NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw yesterday rejected a request from Jack Donlan, chief negotiator for the league's 28 owners, that Tuesday's strike deadline be postponed 30 days.

Upshaw said Donlan made "vague offers" about roster size and pension and asked in return that players reconsider their strike date so that games could continue while bargaining goes on.

Upshaw said he talked with seven player representatives, "and the players' response to that was, 'You're nuts.' In fact, a number of them want to strike before this weekend's games."

Upshaw said to delay the strike would decrease the union's leverage dramatically. If games continued for 30 days, as Upshaw said Donlan requested, the 28 NFL owners would get another payment from the television networks (approximately $98 million) which would help the owners better survive a long strike, he said.

"It would be a disaster for us to play through Oct. 3 because the owners would then have their money. It's a different payment schedule from what they had in 1982 when they got an advance payment from the networks of about $18 million {before a 57-day NFLPA strike}."

Donlan, after a midday meeting with Upshaw in a conference room at National Airport, flew back to New York without scheduling another meeting and declined to comment.

Upshaw said a strike seems inevitable, "but I believe we still have time to get there. In 1982 we made the deal over the phone. I'm not going to give up. I'm going to remain optimistic. I don't want to have my mind made up. I'm willing to accept changes, but they've got to come quick. We're up against it now."

Upshaw also said he would "give some serious thought" to accepting a mediator-arbitrator, "because they try to balance the equation." Upshaw said he hasn't asked the NFL Management Council about that possibility, but "I've been around long enough to know they'd say 'No' to that in a New York minute."

The owners have said they would like a mediator. But a mediator-arbitrator would "try to balance the equation, cut it right down the middle," Upshaw said.

After the airport meeting, Upshaw quoted Donlan as saying management was not willing to change the current system of free agency, under which only one player in 10 years changed clubs. "Jack said they were willing to change the numbers, but not the {compensation} system," Upshaw said, reading from his notes from the meeting.

"I said to him, 'Somehow, let's combine.' I'm willing to give him a piece of his system, but he wants us to just cave in . . . As far as I'm concerned, unless they're willing to move toward us somewhat, I don't see any way to avert a strike. We both feel that way."

Upshaw said Donlan told him "things could be worked out," insofar as roster size and a pension plan. "But he was so vague," Upshaw said. "He wasn't specific at all."

On another front, the College Football Association has contacted some major colleges to determine whether they would switch selected games to Sundays should the NFL players strike.

Dean Billick, an associate athletic director for the University of Pittsburgh, said that Pitt would consider moving the Oct. 10 game against Notre Dame to Sunday. CBS Sports spokesman Mark Carlson said "rescheduling games to Sunday" is one of the alternatives his network is considering in case of a strike.

Also, the Agent Advisory Committee met with the NFLPA yesterday. Leigh Steinberg, who represents several NFL quarterbacks, said the group came to Washington "with some real questions as to whether the union had done everything that could be done" to avert a strike.

Steinberg and several others among the six assembled agents left not only in support of the union's stand but questioning whether the owners were fully aware of the NFLPA's settlement proposals.

Steinberg said letters would go out to between 800 and 900 agents who are certified by the union, and that the letter would strongly urge free agents not accept offers from clubs to cross the picket lines and play through a strike.

"They'd have to walk past a picket line of players they'd hope to be a part of eventually," Steinberg said. "That's not a way to break into professional football, to have your compatriots know that they helped break a strike while they were out fighting for the best wages possible . . . Many of us represent players who've been cut, who are hoping to play one day. I've told guys that if they need the $1,000 that badly, I'd lend it to them myself."