The New England Patriots don't have the $3 million to $5 million they need to make player payroll payments next month, and the National Football League probably will be forced to subsidize the team unless it is sold in the meantime, The Boston Globe reported yesterday.

The newspaper said it learned from an unnamed source who knows the inner workings of the league that "the Patriots do not have the money to pay" their players.

A group of Philadelphia businessmen who loaned Patriots owner Billy Sullivan and family $20 million over the past 12 months to keep the team afloat has an option to buy the club and Sullivan Stadium in Foxboro for $63 million if the team is sold before Friday, or for $65 million thereafter.

However, the Globe said the Sullivan family in the past month has been trying to back out of the deal and, as a result, the group hired a Boston lawyer, Robert Popeo, who is pressing the Sullivans to complete the deal. If no agreement is reached on the sale, the Globe said, the league will have to move in and support the team until the matter is settled in court.

A league source said the question of the NFL subsidizing the Patriots "hasn't reached that point yet" . . .

Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers, who set an NFL record for touchdown catches despite playing in only 12 games in this strike-shortened season, was named the NFL's offensive player of the year by the Associated Press.

Rice had 22 touchdown catches, breaking the single-season mark of 18 set in the 16-game season of 1984 by Miami's Mark Clayton. Rice also ran for a touchdown . . .

Linebacker Otis Wilson, angry at losing his starting job during a shakeup of the Chicago Bears' defense, said he had a blowup with Coach Mike Ditka and figures he has no future with the team.

"He {Ditka} told me, 'Your role is limited,' " Wilson said. "{But} I earned the spot I have and, if I can't play here, I'll play somewhere else."

Wilson, an eight-year veteran, was one of the Bears' leading tacklers last season, totaling 104 tackles and eight sacks. But his playing time was limited this season by a knee injury that kept him out of four games and by a biceps injury that sidelined him last weekend against the Los Angeles Raiders.