Twenty-three striking New England Patriots met yesterday with NFL union officials, and several players said afterwards that the team strongly supports the players' strike.
"I don't really think there was any doubt how strong we were before this meeting," defensive end Kenneth Sims said.
Brian Holloway, a vice president of the NFL Players Association, Dan Marino, a member of the union's executive committee, and Doug Allen, the union's assistant executive director, met for about two hours with the Patriots.
Holloway said the purpose of the meeting was to provide information to the players in person. He denied that it was held to increase support for the strike on a team that reportedly had been wavering in its commitment.
"We realize that there are a lot of rumors floating around," tight end Greg Baty said. "I think we're more united after the meeting. We've always heard the same voices, and having Doug there today and Dan Marino, that really helps."
How widespread the Patriots' support for the strike was remained unclear.
Fewer than half their players on the active roster and on the injured reserve list attended. Two players who have been outspoken against NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw and against the strike--offensive guard Ron Wooten and cornerback Raymond Clayborn--left the meeting quickly without answering reporters' questions.
A group of Patriots planned to travel to New Jersey for a meeting Tuesday expected to be attended by Upshaw and players from other NFL clubs.
"If five people go and we come back and have a meeting here we can tell them [striking Patriots] what we heard," Baty said.
"The better educated you are on the issues, the better informed you are to make a decision," quarterback Steve Grogan said.
Several players said the Patriots would not return to work as a group before the strike--which enters its second week today--ends.
"I can't say that" no strikers will cross the picket line, Holloway said. "The solidarity is with the majority. The majority rules."
"No chance that I'm going to break the line," Sims said.
Quarterback Tony Eason said all the players' questions were answered at the meeting.
"There is no displeasure [with the union] at all. Obviously, there's questions," he said. "We got them all answered today. I'm 100 percent in support of Upshaw.
He said Marino, the Miami Dolphins' quarterback, told the players about bargaining sessions he attended.
"The most encouraging thing is the players are getting heard in front of each other," said Holloway, a former New England offensive tackle who was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders on Sept. 1.
Asked if the meeting was held to convince the Patriots not to return to work during a strike, he said, "we certainly weren't at that point. We were here to provide insight into what's happening in the rest of the league.
"The idea is to keep the players as strong as we can for as long as we can."
Players who return while the strike is in progress "would be selling out and I don't think they could look at themselves in the mirror," Baty said. "It would be stupid for anybody to do that. It would ruin their relationship with the rest of the players."