed. Each played two games before the strike began, then each had eight games called off. One game has been added to the end of the regular season so that each team will have nine this year.
Jack Donlan, executive director of the NFL Management Council, the league's labor negotiating arm, has said that if the players do not ratify the agreement, terms of the contract that expired July 15 will be in force. He said terms of the Nov. 16 offer will be reduced.
Tom Condon of the Kansas City Chiefs, a member of the union's executive committee, said several major issues remain unresolved. They include the possibility of an 18-game schedule next year without extra payment for the players, the length of the agreement between the union and the NFL on the college draft and regulations concerning a player's joining or rejoining the NFL after playing in the Canadian Football League.
Management has denied planning to play an 18-game schedule, but Garvey said that draft language for the proposed settlement would permit 18 games. The union wants that language to be more specific, he said.
"Our hope is that they do not win anything in drafting that they did not win at the bargaining table," Garvey said.
The disagreement over the college draft concerns a league demand that the agreement on this issue run through 1992. The union wants a shorter agreement.
On the CFL issue, the union opposes a league request to extend from two to four years the time when a player returning from Canada remains the property of his old NFL team if it matches the highest offer he receives from another team. In the case of players who go straight from college to the CFL, the league wants draft rights to remain in force for four years.
Garvey said the union has initialed its tentative approval of 90 to 95 percent of the agreement reached in New York last week and that he thinks the remaining issues can be resolved.
He said discussions are continuing with the NFL, and that the union's player representatives will vote on the present offer in whatever form it is in as of midnight Monday.
As the player representatives were gathering for yesterday's meeting they received telegrams from Paul Martha, a Pittsburgh lawyer and a former running back for the Steelers who served as an intermediary between the sides in the last three days before agreement was reached. The telegrams urged that the offer be presented to union members for a vote.
"I felt a complete agreement was reached in New York last Tuesday," Martha said.
In Dallas, Tex Schramm, president and general manager of the Cowboys, said if the season continues without a ratified contract, the schedule will have to be reduced to eight games and the proposed 16-team Super Bowl tournament will revert to the normal 10-game playoff system.
Schramm also was quoted by United Press International as saying that "without one ounce of qualification, I can say that management has never expressed a desire to expand the season to 18 games. That is a total diversionary tactic."