Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL players union, said yesterday the players are prepared to strike on Sept. 15, after the first weekend of regular season games, if contract talks do not develop fruitfully.

"We sent a 60-day notice {on July 15} to the clubs and to the National Labor Relations Board," Upshaw said after giving a progress report -- "no progress" -- to the New York Jets. "The notice expires with the playing of the first league game. Legally, the first day we can go out is Sept. 15. The players say they are ready to go . . .

"When do we strike? That's what {the players} are saying. When you hear from the stars of the league, there are a lot of guys who don't want to wait to strike after the first game. They want to go now."


Ali Haji-Sheikh, who holds the NFL record for most field goals in a season, 35 as a New York Giants rookie in 1983, was cut. He missed two of three in Atlanta's weekend exhibition against Kansas City.

Haji-Sheikh joined the Falcons last season as a free agent after Mick Luckhurst was injured. Luckhurst has performed well in this preseason.

Atlanta also traded second-year cornerback Dennis Woodberry to the Green Bay Packers for an undisclosed amount of money.


Receiver/returner Lew Barnes suffered a broken left leg in practice and is out for the season. Chicago traded guard Stefan Humphries to Denver for punter Bryan Wagner. And safety Gary Fencik, a Bears regular for 11 years, has been relegated to a reserve role.

Barnes returned 57 punts for 482 yards last season. He returned three kickoffs, including one for 85 yards and a touchdown.


The AFC club relinquished rights to two free agents who were starters at least part of last season -- fullback Tony Paige and linebacker Rusty Guilbeau.

"We're no longer trying to sign them," Coach Joe Walton said. "It was becoming unfair to the Jets and the players to carry this on any further. Both {players} would have had a hard time making the team without being here."

Guilbeau, 28, made $120,000 in 1986. DeMatha High School graduate Paige, 24, earned $115,000 in 1986, his third season out of Virginia Tech. Both were believed to be asking about $200,000.

Paige, a short-yardage specialist, totaled 18 touchdowns in 1984 and '85. Last season he gained 109 yards, 2.3 a carry, and scored twice.


Joey Browner didn't show up for afternoon workout, the second time in three weeks the Pro Bowl safety has been AWOL after missing nine days of camp -- and being fined $9,000 -- because, he said then, he had business obligations.

The Vikings will pass on Friday's supplemental draft for Cris Carter and Charles Gladman.


Offensive lineman Ron Essink, a one-time starter who walked out of Seattle's training camp Aug. 6, was acquired for an undisclosed draft pick. Dallas also signed former Jets receiver Lam Jones, who failed to stick with San Francisco this month, to a multiyear contract after a tryout.