As prospects for resuming negotiations quickly in pro football's five-day-old players' strike appeared dim, NFL Players Association Executive Director Gene Upshaw said yesterday he was talking with several television networks about the possibility of forming a players league.

Upshaw declined to name whom he is talking with, but the Atlanta Constitution and Journal, in its Sunday editions, quoted a Fox Broadcasting Co. vice president as saying his network was talking to the NFLPA. At this stage, Upshaw said such talks are not a priority, but an option.

In New York, John Jones, a spokesman for the NFL Management Council, the owners' negotiating arm, said chief negotiator Jack Donlan has a full schedule through Wednesday with meetings and conference calls planned among the owners. That would make it impossible for him to meet with the union before Thursday at the earliest.

"I can't sit around my office and wait for Donlan to call," Upshaw said. "I'm not going to sit here at my desk and let them isolate me from my players."

Upshaw said his main concerns now were scheduling regional meetings with his players to update them on issues and strategy and continuing efforts to shut down stadiums next Sunday when the league tries to resume its schedule with what Upshaw and other union leaders call "scab teams."

Today's games were called off by the league on Thursday. As it did at the start of a 57-day strike in 1982, the NFL did not say whether the game will be made up. But the Boston Globe reported in today's editions that the NFL will announce this week that the games will not be made up.

While such a move would cost each of the league's 28 teams about a net $1 million income, it would continue what Upshaw says is a pattern to break the union by stalling negotiations and dividing the membership. In this case, the players are being told they've already lost one week's pay and it won't be made up later.

Picket lines were either nonexistent or thinly manned in some NFL cities yesterday. But Upshaw, in a telephone interview from his Washington office, said this should not be interpreted as a blow to the union's solidarity. In San Francisco, 49ers quarterback Joe Montana, a nonunion member, was quoted in a radio interview as saying that "there's always {the} possibility" he would cross the picket line and join a handful of NFLPA members who are not striking.

"We told them {the players} to go home, visit their families, go to church Sunday and pray for the owners," Upshaw said about the reduced picketing yesterday. "Everyone's pointing to {stopping} the scab games."

The ability of the NFL to successfully field teams next Sunday and play competitive games and, on the other hand, the union's success at making them what assistant executive director Doug Allen calls an "unmitigated disaster" likely will decide which side ultimately wins this labor dispute.

The key issue, according to the owners, is free agency, the only roadblock in their eyes preventing an agreement from being reached. The union said seven major issues remain to be resolved and that each one is as important as the other because, "It's like a stack of dominoes," Upshaw said. "If we knock one down, they'll knock the next one down, claiming it is unreasonable. Then they'll knock the next one down, and the next one."

Upshaw said the union is studying the possibility of a televised players' league as an alternative because of the hard-line position the owners took during three days of negotiations in Philadelphia that ended Friday and produced no progress and no scheduled future talks.

"When you are told by {Dallas Cowboys President} Tex Schramm that the owners are the stewards of the games and we are the transient workers who come and go, and the fans come to the games to see the uniforms, not the players, we have to look at alternatives," Upshaw said. "I think the people come to see the players, not the uniforms."

In 1982, the NFLPA staged three all-star games televised by Turner Broadcasting System. Those games, played when the league locked out the players during a 57-day strike, were not well received by the public. Upshaw said the players' league would keep players intact on the original teams.

Redskins General Manager Bobby Beathard questioned the legality of the plan.

"I think it would be illegal because the players are under contract with the club and the club is under contract with the NFL {which is under contract with ABC, NBC, CBS and ESPN}," Beathard told the Associated Press. "But I'm not sure. I'm not a lawyer."

Upshaw said union lawyers were studying ways that such a league would be legal. Jones said the Management Council had no comment at this time about the legality of such an endeavor.

Upshaw said the owners "have awakened the NFL players. What the players understand is that they have some power and guts and they don't have to take what management throws on the table . . . There's one thing for sure. The game will never be the same again. They've shown the fans don't matter and the players don't matter; it's only the uniforms and the owners that matter.

"Nothing else matters when they tell you there's no way we'll ever be free -- even if it's {after} 100 years. I asked, 'If you died and went to heaven, would you still be the property of the NFL?' They said, 'You sure would be.' You can't even quit."

Upshaw said that during the negotiations, Schramm told him, "When you play in the NFL, you give up constitutional rights." Upshaw said he replied, "We give up constitutional rights if we bargain to give up rights."