KANSAS CITY, MO., OCT. 26 -- When the National Football League owners convene their annual fall meeting here Tuesday morning, they will discuss a number of issues, but having a split season and changing the playoff format will not be among them, league sources have indicated.
But the owners or their representatives apparently will discuss the idea of having limited partnerships own up to 49 percent of a club. "The big thing that will be discussed out there," one source said, "will be limited partnerships for 49 percent in the football clubs. So many clubs have older owners. It'll be tough to find a lot of owners in a hurry if that became necessary. There will be a pitch from certain owners to have it this way.
"Will it pass? It ought to. But sometimes things that should happen in the NFL do not."
Because those limited partnerships could come in the form of corporations (such as the Tribune Co.'s ownership of the Chicago Cubs), some owners are apparently against the idea. They figure it could lead to the end of family ownership of NFL franchises, such as the Halas/McCaskey family's ownership of the Chicago Bears, the Mara family's ownership of the New York Giants and the Rooney family's ownership of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It was not clear tonight, as the owners began arriving here, what support there was for a new structure featuring limited partnerships.
As for other issues to be discussed, another person close to the league, who is familiar with the meeting agenda, said he doubts "there will even be any discussion of having a split season or change in the playoff format."
Mike Lynn, vice president/general manager of the Minnesota Vikings, said last week that he was in favor of having a revamped playoff system. Lynn suggested a system that would involve more teams as a result of the dramatic effect the three weeks of games conducted with replacement players during the recent strike had on teams such as the Vikings and the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.
But the league source said Lynn may not even propose the idea, and that there is "no chance in the world" of such changes being discussed seriously.
From all indications, adding a week to the season to make up for the missed Week 3 games is out of the question, too. "It's a dead issue," NFL spokesman Joe Browne said.
The meeting, which will last one or two days, will be the first time the owners have gathered since the 24-day NFL players strike.
The owners will set next year's preseason schedule, as usual. They will also hear a report from their negotiators, Jack Donlan and the Management Council, on the ramifications of the strike and the lawsuit filed against the league by the NFL Players Association. The suit was announced at the same time the union announced the end of the strike.
Also expected to be discussed is the size of rosters. For the next week, NFL teams will be able to dress 45 players and have what amounts to a 10-man taxi squad. But the owners will decide Tuesday on what to do thereafter.
In September, Donlan indicated the owners could live with a 49-man roster. At the time, the union was asking for 52-man rosters while the owners wanted 47. But Gene Upshaw, executive director of the union, quoted Donlan as saying that both sides knew that 49 was the reasonable answer.
The owners also will discuss the overseas market. The NFL has staged two preseason games in London, but some clubs want to expand further. The Vikings and the Chicago Bears are hoping to play an exhibition next summer in Sweden.
It is unclear whether a rebate to the three networks televising NFL games will be discussed. Browne has confirmed "that we have given back money," but he said that any specific figures are premature "because the total is still undetermined" and that the networks haven't finished compiling all the information that will go into determining the size of the rebate.
On Sunday's first day of games after the strike, CBS and NBC attracted about as many viewers for NFL games as they did before the strike. NBC got an 11.9 rating for its first game and a 13.8 for its second; the previous weekend's nonunion games drew NBC a 10.5 and a 12.2. CBS' one game Sunday drew an 18.8 rating; the previous weekend, CBS drew a 13.3 with a nonunion game.
At Tuesday's meeting, the owners also will be updated on plans for Super Bowl XXII, scheduled for January 31 in San Diego.