Representatives of striking players of the 28 National Football League teams will meet in Chicago tonight amid reports that the NFL Players Association is ready to drop its demand for a less restrictive system of free agency.

Doug Allen, assistant executive director of the NFLPA, denied reports that as many as seven teams -- including the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Raiders and San Francisco 49ers -- were ready to cross picket lines en masse. He also said that the striking players were not planning to return to work without a contract. "There is no ultimatum from {the players of} any team," Allen said.

"We have to do something to get the parties to negotiate," said NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw. "Gene Upshaw has never represented his view, but represented the players. If the players change their mind, it's Gene Upshaw's job to change his mind...the player reps will determine what we will do. The majority will rule."

Mike Singletary, the Bears' player representative, said, "The Bears aren't coming back without a contract," but hinted his players might be willing to drop the demand for less restrictive free agency, the issue the owners say is all that stands in the way of a new contract.

"It might be a way to call the owners' bluff. If that's what's holding things up, show us," said Neal Olkewicz, the Redskins' player representative.

"The players want to see some movement," Singletary said. "Whether that means dropping free agency remains to be seen {Monday} night . . . We're not going to let one issue hold it up."

George Martin, player representative of the New York Giants, said his team would report back to work if any other team did. About 85 veteran players crossed picket lines last week and joined the replacement players yesterday as the league put on a full slate of games.

Both sides were claiming an advantage in the wake of yesterday's games, which the owners have said will count in the standings but which Allen said yesterday the union wants wiped off the books. Only one-fourth of the seats were filled around the league and the crowd average was 16,987, compared to 58,000 the first two weeks of the season. In Philadelphia, 4,074 were in the stands, 4,919 in Detroit, 9,860 in Buffalo and 10,708 in Los Angeles for the Raiders' game. The Denver Broncos, who usually sell out 75,000-seat Mile High Stadium, drew the day's largest crowd -- 38,494.

"It was football without fans, studio football," said Allen. "It was absolutely a victory for us. It puts a lot of pressure on management because they can't continue this charade. They've got to be desperate about the rating for Monday Night Football. It's got to be an unbearable embarrassment."

Spokesman John Jones said the Management Council, the owners' negotiating arm, would have no comment about attendance. But in East Rutherford, N.J., Dallas Cowboys President Tex Schramm said, "Today was very successful from our standpoint because all of the games were played. That was our objective -- to get the games played. The size of the crowd, to me, has very little effect. The playing of these games gives the individual players an option, and that's what we wanted to do."

The fans attending the games were generally supportive of the replacements. "My Scab Can Whip Your Scabs" read the big orange sign waving over the wide-open spaces in the south stands at Mile High Stadium, where a streak of 130 sellouts was broken.

In New Orleans, owner Tom Benson danced the boogie on the Superdome field as the Saints, with 12 regulars crossing the picket line, routed the Los Angeles Rams, 37-10.

In Denver, where the fans were generally quiet inside the stadium, one bellicose fan went out of his way to find Ricky Hunley, the Broncos player representative. "I'm going to see a football game and I don't care if your spoiled brats are in it," the fan said.

"What do you know, buster?" Hunley replied. "You're paying brand-names prices and you're going to get a generic product."

In Philadelphia, where the scene was the ugliest of the 13 games played yesterday, there was about one picketer for every three fans. The teams arrived early by bus, the replacement Eagles at 6:45 a.m. and the replacement Bears a few minutes later.

The Teamsters said earlier in the week they would shut down Veterans Stadium, and they almost did. At one point, John Spagnola, the Eagles' player representative, had to shout over a bullhorn, requesting other unions supporting the players to be more peaceful.

Three dozen trucks, tractor-trailer rigs and vans stopped bumper-to-bumper on the street next to the stadium 45 minutes before the start of the game, paralyzing traffic. One truck had a sign that said it represented the Teamsters Joint Council Number 53 and another said, "Teamsters Don't Like Scabs."

When fans did get to the two main gates, they were blocked by approximately 1,500 picketers, who shouted "Go home, go home!" and threw eggs. Police on horseback finally opened a corridor so fans could gain access to the stadium.

Pickets also caught former player Ron Waller with a barrage of eggs. Waller, a running back for the Los Angeles Rams from 1955 to 1958, was attending the game as a scout for the Kansas City Chiefs. With egg rolling down his back, Waller said he thought the whole thing was "kind of silly, ridiculous."

There were no arrests reported.

Seven arrests were reported in Pontiac, Mich., when demonstrators, none of whom were striking players, blocked a street. They were issued citations.

In Orchard Park, N.Y., Robert Starks of Buffalo, a member of the United Steelworkers, ignored a picket line of striking players and went inside Rich Stadium to watch substitute teams of the Buffalo Bills and Indianapolis Colts play.

"These football players are independent contractors," he said. "And when they go to training camp, they just try to beat somebody else out of a job. They're trying to use me by using the term 'union.' "

Rain and freezing temperatures in Foxboro, Mass., added to the frustration of about 20 New England Patriots who manned picket lines at Sullivan Stadium. "Let's hope there's a quick end to this," said center Pete Brock. "It's getting to be snow season and I don't want to be out walking around then."

Contributing to this report were Washington Post staff writers Dave Sell in Washington, Michael Wilbon in East Rutherford, N.J., T.R. Reid in Denver, and special correspondent Michael Rezendes in Foxboro, Mass.