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By maintaining a laissez-faire attitude in the recent misdemeanor assault trial of quarterback Ken O'Brien and defensive end Mark Gastineau, the New York Jets management may have been more lazy than fair. On Sept. 12, a jury in Manhattan Criminal Court convicted Gastineau but acquitted O'Brien of charges stemming from a September 1983 incident at Studio 54, a formerly fashionable New York disco. Gastineau faces a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine or a year in jail.
Inexplicably, attorneys for the two players requested—and obtained—six postponements, dating from last December, before the case went to trial on Aug. 20. All this time the Jets say they maintained a hands-off posture. Maybe they did, but it's hard to believe that the Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Raiders or any other NFL team would have stood for all those legal delays.
Washington fullback John Riggins, explaining why his back ailment disappeared during training camp: "I got up on a rack, drained the oil and put in some additive. That's the trouble with a make and model my age. It's hard to get parts."
Word is that commissioner Pete Rozelle has dispatched Donlan, the head of the NFL management council, to reiterate to the teams that they mustn't be manipulated by agents who, Rozelle believes, use the USFL as a "ghost" to drive up payrolls.
The average NFL player salary was $130,000 last season and will rise to $160,000 this year. But the biggest difference is in salaries for drafted rookies, which have skyrocketed 26% as a consequence of the war against the USFL. Because of those escalations, Rozelle is concerned that some teams, such as the 49ers, whose player payroll for '84 is $2 million greater than last season's, will lose $1 million this year and as much as $3 million by 1986.
" Atlanta is definitely my home," Bartkowski says. "It will be until the Lord comes back or takes me home to live with Him. I have no desire to play somewhere else. For me to take a 32-year-old body somewhere else and walk away from all I've tried to do all these years, to try and help make this team something this city can be proud of...would be the greatest hypocrisy I can think of...."
Hypocrisy aside, Bartkowski's agent is talking $900,000 a year for the quarterback's new multi-year contract.