According to a copyrighted story in yesterday's New York Daily News, well-placed sources in the National Football League say that as many as 50 percent of the players in the league use cocaine and that more than 20 percent of the NFL's 1,372 players are "hard core" users.

The newspaper said that at least five members of the Super Bowl champion Washington Redskins use cocaine. The story did not name any names.

"On the average," said one source quoted in The News, "there are about 10 players on a team that are hard core. The numbers are higher than many people could imagine."

League sources said that usage of cocaine among the 28 teams varies from very little, if any, on two teams to "epidemic proportions" on several others.

The New York Jets and the New York Giants were named by a source as the two "cleanest" teams in the league.

According to the paper, sources say that NFL security is aware of 34 cases of drug use on the Dallas Cowboys. Sources also say that the San Francisco 49ers may even have a higher number of users than the Cowboys.

Miami, loser to the Redskins in last year's Super Bowl, was named by sources to each have at least five users.

Tom Landry, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, said he doesn't believe the figures.

"Of course, we have a problem, as does the rest of society," he said.

Coach Bill Walsh of the 49ers, calling the story "pure unadulterated sensationalism," said: "If there's any NFL employee involved (as source for the allegations), he's a disgrace to himself and to the league."

Arthur Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns, said, "How extensive is it in the NFL? I don't know. I do know it is a problem. I do share the belief that it is more widespread than people thought."

Bobby Beathard, general manager of the Washington Redskins, said of the report, "That surprises me. I wouldn't think that would be true of our players. I don't know who knows anything anymore. Of course, we were surprised about Tony Peters."