Tagliabue praises Rams during trip to training camp



MACOMB, Ill. (AP) -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue called the St. Louis Rams one of the league's best success stories during his first visit to the team's training camp facility.

The Rams have won three NFC West titles in five years, going to two Super Bowls and winning their first championship after the 1999 season. St. Louis is 56-24 the last five seasons, tied with Tennessee for the best record in the league.

"The success has really been so extraordinary," Tagliabue said Thursday. "The Rams have been one of the top performing teams since they moved to St. Louis, and that sort of coincides with the free agency and salary cap system we have in place.

"That's a really tough competitive environment to live with and the Rams have been one of those teams that have had repeat success under that system."

That sort of talk indicates that there's been a definite thaw in relations since the Rams defied the NFL and moved to St. Louis in 1995. Another indication is coach Mike Martz' presence on the competition committee.

"After being around him a little bit, just on a couple of occasions, I have great respect for him," Martz said of Tagliabue. "He's in a very tough position an awful lot, with all the owners and dealing with all the different issues.

"He's a strong guy, very intelligent, and has a great deal of resolve about keeping the integrity in this league."

Tagliabue said the Rams' continuous run of sellouts since the move has proved that the city isn't just a baseball town.

"I think the preponderant opinion clearly was that St. Louis could be a great football city if it had a team of its own that they could really root for," Tagliabue said. "They got that, and then some.

"To predict the combination of Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk and now Marc Bulger and Torry Holt, that's not something I could have foreseen and I doubt very many people did."

During a news conference preceding the first of three joint workouts between the Rams and Chicago Bears, Tagliabue also touched briefly on prospects for Los Angeles getting a team, and Janet Jackson's embarrassing halftime performance at the Super Bowl.

The commissioner said the NFL was undergoing in-depth analysis on the Los Angeles situation and within a year would have a time line for site selection process. Tagliabue said the NFL wasn't interested now in moving an existing team to Los Angeles.

He regards the Super Bowl halftime show as an isolated problem.

"I think the future of the halftime hopefully is the same as the halftime was in the past, except for one unfortunate experience," Tagliabue said.