Pro football Commissioner Pete Rozelle made it official yesterday that O. J. Simpson is being paid upwards of $700,000 a season.
The statement came during a news conference here in which the commissioner appeared to become emotional (rare for him) in a dialogue with sportscaster Brent Musberger of CBS over the impact of a proposed Congressional ban on television blackouts of sold-out games.
Rozelle was asked if the owners were apt to be complacent because of the $5 million plus, on the average, each will receive a season for the next four years from a television contract with the three networks.
"Money obviously is important. But what I see some of the owners do the last four years, who were losing money - convinces me that virtually all, if not all, want to win.
"Look at Ralph Wilson Buffalo Bills' owner) for . . . sake, he pays sibly complacent club owners. "That trying to win? . . . is that trying to win? . . . I'll never see the people across that street (pointing to where the owners were in session) getting complacent!"
When it became obvious that the interviewers guessed that he was referring to running back Simpson making the $700,000, the commissioner revised his answer to the question about possibly complacent club owners "That certainly wouldn't be indicated in a salary survey that one easily identifiable running back made $700,000," he said.
The blackout question was raised on Monday after Sen. Robert P. Griffin (R-Mich.) introduced a bill that would ban blackouts if games were sold out 48 hours beforehand. There is a provision that the legislation would be a permanent.
A companion bill was introduced in the House yesterday, by Rep. James J. Florio (D-N.J.)
In 1973, there was passed a three-year experimental law. Since it expired after the 1975 season, the NFL has volunteered to continue the policy. Under that policy, games had to be sold out 72 hours in advance for the blackout to be lifted.
The commissioner was asked if he sometimes thought the blackouts were none of Congress' business.
"Oh, sure, yout get frustrated. But you have to accept it," he said.
Rozelle said that the revenue from television is a "little less that 50 percent of ticket sales" in the league.
The coaches were asked to comment on the rules changes made here.
Coach John Madden of the Oakland Raiders said, "If they hadn't added that seventh official I was going to go to tear-away jerseys next season."
Dick Nolan of the New Orleans Saints said of the new bump-and-run rule's effect in favor of wide receivers. "It is going to be a footrace now after the first five yards."
Chuck Noll of Pittsburg said he favored the holding change, saying, "We've been trying to eliminate the cheap holding calls that penalized the offense and stopped scoring drives. I made a film of the holding calls against us last year and one-third of the time the officials were wrong."
Sam Rutligliano of Cleveland said, "The combination of the wide receiver being able to get deeper quicker and the quarterback having longer to throw should do away with the recent history of running backs such as Lydell Mitchell and Chuck Foreman catching so many passes.
A.O. (Bum) Phillips of Houston spoke against the changes in the meetings. He said, "I thought we had a good game . . . good competition last season, but 27 people (the other clubs) are smarter than one. I am not that much against what everybody else is for."