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Tagliabue confident owners will OK Arena game in May
By David Elfin
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
ORLANDO, Fla. — Paul Tagliabue remains a firm believer in his powers of persuasion.
In his news conference wrapping up the NFL's spring meetings, and one day after league owners opted not to exercise their option to purchase between 25 and 49.9 percent of Arena Football, Tagliabue said he believed they would vote in favor of the idea at the May meeting in Houston.
The commissioner also said that he thinks the opposition of Fox and CBS to the league's proposal giving ABC greater scheduling flexibility for the final four weeks of "Monday Night Football" can be overcome. And Tagliabue is convinced that Los Angeles is still prime NFL territory more than seven years after the Rams and Raiders left the nation's second-largest market to little fan disappointment.
"There are quite a few people in support of taking the 25 percent equity investment position and others who have reservations about how it fits into the NFL," Tagliabue said. "But everyone sees NBC's contract with the Arena League as a positive."
That's also how Tagliabue sees the possible late-season television switches in light of the unpredictable nature of the league that turns supposed cellar-dwellers into contenders each season, making some scheduled national games duds.
"We don't see why there's not a more intelligent way of doing things that serves the fans," Tagliabue said. "I've found that a lot of people come to discussions close-minded and become open-minded when it's a win-win and especially when it's part and parcel of schedule flexibility for the Sunday networks."
In response to a question about fan interest in Los Angeles, Tagliabue cited the city's long pro and college football history and snapped, "At a certain point in life, you don't need evidence of the sun and the moon to know that they're there."
Tagliabue, while still promoting his idea of Super Bowls in New York and Washington, said that the NFL has promised Arizona another Super Bowl if the Cardinals ever get a new stadium built and added that Miami, New Orleans, Seattle, Houston, Detroit and Jacksonville are all interested in playing host to the game.
New York Giants owner Bob Tisch, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and Redskins owner Dan Snyder have all asked to make presentations on behalf of their cities at an upcoming NFL meeting. However, the owners might not award the next available games — 2007 and 2008 — until next spring in Arizona.
With the league back to an even number of teams after four years with 31, Tagliabue said there won't be any byes during the first two weeks or during the last seven. The NFL also named Michael Haynes, a Hall of Fame cornerback with New England and the Los Angeles Raiders, as its vice president of player and employee development. Haynes' main task will be to oversee programs that help players in their off-field lives.
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