Even amid the beauty and opulence of this sun-and-fun resort, two of the the National Football League's lingering real-life concerns, drug usage and the players union, haven't gone away.

Unlike a year ago, when both topics dominated the annual league meetings, there is less discussion of them this week. But that doesn't necessarily mean that either no longer is a major concern.

For example, the league's 28 coaches today visited a nearby drug treatment center. The trip was a first for these meetings, but one league official explained it was "an extension" of the NFL's revitalized drug awareness program.

Significantly, it wasn't a quick visit. The coaches faced a day of lectures and education. The aim was to make them more aware of the effects of illegal drugs and how to handle drug problems on their teams.

The clinic was important, because coaches readily admit they remain puzzled and wary of the drug situation in the NFL.

"When you find out a player is using drugs or you think he is, you confront him and he's almost certain to deny it," said Jim Hanifan, coach of the St. Louis Cardinals. "Then what do you do? Maybe this session will help give us some answers."

Hanifan's team has had two significant drug cases in the past year, and he said he had difficulty confronting his players with the issue. "I had to do it, so finally I sat down with them and said, 'There is a problem here and we have to talk about it.' It was damn tough. But once it got going, we talked for a long, long time."

Said New York's Joe Walton: "We are still all in the learning process about this entire situation. You try to be honest with your players and convince them if they need help, they should seek it for their own good. But there is so much peer pressure to go along with everyone else and use things they shouldn't. It's tough for them."

The league believes that a year-long emphasis on drug awareness and treatment has begun to help. But no one is claiming that drug usage has stopped. Now, however, every team must have a formal, confidential mechanism to help players who seek treatment. That wasn't the case when these meetings took place last March in Phoenix.

Nor did the league have a new contract with its players union. It took a long, bitter strike to settle the labor difficulties, and now owners are beginning to grasp the financial impact of that new agreement.

Earlier in the week, Commissioner Pete Rozelle even indirectly praised Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFLPA, for the gains made by the players. Yet it is just as significant that NFL free agents have not been subjected to any increased bidding for their services, even though compensation rules were liberalized slightly.

One example is San Diego's Dan Fouts, who wants a $1 million a year contract. He has not been approached by any other teams. Jack Donlan, who negotiated the new contract for the league, today indicated that lack of interest in Fouts doesn't mean free agency in the NFL still is meaningless.

Instead, Donlan predicted there would be increased free agent movement during the five-year contract. But he said he felt NFL owners were "more prudent" contract negotiators than their counterparts in baseball or basketball.

"Just because baseball and basketball has done it doesn't mean it's right," Donlan said. "Both those sports have gotten themselves in a situation where they have had to try to buy back parts of old contracts that have proven too costly. We don't want to get ourselves in that situation."

Under the new agreement, the union must approve all agents for veterans negotiating new contracts. Donlan said clubs have complained that the union's approval process is slow, but he said the NFL would wait before considering filing a grievance to speed up the process.