The contract between the NFL players and management expires at midnight, a few hours after the NFL Players Association's nine-member executive committee meets behind closed doors today to consider a strike deadline.

Dick Berthelsen, the NFLPA's general counsel, said the policy-making executive committee, headed by union president Marvin Powell of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is planning to consider a deadline for a walkout.

"We'll be talking about the status of negotiations and I'm sure the subject of a strike deadline will come up. I can't say that there'll be an actual decision on that, but I'm sure it will be considered," Berthelsen said.

The union gave its mandatory 60 days notice of a possible strike to the National Labor Relations Board and the league's 28 teams on July 15, meaning the earliest strike date would be Sept. 15, after the first weekend of the regular season.

The talks for a new three-year contract have reached a stalemate.

There are several sticky issues in the contract talks.

The union is demanding unfettered free agency to allow a player whose contract has expired to seek employment with other teams, an increase in guaranteed contracts and an increased contribution from management to the players' pension fund.

Management wants a restrictive rookie salary scale and mandatory random drug testing for all players.