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Although NFL owners were elated about the $1 jury award to the
USFL in its antitrust suit (page 18), their players felt otherwise.
With that verdict and the USFL's subsequent decision to suspend
operations, one of their primary bargaining chips in contract
negotiations is gone. Take the cases of Tony Casillas, the Atlanta
Falcons first-round draft choice, and free agent Stump Mitchell, the
St. Louis Cardinals running back who gained 1,006 yards last season,
both of whom recently signed NFL contracts.
Three weeks ago, Casillas and Mitchell claimed to be on the brink
of signing with the USFL's Arizona Outlaws. ''Arizona has been very
congenial to Lisa (his wife) and me,'' Casillas said after agreeing
''in principle'' to a four-year, $2.3 million contract with the
Outlaws and beginning workouts at the team's three-day minicamp.
When told that the Falcons were sending someone to Phoenix to
continue negotiations, Casillas commented, ''Really, I don't think
it's worth their time to come out.'' Mitchell, who had also reached
one of those Arizona ''in principle'' agreements, was even more
blunt: ''I'm an Outlaw now.''
Within five days of these brash statements both Casillas and
Mitchell spurned the Outlaws and signed with their respective NFL
teams. Casillas's contract with the Falcons was reportedly for four
years and $2.35 million, while Mitchell's with the Cardinals was for
three years and $1.2 million, both figures far in excess of the last
offers made by those teams. Both players cooed over their new
contracts, allowing that the NFL was really where they wanted to be
all along.
With the end of the USFL's lawsuit -- and probably the end of the
USFL -- players have seen the bargaining chips used so masterfully by
Casillas and Mitchell snatched away. Quarterback Jack Trudeau, the
Indianapolis Colts second-round draft choice, had been threatening to
sign with the USFL but agreed to a Colts' offer within 48 hours of
the verdict. And L.A. Rams coach John Robinson speculates that the
court's ruling will help him keep fourth- year wide receiver Henry
Ellard, who has been making noises about signing with the Outlaws.