NFL expansion pool expected to get a bit shallower Tuesday

March 12, 1992|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

The NFL is still moving slowly and cautiously on the expansion issue.

Although an NFL spokesman said in a conference call with writers that the owners will make "some reduction of cities" in the expansion pool Tuesday at the annual March meeting in Phoenix, they still won't set a price tag on the two expansion franchises at this meeting. The league earlier indicated it might set a price when it cut the field.

Joe Browne, the league's vice president of communications and development, also declined to say how many cities will survive this cut although one owner, who didn't want to be identified, has said the field will be narrowed from 10 to six cities.

Browne also wouldn't say whether the owners would give expansion cities the green light to start marketing sky boxes. Some cities, notably Charlotte, have been pushing the league for this authority.

The seven-member expansion committee (consisting of commissioner Paul Tagliabue and six owners) will have a meeting in Phoenix before making a presentation to the owners on Tuesday.

Browne also said the league was continuing its policy that expansion could be delayed if labor problems are an impediment.

He declined to say what might constitute an impediment. He simply read a vague answer that Tagliabue gave at his Super Bowl news conference in January when he said the lack of a collective-bargaining agreement wouldn't necessarily rule out expansion. The league has not had such an agreement since 1987.

Browne then referred all questions to Tagliabue and the expansion committee members at the meeting next week.

"I'll repeat what Paul said," Browne said at one point and later said, "I'll punt that to the expansion committee."

The owners will take up several other subjects also, including the financial plight of the New England Patriots and the fate of instant replay. One of the most intriguing proposals is one by Dan Reeves, coach of the Denver Broncos, to allow offensive linemen to use helmets equipped with receivers so they could hear quarterback signals in noisy stadiums.

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