Despite these fringe complaints, the basic issue in dispute remains the standard professional contract. In theory, a man can "play out his option" and become a free agent who can offer his services to any other club. In practice, a team that signs such a free agent must observe the Rozelle rule and recompense the team the player formerly belonged to. This brings the exchange back to the level of trades or sales between teams and effectively restricts the freedom of movement of a player whose contract has technically expired.
Garvey calls abolition of the option clause and the Rozelle rule "freedom issues." The NFL Management Council says their elimination would threaten the basic structure of the sport.
Other demands pale in importance. If the negotiations deteriorate into the paralysis of strike, as they did in 1971 during the last contract dealings, the option clause and its application almost certainly will be the reason.
Bill Curry says, "An end to the option clause and the Rozelle rule are what we feel most strongly about. There is no doubt that we are going to the wall on this issue."
Thus it may be a long hot spring and summer for Edward R. Garvey, who says, almost gleefully, "It could be pretty wild. I'm looking forward to it."
He certainly seems to have the support of the players. "We have come to accept Ed Garvey on performance," says Curry. "He has turned our organization into a modern, efficient, functioning unit, and we know he is relentlessly dedicated to our cause.
"About the only thing we haven't been able to accept about him," Curry adds, deadpan, "is that monotonous voice of his. If he can just clear that up, we might keep him around for years."