On Monday arbitrator Richard Kasher ruled that NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle's plan to randomly test players for drug use violated the collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL Players Association quickly proclaimed victory.
"This is an extremely important decision," said Mark Murphy, the assistant to NFLPA executive director Gene Up-shaw. "It means management can't assume that Rozelle will come in and do whatever they want done."
Last July, Rozelle announced his plan to give all players two unscheduled drug tests during the 1986 season. He cited his responsibility as commissioner "to protect the integrity of the game."
The NFLPA filed a grievance, claiming that management and union had already agreed in collective bargaining upon the conditions for drug tests: One would be given during the preseason physical and, after that, tests would be given only for reasonable cause.
Rozelle and the league's Management Council took pains to characterize Kasher's ruling a split decision. "Kasher did recognize the inherent powers of Rozelle's office when it comes to protecting the integrity of the game," said Jack Donlan, executive director of the Management Council. "That is very important. Kasher just said Rozelle is restricted in what he can do under the agreement."
Rozelle said he will continue to push for random drug testing, and he called upon management and the players association to resolve their differences on the matter before the agreement expires in August 1987.
If that doesn't happen, random drug testing could be a big issue in the next negotiations. But William Judson, the Dolphins' player rep, said, "I don't think we'll be very hard line. Most players wouldn't mind being tested. We want to clean up the game."
Both Murphy and Judson wondered if Rozelle's drug testing plan wasn't just a publicity stunt. "The drug problem didn't start this year; it was there in 1982, when we signed the collective bargaining agreement," Judson says. "Rozelle makes a big deal now just because two famous athletes [Len Bias and Don Rogers] died. He used that to say this was an emergency situation. It makes you wonder if Rozelle and management really want to do something about it. Or if this was just a publicity ploy."
Richard Emery, staff counsel for the New York chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, cheered the ruling. Emery said he believes that the NFL's position on drug testing is "rife with hypocrisy and knee-jerkism." He said that the only drug testing that really makes any sense is testing for what he called "performance enhancers" like steroids and amphetamines.
In Wisconsin, bowling might be as beloved as the dear old Green Bay Packers. Ask Greg Koch, the Dolphins offensive tackle.
Picked up by Miami in August after being waived by the Packers, Koch, who was hurt and angry, needled the Packer Backers, the team's appropriately nicknamed loyal fans. "When people in Green Bay say they have a nice wardrobe it means they have 10 bowling shirts," Koch said.
WAPL, a radio station in Appleton, Wis., heard about Koch's statement, and it began urging listeners to send Koch bowling shirts. Last week a large box filled with 130 used bowling shirts—and one bowling ball—arrived at the Dolphins' offices. The attached note read, "Dear Greg, Take a fashion risk. Wear one of these and go jump off a cliff. You remember us Packer fans. We were the ones who put clothes on your back, food on your table and a roof over your head for nine seasons. Nine losing seasons."
Says Koch, "I think it's hilarious. Bowling shirts are a hot item on college campuses. I think I'll make a lot of money from it."
Looking back, Jimmie Giles is struck by his intuition. "It was about one o'clock," Giles says, remembering the afternoon of Oct. 20, "and I was sitting in the meeting room, consoling Gerald Carter. Kevin House had been cut a half hour earlier, and Ron Springs had been cut before that. Gerald was taking it pretty hard. 'We all just have to hang in there,' I told Gerald.
"Then I heard somebody say, 'Jimmie, Coach [Leeman] Bennett wants to see you.' My heart dropped. I knew."
Nearing 32, and in his 10th NFL season—9 of them with the Bucs—and with 4 Pro Bowl appearances, including last season, Giles knew he was about to be cut. The question was, Why? He was having another good year at tight end, and he was one of the most popular and community-minded players on the team. Giles owns People's Optical, which with the help of the Tampa Lions Club, distributes hundreds of free glasses to needy children.
"Coach Bennett said, 'I'm sorry, Jimmie,' " Giles says, " 'but we're 1-6 and when we get to the Super Bowl, you won't be here anyway. We've made the decision to go with younger players.'
