Michael McCaskey was more than a little bit surprised. "This was the first we heard of it," said the Chicago Bears president, after his quarterback, Jim McMahon, told reporters in El Paso, Texas, of all places, that he is considering sitting out the 1988 season. "One of my first thoughts was that this is the start of new contract negotiations, and there are other indications that my assumption is right."
McMahon, the Bears' sensational but injury-prone quarterback, has an injured left shoulder. He says it happened in Chicago's playoff loss to the Washington Redskins. McMahon never reported the injury to the Bears, or to any outside doctors, until the team held a minicamp in May.
"Since then, our doctors, and Dr. (rank) Jobe in Los Angeles have both examined Jim and feel there is no reason he cannot play this season," said McCaskey. "They believe a good rehab program with weights to build up the muscles around the injury would do the trick."
According to the Bears, McMahon has been playing in golf tournaments (ike the one in El Paso) and is currently water skiing in Europe. Many National Football League owners are very upset with league attorneys following the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge David Doty, who declared an "impasse" in the collective bargaining negotiations with the NFL Players Association. The owners were told the ruling would be in their favor, but it wasn't. The executive committee of the Management Council, bargaining wing for the owners, will meet in New York this week and a major item on the agenda will be the possibility of switching lawyers. Judge Doty told both sides he will hand down the critical decision on whether to grant an injunction allowing approximately 350 players to become free agents without compensation around July 10. If this one goes against the owners, you can count on some changes.
Speaking of the union, some former employees of the NFLPA reportedly have filed a grievance against it, charging, of all things, union busting. The discharged employees claim the union violated labor laws when it dismissed certain employees. The union says it had to lay off some of its workers when the players failed to pay their dues in protest of the 24-day strike last year.
The New Orleans Saints, who have taken the lead in signing draft choices, might make the first move to break the logjam on the first round. Saints president Jim Finks will meet with agent Bruce Allen early this week to see if they can reach a deal on Craig (ronhead) Heyward, the running back from Pitt who was the team's top pick. The agents for the first-rounders have been sitting back, waiting for someone to set the salary standard for this year.
Former Raiders quarterback Marc Wilson may have made the major gaffe of the year, opting for free agency and testing the market. Wilson to date has just one offer, from the Green Bay Packers at $400,000. He turned down $700,000 a year from the Raiders. Wilson was making $1 million a year, and Raider owner Al Davis didn't feel he was worth it. Now Davis has taken the $700,000 offer off the table, and if Wilson comes back to Los Angeles it is going to be for a lot less.
The Buffalo Bills put some big money on the line to grab defensive end Art Still from the Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs will get an eighth-round choice in return for the former All-Pro defensive end who is just 32. Kansas City reportedly could have gotten a fourth-round choice on the day of the draft for Still, but rejected the offer. However, the Chiefs decided they didn't want Still or his $625,000-a-year contract. Bills general manager Bill Polian got the OK to pick up the contract from owner Ralph Wilson, who feels Still, combined with young defensive stalwarts such as Bruce Smith, Cornelius Bennett and Shane Conlan, can take Buffalo into the playoffs. The Bills are extremely pleased with the progress of quarterback Jim Kelly. Kelly injured his right elbow in the Pro Bowl earlier this year and had trouble throwing at minicamp. Rest was prescribed, and Kelly has been put on a program that has allowed him to start throwing short distances.
One and one do not make two, says commissioner Pete Rozelle. A San Diego business journal carried a blurb this week reporting that Rozelle had purchased a piece of land in the posh Rancho Sante Fe area for $700,000. The development is owned by former Charger owner Gene Klein and some associates. Word around the NFL in the last six months has been that Rozelle, when he retires, would settle in this area. At the same time, a New York paper reported that Congressman Jack Kemp is going to leave office soon and eventually replace Rozelle. Rozelle purchased the land in San Diego and could possibly retire there some day, but not in the near future. Although Kemp could be a candidate in the future, there is no deal with him right now. Kemp once said that if he could have a job outside of politics he would like it to be commissioner of the NFL.