Saying there is "nothing to discuss with the Baltimore Colts," John Elway's attorney said yesterday his client will meet with the New York Yankees early next week and is prepared to sign a contract at that time to play professional baseball.
"I have no indication that Baltimore will try to make a deal to trade John," said Elway's attorney, Marvin Demoff of Los Angeles. "The Colts have been unreasonable on this thing all along. I don't see any reason for them to change. John will not play in Baltimore. It's that simple."
Not according to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle, who yesterday told United Press International he is willing to step in and help the Colts. "If they asked me, I would certainly try to see if something could be worked out," Rozelle said. "But I'm sure they will be hearing directly from clubs now . . . It's not over."
The Colts declined all offers for Elway, the Stanford all-America considered the best prospect in years, before and during the NFL draft Tuesday, including one from the Washington Redskins. Baltimore chose Elway on the first pick of the draft and insisted it would try to sign him.
"That's not going to happen," Demoff said, adding that Elway will take the next few days off "just to clear his head and try to sort things out, reflect on what's happened. I'll be setting up a meeting with the Yankees, and John and his father will be at the meeting. If we reach an agreement, we will sign that day. We are not going to shop a deal around.
"The Yankees have been extremely courteous with the Elways. They called Tuesday after John was drafted and reassured him of their interest. We've already agreed on all the principles in the contract. Yes, we talked about five years, with the option to get out of it. There did not seem to be any disagreement on anything."
The Colts were not saying much yesterday. General Manager Ernie Accorsi did not return phone calls.
Around the NFL, the Colts' selection of Elway was a major topic of conversation long after the 12-round, 18-hour draft ended at 2 a.m. yesterday. There were several theories on how the Colts got themselves into this position, and some sympathy for a team that has won one game in the last two years and seems headed for another difficult season in 1983.
"Everybody says this kid was a franchise player and, if he is, then you'd better be prepared to give a franchise for him," said Mike Hickey, director of player personnel for the New York Jets. "Don't try to be cute. If this kid is the best since Joe Namath, you have to give up a whole lot. You need a rare deal.
"Five No. 1 choices is a rare deal. If it was any other position in the draft, or any other player, no. But five No. 1s is not unrealistic for a John Elway. There were some people who made insulting deals to them. If you're playing hardball, don't step up to the plate with a softball bat. People were trying to take advantage of the situation."
Before the draft, the San Diego Chargers and Los Angeles Raiders talked seriously with the Colts, and the night before the draft the Raiders came very close to swinging a trade with Chicago that would have given them an extra first-round choice and allowed them to make a deal for Elway.
Once the Colts had drafted Elway, several other teams made bids. The Redskins and Atlanta Falcons offered first- and second-round picks this year and next year. The New England Patriots tried No. 1 picks from 1983-1985. The Seattle Seahawks put together a package of veteran players and draft choices.
But the Colts, apparently with owner Bob Irsay making the final decision, said no to all of them.
"A crazy thing to do," said one NFL executive. "Who knows why. Frank Kush is a tough guy, but this seems so ridiculous. Why not get players who can help you now instead of getting nothing?"
"It's an unusual series of circumstances," said Dick Steinberg, director of player development for the Patriots. "We were interested, but we're in the same division as they are. The Chargers had the choices, but then they signed their own quarterback (Dan Fouts) and it wasn't so urgent. The Raiders only had one No. 1 pick. And, of course, the kid himself had other options. We made them a very good offer. They weren't interested.
"The lesson to be learned is that you take the best value you can get for your team and not worry about it."
Giants General Manager George Young said he admired the Colts for taking the risk.
"It took a lot of fortitude to do that," he said. "I applaud their conviction. I felt all along the Colts would try to make a fair and equitable trade and if they couldn't, they'd pick him. They didn't want to get bloodied by a bad deal. That would be worse than taking the guy.
"I'm also not so sure about all these deals that I keep reading about. I don't think the teams in the league made the kind of offers I hear. In this business, the world is always telling you to cave in, but it's always easier for somebody else to say that. That fact they didn't cave in impresses me greatly, especially in the 1980s."
Still, the Colts are being perceived around the league as the big loser in the draft. The big winners?
The Houston Oilers, who had an outstanding draft a year ago, get high marks from an informal survey of a half-dozen general managers. The Oilers had eight of the top 88 choices in the draft and used their first two to get blocking for Earl Campbell: Southern Cal tackle Bruce Matthews in the first and tackle Harvey Salem of California in the second.
The Chicago Bears also did well. "We are looking at three potential starters next year," said Coach Mike Ditka, speaking of Pitt tackle Jimbo Covert (first round), Tennessee wide receiver Willie Gault (first round) and Arizona State safety Michael Richardson (second round).
The Chargers, with three selections in the first round, the Bills, with two picks in the first round, and the Los Angeles Rams, with six choices in the first four rounds, including game-breaking running back Eric Dickerson, also had excellent drafts.