Naturally we're all hoping that the football players are coming back to work so our Sundays can return to normal. But just for a moment consider what might have been . . . Saying he was "fed up with the owners treating us like dirt," Ed Rubbert, president of the recently formed National Football League Replacement Players Association, announced a general players' strike effective immediately.

Having propped up the NFL for the last eight weeks, NFLRPA members abruptly walked out of team meetings and set up picket lines outside practice fields of all 28 NFL teams. "We regret it had to come to this, and we want to apologize to the fans for any inconvenience this may cause," Rubbert said. "But we don't know what else to do. The owners refuse to give us a pension plan or severance pay, and we need a lavatory pass from the coaches to go to the bathroom during team meetings.

"It's reached the point where the owners wouldn't bargain with us at all. Hugh Culverhouse told me, 'The only good union is a dead union.' What's worse, the owners cut all 28 of our player reps and all 56 assistant reps. We came in and saved their hide. There wouldn't be an NFL without us. And what thanks do we get? None. I tell you, we don't get no respect. They treat us like scabs."

Newly named Redskins NFLRPA player rep Lionel Vital released a list of his guys' demands, which included:Complete free agency.Guaranteed salaries, minimum $230,000 per year.Retroactive pay for training camp and the first two games of the season, "which we were forced to miss by circumstances beyond our control."Suites at the Hay-Adams. "Last week they tried to pack us four to a room in Motel 6," said an incensed Vital.Bigger, better buses with shatterproof "Anti-Darryl" glass.Anti-Darryl glass in the weight room to protect players from Obed Ariri's errant kicks.A revolving door for Dexter Manley, who's always in again and out again.Personal service contracts with George Michael.A guided tour of Jack Kent Cooke's estate.Real uniform numbers and their favorite recipes in the "Cooking With The Skins" cookbook.Rental of Russ Grimm's house for NFLRPA meetings.

Rubbert then read a telegram from Gene Upshaw, who's been working at Channel 9 the last few weeks as the weekend sports anchor. Upshaw's telegram said: "It's gratifying to know you've seen the light. Best wishes on your strike. Give Jack my best. But whatever you do, don't mention the words 'binding arbitration.' "

Rubbert refused comment on a report that the NFLRPA had hired Ed Garvey as executive director of the union, and that Garvey allegedly offered Jack Donlan "twice what the owners are paying you to switch sides and non-negotiate for us like you non-negotiate for them."

In Dallas, Tex (Ayatollah) Schramm of the NFL Management Council promised, "Regardless of what Ed Rubbert and his band of brigands say, there will be NFL games this Sunday. We got these guys off the streets and we can get 1,600 more in an eyelash. We own this league, and we call the shots. The public loves us. We supply them with football on Sunday. We're rich, we don't have to negotiate. Son, there's a lot more at stake here than the integrity of the game -- namely big money, and we don't intend to give these guttersnipes any of it." Schramm then adjusted the button on his lapel which said, "PATCO? Come On, Make My Day" and went out to watch Randy White practice by himself.

NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle could be not reached for comment. A secretary in his office said she'd continue to put messages for Rozelle where he was last spotted, hiding under his desk.

The first picket line incident was reported in New York, where Jets owner Leon Hess rushed over to NFLRPA executive assistant Mark Gastineau and spit on him.

Reaction to this second strike was swift.

In New York, spokesmen for CBS and NBC said both networks would "probably televise the replacement-replacement games on Sunday." But an industry source said John Madden has asked to be relieved of his assignment for the duration of the strike. "Tell 'em to get Geraldo Rivera," Madden allegedly told CBS Sports executive producer Ted Shaker as he slung suitcases onto his bus and headed to the nearest Ramada. ABC isn't certain if it will televise "Monday Night Football." Rumor has it the game will be shelved if the Robin Leach production of "Hamlet" can be finished on time.

In Dallas, Tony Dorsett was distressed at having to cross another picket line. "I think you all know what a strong union man I am," Dorsett said. "I'm only here because of my annuity. I'd love to be on strike with my brothers, but, hey, what can I do but collect my huge pay and complain about my situation?"

At Redskin Park, Joe Gibbs said that fielding a new team of replacements and getting them ready for Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles, who yesterday re-signed Sonny Jurgensen at quarterback, was "without a doubt the most impossible mission in the history of the universe." In previous weeks Gibbs said that getting a nonunion team ready for the St. Louis Cardinals was "one of the greatest challenges in sports." Ten days later, Gibbs called the Monday Night Scab Ball game against the Dallas Cowboys "the first one that will be a major problem."

In Washington, Manley said he would cross the picket line either today, tomorrow or sometime within the next five years "because I'm a team man, because I'm not good as a follower and because I'd love to ring someone's clock and clean his head, and maybe wax his car, too."

In Boston, where people have begun to question whether he's tall enough to play quarterback in the New-New NFL, Doug Flutie said, "As I remember, Doctor, my problems started when I got a phone call from a man named Donald Trump."

And in Irwindale, Calif., where he does nothing but just win, baby, Al Davis laughed and laughed.