"I looked at him and said, 'You mean all I've done for this organization is just down the drain?' He said, 'I'm sorry.' "
Giles shook Bennett's hand and he walked back into the meeting room to say goodbye to his teammates. "My last impression of them," Giles says, "is the way they stared at me when I told them."
Four days later, Giles signed with Detroit.
The recovery of Joe Montana, the 49ers quarterback, has been remarkable. When the All-Pro underwent surgery to remove a herniated disk on Sept. 15, many feared his brilliant career would be over. But last week Montana was close to his old self in practice. His target date for return is Nov. 17.
Still another task lies ahead: answering the 10,000-plus get-well cards Montana received while convalescing, as well as acknowledging the hundreds of flower arrangements, stuffed animals, dolls, ornaments, balloons, ceramic footballs, T-shirts, pizza coupons, religious books and cassette tapes loaded with music-to-rehab-by.
That monumental task belongs to Jackie Walker, the wife of 49er public relations director Jerry Walker. Montana hired Jackie five years ago because he wanted to be certain every piece of mail was answered with a personal touch. "But that was only 20 letters a day," says Walker.
The get-well cards fill 11 postal baskets—and the Walkers' den. Jackie has already sent out 800 replies. Her target date: Thanksgiving. "I want Joe to come over to see this mass of mail," she says. "He needs to see all of it to fully appreciate the outpouring of emotion."
The Bengals have dropped the longtime tradition of awarding game balls after victories. "We've cut out the frills," says head coach Sam Wyche. "We've decided we're all in this together. There are no heroes and no goats."
Tell that to Junior Tautalatasi, the Eagles' rookie running back. He was a hero in Philadelphia's 16-0 win over Atlanta on Oct. 5—his 56-yard catch set up the team's only TD—but he felt like the goat. When the team awarded him a game ball, his name was misspelled. The inscription read: Junior Thutalatasi. No matter. Coach Buddy Ryan has been calling him Junior Smith since the day the Eagles drafted him in the 10th round out of Washington State.
But sometimes frills are nice. Omar Valdes, a 29-year-old free-lance artist from Narragansett, R.I., creates tiny masterpieces with each game ball he paints for the Jets. Not only does he put the team's logo, the player's name and the score on the ball, but Valdes also uses four colors of model airplane paint—the Jets' green and white as well as the opponent's colors. Then Valdes drives four hours to the Jets' Long Island training camp in Hempstead to present his creation. For his work, he is paid about $25 a ball and someone usually gives him a couple of Jets tickets.
From the NFL's Department of Anti-Obfuscation, Amplified Clarification and Unadulterated Doublespeak after a New York Jets punt rolled through the legs of the Saints' Eric Martin Sunday, leading to this instant-replay analysis by Nick Skorich, an assistant supervisor of officials:
"Checking on replay, the ball, of course, hit and rolled between his legs. As near as I can tell in replay it appeared, but I couldn't make sure, that he touched the ball with his right hand as it went through. It was such a situation, but it wasn't clear-cut definitely touched. It certainly was an inconclusive view from up here. It's certainly not in the indisputable class as where we have to see it. I later checked with the field judge [Don Dorkowski—113] as he was leaving the field at halftime and asked him what did you see on that particular play. He said, 'I saw him touch it with his right hand.' I could not refute what he called."
Packer fans weren't that bowled over by Koch.
SUSAN AIMEE WEINIK
Valdes gels a dose of what it takes to earn a game ball from Jets defensive lineman Marty Lyons.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
OFFENSE: Pittsburgh's Earnest Jackson had 21 carries for 132 yards and one TD and Walter Abercrombie had 22 carries for 109 yards as the Steelers, now 2-6, defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 30-9.
DEFENSE: San Francisco safety Ronnie Lott had 11 tackles and two interceptions—the first set up a TD and the second he returned 57 yards for the deciding II)—as the 49ers beat the Packers 31-17.