Gene Upshaw, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, and NFL Comissioner Pete Rozelle met yesterday in Rozelle's office and discussed the cases of five Dallas Cowboy players whose names have come up during a federal investigation into cocaine trafficking.
Rozelle said the NFL will wait to see if there is judicial action involving the players before deciding whether to become involved in the matter.
"We discussed a lot of things, and this was only mentioned in passing," said Rozelle. "We talked about some of our problems, but at this point we can't make any judgment."
Upshaw was en route to Chicago afterward and unavailable for comment. But Brig Owens, one of his assistants, said, "This whole thing is crazy. We've got to get some policy guidelines."
The Cowboys--running backs Tony Dorsett and Ron Springs, defensive ends Harvey Martin and Larry Bethea and wide receiver Tony Hill--were named in media accounts over the weekend and were said to have figured in cocaine investigations. But the extent and nature of their alleged involvement was unclear.
About a year ago, during a trial in Dallas of a major drug dealer named John Russell Webster, Martin was said by a codefendant, Danny Stone, to have participated in the purchase of cocaine on at least one occasion. Martin has heatedly denied the charges.
More recently, in connection with an investigation into the activities of an accused cocaine smuggler, Lauriberto Ignacio, the other names surfaced, and last week Hill and Martin were subpoenaed to testify as defense witnesses in Ignacio's trial.
Tex Schramm, the president and general manager of the Cowboys, said that four of the players, Dorsett, Martin, Bethea and Springs, would cooperate with authorities in any further investigation.
"I have no indication they are suspected of any illegalities," Schramm said. "We've been aware of this. It's not a new situation. I was told about it by our National Football League security people in New York and that four players, through their attorneys, had talked to authorities on the basis of 'tell us what you want to know.' "
But at the Cowboys' training camp in Thousand Oaks, Calif., Schramm told United Press International that federal authorities agreed not to prosecute the players on charges of possession of cocaine if they entered a "pretrial diversion" program. Prosecutors are rethinking that decision, Schramm said.
"I'm unhappy about it. This is something that's been going on for a year, and it's still not resolved," Schramm said.
The Dallas Times-Herald reported that federal authorities had threatened to charge Dorsett with possession of cocaine unless he testified against his teammates but that Dorsett refused to cooperate. Dorsett has denied having used cocaine.
Charles Jackson, assistant director of security for the NFL, declined comment other than to say, "It's being looked into."
Meanwhile, as the Cowboys prepared to open their camp, Coach Tom Landry said he will monitor the situation, but has no plans to take disciplinary action.
"Obviously, I don't plan to take any action against them at this time," Landry said, according to The Associated Press. "Really, I don't have much reaction to this. There isn't much here that I didn't already know. All that has happened in the last few days is that we've gotten some publicity over this thing."
But Landry also said the controversy could interfere with his players' concentration on football.
"If I was in a player's shoes, sure I'd be distracted," Landry said. "I wouldn't be able to put my complete concentration on business."
He said he has no indications that any of the Cowboy players have need of an extensive drug rehabilitation program.
"There is nothing here that would make me believe that any of our players would need to go into a rehabilitation clinic for the 28-day program," Landry said. "But I don't know all of the mechanics of how this drug situation works."
As part of the collective bargaining agreement reached last November between the NFL and the NFLPA the two sides selected the Minnesota-based Hazelden Foundation to conduct an educational program for NFL players regarding drug abuse and to evaluate drug rehabilitation programs available for NFL players.