Monday, May 22, 2006
Committees established, agenda shortened for meeting
By John Clayton
Considering the amount of work done during the previous two owners gatherings this year, the NFL spring meeting in Denver should be light as the mile high air in Colorado.
Originally scheduled to be a two-day meeting that was to officially start on Tuesday, the NFL has shortened the agenda and will complete everything by 6 p.m. Tuesday. To do that, commissioner Paul Tagliabue had a Competition Committee meeting by teleconference and ordered committee meetings to discuss collective bargaining, Los Angeles stadium projects, the commissioner search and international business.
Already this offseason, the collective bargaining agreement was extended; Tagliabue announced his plans for retirement; all the television contracts have been signed, and one -- the NFL Network -- was added to the mix with eight Thursday and Saturday games. In addition, the push for a Los Angeles stadium got hot and heavy.
As a result, not many decisions are expected at this meeting, but there are some key issues to discuss.
• The commissioner search needs to heat up. Tagliabue wants out by July 31, but he's already conceding he might have to stay until the start of the regular season in September. A head-hunting firm was hired to poll the 32 owners and ask what characteristics best fit the job of commissioner. Such a poll was suggested because the job is ever-changing and expanding, and the number of candidates is infinite. Several top CEOs are interested, and most of the top people in Tagliabue's staff are well qualified for the job. An evening meeting is planned Monday to discuss the search, which is in the early stages.
• There was hope at this spring meeting that the NFL would be ready to select a site in Los Angeles for a future NFL team, but no decision is expected by Tuesday. The leading candidate is the Los Angeles Coliseum, which received a $25 million subsidy to continue the process of refurbishing the Coliseum. Anaheim is currently the second choice. Trying to move to the inside is Pasadena, which is moving the slowest. The Coliseum has an $800 million refurbishing plan on the table. Anaheim is offering a 53-acre site next to Angel Stadium for $50 million in which the NFL can build and operate the stadium but the city is pressing the league for a decision by the end of the month.
• Reggie Bush made the agenda because of his request to change the uniform numbering system. Bush wants to wear his college No. 5 and he's willing to give some of his royalties to Hurricane Katrina victims. The league likes having uniformity in the uniform numbering system. It's unlikely Bush will be victorious in his plea for the 2006 season, but if the owners are willing to make some changes, Bush could get the chance to wear No. 5 in 2007. For now, it's expected he'll wear No. 5 through the preseason, and then change to No. 25.
• The Chiefs have about seven votes supporting their efforts to add a seventh playoff team to each conference. However, 23 votes are needed for such a rule change, and it's unlikely owner Lamar Hunt has picked up many new supporters since March. The NFL felt more research should be done to support the the concept of having 14 playoffs teams. That information will be presented at the meeting, but the Chiefs' proposal is expected to be voted down.
• Even though the collective bargaining extension is a done deal, the talk hasn't stopped. Bills owner Ralph Wilson is upset with the deal and believes it will be a financial loser for the mid- to small-revenue teams. His voice is being heard, so it will be a hot topic during these meetings. The language of the agreement isn't yet in writing and the NFL can opt out of the extension after four years. Wilson is trying to make sure the revenue-sharing policy will work with the teams that need it the most. He's worried about the financial future of football in Buffalo.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.