Representatives of the National Football League Management Council and the NFL Players Association met for five hours yesterday and scheduled another bargaining session for 9 a.m. today, but reported almost no progress in talks to avert a Sept. 22 players strike.

"There's no movement on any of the issues," NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw said after emerging from the meeting at the Ramada Renaissance Hotel near Dulles International Airport.

"This is the type of session, in my opinion, that we should have had months and months and months ago," said Jack Donlan, the Management Council executive director. "We've had a lot of difficulty getting them to the bargaining table.

"I think the only encouraging thing is that we met for probably the longest period of time that we have met," Donlan said. "We've got some very, very, very large issues out there and, in the meeting, we spent a lot of time today in the short grass . . . Today, it seemed to me, we were really into the itty bitty steps."

In the two sides' first negotiating session since Sept. 2, Donlan said he reiterated a management proposal for mediation in the labor dispute. Upshaw reiterated the union's position and said no.

"At the end of today, because time is running out," Donlan said, "we once again proposed, 'Why don't we jointly ask for a mediator? Why don't we go to mediation?' Obviously, these negotiations are in trouble. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out."

Upshaw has said the NFLPA is opposed to mediation because there still are many issues to be resolved, not just one or two final issues.

The main issue, free agency for the players, was not discussed yesterday, Upshaw said. Management has expressed staunch opposition to the players' desire for free agency so they can shop their services.

"We go round and round and round but it always comes back to {free agency}," Donlan said.

Upshaw said the union representatives reviewed management's Sept. 7 proposal for a settlement "line by line." Both sides said the union made counterproposals on the issues of meal money, minimum salary and drug testing, but nothing was resolved.

"If that's progress, I guess we made some," Upshaw said of the meal money issue.

"The theme is still running through," Upshaw said of the Management Council's proposal. "That theme was you either accept our position or you can strike. It hasn't changed."

Donlan said the union presented no written counterproposal.

"It's our opinion that their head is still in their April 20 proposal, which was their opening proposal, and they've said that on a couple of occasions when they're asked," Donlan said. "It seems to us that part of the bargaining philosophy here really isn't 'How does it benefit the player' but rather 'How does it hurt the club.' "

The two sides met near Dulles at the insistence of the Washington-based union, Donlan said.

The 28 NFL owners voted unanimously Thursday to play games during a possible work stoppage by some 1,600 union players.