Tuesday, March 19, 2002

By Vic Carucci - NFL Insider

ORLANDO, Fla. -- For the first time in nearly 20 years, instant replay is not up for debate at the NFL meetings.

And as far as Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is concerned, it should not come under review in the foreseeable future. "I think it's set in stone," Tagliabue said Monday.

Or, at least for the next two years. In 2001, NFL owners put replay in place for three years, after a lengthy stretch of approving it only on a year-to-year trial basis.

"I think the feeling is that it's been working well," Tagliabue said. "Generally, people are satisfied with it giving us the ability, which was the goal, to review the game-breaking call without interrupting the flow of the game."

The commissioner touched on several other major topics during his first news conference of the meetings:

On the potential downside of competitive balance, in light of the Baltimore Ravens parting with nearly half of the starters from their Super Bowl-winning team of two seasons ago:

"You have to look at why teams can't retain their players, and in some cases it's individual decisions. Any system is as good as the people operating the system; any good car is as good as the person driving it. The system is an excellent system for teams like the Rams, the Raiders, the Broncos.

There are a number of teams that are operating well within the system. You can have great competition around the league with a lot of competitive teams, but you have teams coming back (after a Super Bowl win) and competing, as the Rams have done and are well positioned for the future.

" ... And you have to look at who is being released. Without getting into age-ism, some of the players who have been released are older players. Everyone gets old. It's even happening to Michael Jordan."

On whether a flexible schedule, which would allow some key late-season Sunday games on CBS and Fox to be moved to ABC's Monday Night Football, could be in place for this year:

"Yes. We've had a lot of discussions with the networks, and we're continuing to have discussions, and we will be visiting with them again in the next week or two to talk specifically about the schedule for the 2002 season. ... We will ensure that there will be attractive games in all the time slots on Sunday and on Monday nights. I think we can make it a win-win situation. We would make sure that CBS and Fox both have strong programming late in the season."

On whether economics will cause all NFL games to eventually be televised on cable, which carries only Sunday night games (on ESPN):

"The future I see is we will continue to have the mass of our games on broadcast television. We will be developing a number of different television offerings. We have plenty of opportunities to stay on broadcast television."

On his suggestion that owners consider playing the 2007 Super Bowl in New York or Washington, partly out of respect for the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11:

"We have an interest in bringing our ultimate game to those markets. And it's not just a short-term consideration. Eventually, if we do our job right, people will see it has merit."