As National Football League teams prepare to pare down their rosters for the regular season, it still remains to be seen how management will react to those players who took an active role in last fall's 57-day strike.
Will management attempt to retaliate against outspoken player representatives? Or will management adopt a conciliatory forgive-and-forget approach?
The owners who sit on the management council vow that the byword for 1983 is cooperation.
"We have to get along," said Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney. "I don't have a conflict in philosophy with the union. I consider them equals."
"No owner will seek to effect any retribution," said Chuck Sullivan, executive vice president of the New England Patriots. "All the club owners would like to put the difficulties behind us and establish a better relationship ahead."
"We need a positive attitude between management and players," said Hugh Culverhouse, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the new chairman of the management council. "If both parties are willing to set high exemplary standards, this new relationship will be done."
Across the table, the NFLPA leadership expresses a desire to avoid the rancorous relationships that often characterized the attitudes of the two sides in years past.
"I don't see why an owner would carry this for a year," said Gene Upshaw, the union's new executive director and an all-pro tackle for the Raiders. "We need an attitude of fairness. The players should be judged solely on their ability. I want to believe that management wants a better relationship."
"The key is the ability to communicate with one another," said Brig Owens, assistant to the executive director of the NFLPA and a former safety for the Redskins. "We have to work to make sure that we all cooperate. This is not a good time for them to be retaliating."
"I hope we learned a lesson from the strike," said Redskins player rep Mark Murphy. "It would infuriate the union if they cut player reps. But the players and owners realize we're in it together. We have to coexist now."
Ed Garvey, now the assistant attorney general of Wisconsin, remains close to the NFLPA leadership, and anticipates that the NFL owners will attempt some form of retaliation.
"Certainly it's been the pattern in the past. You're dealing with vindictive people," Garvey said. "When they look back to see they lost $200 million, they're going to look for someone to blame. Hopefully, they'll blame me. I'll say that I duped the reps. It was all my idea.
"I just hope that the threat of NLRB action will deter most of them. I'm not sure how it's going to go because of McCullum."
Garvey was referring to Sam McCullum, the Seattle Seahawks player rep who was cut from the team last September, even though he had started all four exhibition games and was the team's second-leading receiver in 1981.
"I was cut because of my activities with the union," McCullum said at the time.
The NFLPA subsequently filed an unfair labor practice with the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB region for Seattle conducted an investigation to see if there was sufficient evidence to go forward. The regional office, acting as a prosecutor, filed a complaint with the NLRB. Then an administrative law judge in Seattle conducted a hearing May 17-20 and in New York June 6-10. The judge has not issued a decision; he has 30 to 120 days.
Either side may then appeal to the five-member NLRB, which will either uphold or reverse the administrative law judge. The appeals process continues if either side then takes the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
"The other side always appeals if the ruling is adverse," said Dick Berthelsen, staff counsel for the NFLPA. "They want to delay as long as possible to pay in cheaper dollars."
After the 1982 NFL season, two players, both members of the NFLPA Executive Committee, Stan White (Detroit) and John Bunting (Philadelphia), left their teams to play in the USFL.
Bunting was told his services were no longer wanted by the Eagles. At a news conference in February, Bunting said: "One would have to be naive not to think that there might be other factors involved. Certainly there is evidence to support" a retaliation theory.
Eagles Coach Marion Campbell denied that Bunting's role in the union had any part in dropping the the 11-year veteran starting linebacker from the team.
Garvey believes that Bunting was not signed because of his union role. "There's no doubt about it. Len Tose (Eagles owner) was an outspoken, antiunion militant. At the first opportunity he blamed Bunting (for the strike) at a team meeting. He also got rid of Louie Giammona (running back), who was also outspoken."
"I think that was John's claim," said Chuck Sullivan. "He and Lenny (Tose) had many exchanges during the strike. His termination was a personnel decision, which the major factor was his position (at linebacker). He was in the twilight of his career."
Owens, who played 12 years with the Redskins, remembers how management would attempt to intimidate him. "Every year they brought someone in to take my job. I knew the game that was being played. During contract negotiations they hold the threat of a job over your head to get the player rep to do what they want him to do. They always try to set the stage through the media to make a move."
Garvey will be one of many interested parties scrutinizing the list of training camp cuts. "Particularly with my departure and Gene coming in, it will be a testing ground. They'll probably cut a few player reps to baptize Gene."
"I just have to believe management is not going to do anything to rock the boat," Upshaw said.
"We'll just have to watch everything," said Murphy.