The NFL hopes to pick a stadium site in the Los Angeles area within a year to house a new team and is aiming to have that club playing in the 2008 season, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said as the league's team owners began a two-day meeting near Jacksonville, Fla., yesterday.
Los Angeles has been without an NFL franchise since the Raiders and Rams left in 1995, and league leaders seem increasingly intent upon placing a team there. Picking a stadium site by May 2005, as Tagliabue said is the goal, would send a clear signal to the television networks that the NFL is serious about returning to the nation's second-largest market by the time the next set of TV contracts takes effect. Such a move would be expected to increase the league's leverage in the upcoming negotiations. The NFL's current TV deals expire following the 2005 season.
The league has been weighing whether to put a team in a renovated existing stadium, either the Rose Bowl or the Los Angeles Coliseum, or build a new facility in Carson, Calif. The NFL plans to resolve the stadium issue before working out the particulars of a team or an ownership group.
There does not seem to be sufficient support among the owners at this point for adding an expansion franchise in Los Angeles; the introduction of a 33rd NFL team would make scheduling and the divisional alignment problematic. Many executives around the league think it's more likely that the San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts or New Orleans Saints eventually will move to Los Angeles. Saints officials currently are haggling with state leaders over a $7.1 million shortfall that Louisiana is facing in a $15 million payment that it must make to the team by July 5 under a 2001 agreement. If the state defaults, it would have 75 days to address the matter or the Saints could begin looking for a new home.
The owners were also briefed on the TV negotiations and the Maurice Clarett case and the league announced that Art Shell, the Raiders' Hall of Fame offensive tackle and former head coach, had been promoted to the NFL's senior vice president for football operations and development.
The move gives Shell, 57, the job that the league once created for the late George Young, the former general manager of the New York Giants, and held most recently by former Denver Broncos GM John Beake, who retired after last season. Shell is to supervise all of the league's on-field operations and is in charge of NFL Europe and the league's relationship with college football. He is to serve as a non-voting member of the influential competition committee. Shell spent the past two seasons working in the league office as the appeals officer for player discipline.
Also discussed yesterday was how the league might honor Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinals safety killed in Afghanistan last month as a member of the U.S. Army Rangers. Tagliabue told reporters at the meeting that no decision had been made but an emblem on each player's helmet is one possibility.
NFL Notes: Raiders Coach Norv Turner told reporters on a conference call that Rich Gannon would remain the team's starting quarterback, ahead of just-signed free agent Kerry Collins. Many executives around the league had expected Gannon to be released next month.