The union Redskins struggled to stay together, which is to say, they worked hard to convince defensive end Dexter Manley not to cross the picket line.
Manley twice during the strike stated he would cross the picket line only to change his mind the following day.
Many veterans league-wide cited financial reasons in justifying their choice to break with the union. Players during that strike lost an average of about $14,300 per week, and Manley’s loss was several times that. Even though his contract included incentives for sacks and postseason honors, Manley said money was not a factor.
“I was just messing with Neal Olkewicz,” Manley recently said through howling laughter. “I’d tell him one minute I’m with him and the next thing they’d read was: ‘Manley is going to cross the picket line.’ I was just really having fun. I talked to Joe Gibbs and told him I was going to cross, and he told me not to do it.”
Said Gibbs: “I talked to Dexter; most of the time he wouldn’t listen. Dexter is the one I had to worry about.
“I think generally what we were saying as coaches was, ‘Look guys, we need to be together on this one. This is eventually going to end, and when it does we all need to be together.’”
When the strike ended Oct. 15, 227 players out of the 1,585 registered with the union had crossed the picket line. The Redskins were the only team in the league without a defector.
“When it got down to us being the last ones who didn’t have anybody cross, we said, ‘That’s a good thing,’” said former quarterback Jay Schroeder, the Redskins‘ assistant union representative. “Some of those [meetings] got a little heated. What else? Guys wanted to get back to work. I was proud of those guys for coming together.”
Missing out on Dallas game
The union capitulated and pursued its mission through litigation after the owners refused to bargain. The Redskins, meanwhile, had voted the previous day to cross the picket line as a team, but they didn’t immediately report to work. And because they missed the Wednesday 1 p.m. reporting deadline that week, they had to sit out while the replacements visited Dallas on Monday night.
The Redskins were eight-point underdogs because seven Cowboys starters, including quarterback Danny White and running back Tony Dorsett, had crossed the picket line. Washington, however, won 13-7. The replacements carried Gibbs off the field on their shoulders.
“When I look back on it now, I felt that we truly had the advantage because when those [Cowboys] crossed the line, that’s a nightmare,” Gibbs said. “We all know in football you have to be together, and our group was together.”
The replacement team’s 3-0 record put the Redskins in first place in the NFC East when the veterans returned and positioned them for their playoff run. And while veterans on other teams returned to confront teammates who broke with the union, the Redskins were free of such drama.
“Beating the Cowboys took the wind out of their sails, I’m sure,” Casserly said. “I gotta believe that was a divided locker room after that.”