The last time the NFL players struck, Dave Butz kept working. What he decided to tackle was a project, a home computer gone contrary.

Butz and a friend often tinkered on the machine well into the night, not knowing there would be 57 days of idle time. New parts here, caulking there until . . .

"Everything we tried didn't amount to a hill of beans. I've got a new computer."

A day short of five years since its first work stoppage of the '80s, the NFL is prepared for another. Call it Strike II, because anything that dares affect the Super Bowl in the slightest should also be accorded Roman numeral distinction.

If his pals bolt Tuesday, Redskin Butz will opt for pleasure.

"Some hunting, I suppose."

Looking ahead, Butz said a strike "seems inevitable." Looking back, he and most other strikers recalled too much uncertainty and too much leisure from Sept. 20 until Nov. 17, 1982.

Wives may have felt as Mrs. Paul Brown did during her husband's five years between running the Cleveland Browns and running the Cincinnati Bengals: "I married you for better or for worse, but not for lunch."

Prudent players always are preparing for some sort of career interruption -- or career change -- more sudden than a strike. An ankle gets twisted out of shape and an NFL paycheck sometimes quickly stops.

"If you don't get paid during the offseason, and I don't think most of us do," said Monte Coleman, "that's just like a strike."

The average NFL salary is $230,000. After Monday's paycheck, the average player will have earned $28,750 for two weeks of fairly fierce manual labor.

Rookies would figure to be hardest pressed during a strike, their salaries being relatively low and their sense for saving not yet close to fully developed.

"I was coming off a year when I made $35,000," linebacker Mel Kaufman said of the '82 strike. "It was tough, so I went to Los Angeles and stayed with my family. Worked out and hung around with my friends.

"I'm in better shape {financially} this time. Plus I sell commercial real estate in the offseason, so I can get into that {if the anticipated Strike II lasts anywhere near as long as the other}."

In any strike, NFL management hopes its players are like the rest of us working stiffs -- deep into deficit spending. If the week's wages are $200, we have $5 left after bills; if the pay is five times as much, we still end up looking sadly at Lincoln's mug.

"It wasn't a problem {making ends meet} last time," said kicker Steve Cox, "and it really shouldn't be this time."

"I played lots of golf," said center Russ Grimm. "Got my handicap dropped seven notches, from 30 to 23."

"I mowed a lot of grass," said guard R.C. Thielemann.

"I hung out, worked out quite a bit," said linebacker Rich Milot. "But I don't remember doing anything special."

For kicker Cox, the timing was especially bad.

"I was with the Browns at the time," he said, "and if you didn't do well early, get your stats up the first part of the year, you were in deep trouble.

"That's because the {cold weather} really gets you late in the season. So we're on strike during the third through the ninth week. We come back and it's subzero and the field's terrible. That was hard."

Doubt about how long the strike would last kept many players from returning to hometowns and a lower standard of living, or from taking any meaningful part-time jobs.

"We kept hearing: 'This'll be the last week, this'll be the last week,' " said middle linebacker Neal Olkewicz. "I believe I did get in one weekend at the beach."

Had Cox realized the strike was going to last so long, he would have gone back to Arkansas and resumed training as a banker. He hopes that will be his career after football.

Cox has friends his age making a fraction of his salary. Cox also knows it will take an exceptional effort for him to be as qualified as many full-time bank employes years younger when he leaves football.

"I'll be trying to close the gap with 26-year-old kids," he said.

One of the reasons the Redskins were able to recover best from the strike in '82 was that most of the team routinely practiced together. Also, while some staffs bolted for golf much of the time, Redskins coaches coached.

More accurately, they thought.

"We maintained our regular routine," said assistant head coach/offense Joe Bugel. "There always seemed a chance for games early in the week, so we'd be drawing up game plans well past midnight.

"Getting off at 1 or 2 a.m. was routine. When the games got canceled, we'd spend weekends with our families. But the next Monday would be film-breakdown day, like it always was. And so on. Thursday, we'd arrive with open ears {to see if the games were on or off that week}."

If Strike II becomes reality, Redskins coaches will arrive at the office with open ears and open arms. On the scene will be an entire new team, we've been led to believe, if it can get by Olkewicz, gimpy though he may be, and some others in the parking lot.