Player pact in limbo as talks stallOwners raise new...

December 30, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

Player pact in limbo as talks stall

Owners raise new free-agency issues

The NFL's labor talks have become almost as confusing and complicated as the league's playoff tiebreaker system.

A week after the league and NFL Players Association made a joint announcement that they had reached a tentative settlement that would be completed Monday, Joe Browne, the league's vice president of communications and development, announced yesterday that there are still "difficult, unresolved issues" separating the two sides.

Browne said there were no meetings yesterday, so the snag apparently developed at the meeting Monday when the deal was supposed to be finished.

Doug Allen, the NFLPA assistant executive director, declined to comment on the substance of the meeting, but said: "We went to New York Monday prepared to finalize the agreement in principle, and we're puzzled why it didn't happen."

A source close to the talks said the league apparently raised new issues on how free agency would be implemented that the NFLPA thought were already decided.

Whether the deal is in danger of falling apart likely will be decided today, when commissioner Paul Tagliabue meets with his seven-man owners committee.

If Tagliabue can't get the committee to agree to the deal, the two sides could wind up back in court, where Judge David Doty would make the decision.

It's apparently difficult for the owners officially to sign off on free agency. But the prospect of leaving the league's future in the judge's hands could encourage the owners to ratify the deal.

Hot tickets?

What in the name of Bud Grant is going on in Minneapolis?

In the city where frozen fans would cheer wildly in the outdoor Metropolitan Stadium -- now the site of a huge shopping mall -- they're now balking at buying tickets for a playoff game indoors at the cozy Metrodome.

There were still 8,400 unsold tickets yesterday, and if they're not sold by 11:30 a.m. today, the playoff game against the Washington Redskins Saturday will be blacked out on Minneapolis television, unless the local ABC affiliate buys the game.

The Redskins won't mind if the fans don't show, because crowd noise is a Vikings advantage. Minnesota coach Dennis Green said: "I hope the people get out and buy the tickets so they can get in here and see a good show."

Injury update

The Redskins will find out when they start practicing today how many of their ailing players can work. They placed wide receiver Desmond Howard (shoulder) and safety David Gulledge kneecap) on injured reserve yesterday and signed veteran wide receiver Floyd Dixon, who's played with the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles. They're expected to activate cornerback Martin Mayhew this week.

The coaching derby

In Denver, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has applied for the job that Dan Reeves lost Monday. Mike Shanahan, the offensive coordinator of the Broncos, is another strong candidate.

In Chicago, Bears coach Mike Ditka is twisting in the wind while owner Mike McCaskey is vacationing. Ditka said the firing of his friend Reeves means that "stupidity is running rampant in the NFL." Ditka also said that Denver owner Pat Bowlen "let the inmates run the asylum."

Meanwhile, there's speculation in Chicago that if McCaskey fires Ditka, he'll hire Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon. A hero of the Bears' 1963 title team, Petitbon's arrival would blunt criticism a Ditka firing would cause.

In Dallas, Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson said that if a team wants to interview his defensive coordinator, Dave Wannstedt, they can do it while the team is still in the playoffs.

Teams often deny permission for their coaches to be interviewed while they're alive in the playoffs, but Johnson wants to help Wannstedt get a job.

In Phoenix, Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill is still deciding the fate of Joe Bugel. Reeves' availability gives Bidwill an attractive alternative if he wants to make a change.

Sudden impact

Who would have guessed that the New England Patriots, of all teams, would wind up having a major impact on the playoff race?

The Patriots could have upset the Miami Dolphins Sunday and handed the Buffalo Bills the AFC East title. They had a third-and-10 on the Miami 28 with 16 seconds left and the score tied 13-13 in regulation. If they'd run the ball, Charlie Baumann would have had a shot at a game-winning field goal from 45 yards or less.

Instead, the Patriots called a pass, Jeff Carlson was sacked and knocked out of field-goal range and the Patriots lost in overtime.

The game gave Miami the division title and a first-round bye and left the Bills a wild-card team.

The Patriots players said that even Miami quarterback Dan Marino was asking them after the game why they didn't run the ball.

At least the loss gave the Patriots the first pick in the draft.

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