As Jack Donlan and Gene Upshaw agreed to meet today at an undisclosed location at an undisclosed time, National Football League teams continued to finalize plans to bring in new players in case of a players' strike next week.
A high-ranking executive from an AFC team said he understood that each of the league's 28 teams has commitments from 10-40 players ready to report to camp Tuesday and begin practice Wednesday.
Sources said the Redskins have about 20 players set and the Philadelphia Eagles 18. The Dallas Cowboys, whose president, Tex Schramm, is an advocate of continuing the season with replacement teams, have signed even more.
Clubs unable to field teams would have to forfeit games and likely face additional league penalties, a source said.
John Kent Cooke, the Redskins' executive vice president, declined to comment on specifics of his team's contingency plans. "I think we'll be ready if we have to do it," he said. "But I hope, of course, that we don't have to do it."
The league has notified the television networks that, in the event of a strike, games scheduled Sept. 27 and 28 would be postponed until after the 16th and final regular season games, and the replacement players would compete in their first games Oct. 4 and 5.
Today's meeting between Upshaw, the executive director of the NFL Players Association, and Donlan, his counterpart on the Management Council, comes one day after Upshaw met with 20 national labor union leaders to gain support for what is seemingly an inevitable strike Tuesday.
Upshaw said last night he believes today's meeting with Donlan will be "management's piecemeal attempt to engage me into some areas where they can make some movement. But I'm not about to enter into piecemeal bargaining. What it amounts to is an attempt by management to delay the players from striking."
Upshaw has been predicting for the last two weeks that the Management Council would "come forth with a big bribe" two or three days before the strike deadline, in hopes of making the players push back the strike deadline by a week or so.
"But the players are telling me that unless we have an agreement, we're not going to stall," Upshaw said. "If we put off our strike date for a week or two, they'd have approximately 50 percent of their revenue from TV."
Donlan called for the face-to-face meeting two days ago as a way of trying something different in the stalemated talks in which the two sides have agreed on only one issue: the number of minicamps a new coach is allowed.
Negotiations broke off Tuesday, each side claiming the other doesn't want to negotiate.
Donlan was unavailable for comment yesterday.
Of signing replacement players, one club executive said many players cut during training camp who might want to play have returned to school or have taken a job in another line of work. Other players, including several former Redskins, have declined offers because they did not want to be known as strikebreakers.
Although there has been widespread publicity that most NFL teams are paying a $1,000 option to players who were cut in training camp, the AFC executive said "roughly half" the players set to play for his team have received an option payment, and some of them received as little as $100.
Some teams are talking to players cut by other teams in order to fill out their roster. But most executives want to sign as many players who are familiar with their systems as possible. Defensive linemen, sources said, are the most difficult players to find.
A league official said that most teams will honor the terms of the contract the player had when he was cut. The minimum salary for rookies last season was $50,000 and management has proposed a $60,000 entry-level wage scale for them this year. The replacement players will be paid on a prorated, per-game basis.
A team may sign new players for less than what the player's original contract called for, but is prohibited by labor law from offering more than what the original contract provided. By offering more, a business leaves itself open to charges of unfair labor practices.
While NFL payrolls would be reduced, owners likely would have to refund some ticket money and the television rights fees likely would be reduced after the networks made rebates to advertisers.
It is unclear what will happen to players on injured reserve. In 1982, when the NFL struck for 57 days and the players were locked out by management, all players on injured reserve were deemed eligible to play at the end of the strike.
The union has asked players on injured reserve to join the strike and to seek rehabilitation at the team physician's office, according to Doug Allen, NFLPA assistant executive director. John Jones, a management spokesman, said players on injured reserve who cross picket lines for rehabilitation and participation in team meetings will be paid; he said the league probably will arrange rehabilitation at other sites for striking players who will not be paid.
Allen said Upshaw met with approximately 20 union heads yesterday, including leaders of six of the nation's largest labor unions, then huddled with AFL-CIO President Lane Kirkland and secretary-treasurer Tom Donahue. From that meeting apparently came a plan for an AFL-CIO leader in each of the 28 NFL cities to assist the players union members in such matters as walking the picket line and supplying office space.