St. Louis has an ace in hole with Patriots

PRO FOOTBALL

October 25, 1992|By VITO STELLINO

The St. Louis Patriots?

The name may not seem too appropriate, but it appeared a step closer to reality last week.

In the wake of the NFL's announcement that it's officially delaying expansion another year, James Busch Orthwein, the owner of the Patriots who also heads the St. Louis expansion effort, wasn't even bothering to deny the possibility that he might move the team.

He continues to insist his first goal is to sell the New England team and get an expansion team for St. Louis.

But when he was asked what happens if expansion is delayed in- definitely and he can't sell the New England team, he said, "I'm not going to answer that question. You use use your own judgment."

The announcement of the delay from 1994 to 1995 wasn't surprising. The league could have made that announcement last month when it first said it wouldn't name two teams this fall.

What was surprising was the stance taken by commissioner Paul Tagliabue. No longer was he talking settlement. He was talking about winning a long court battle even though the owners have been consistent losers.

"I've litigated a lot of cases over the years and I don't worry too much about district court decisions because they get reversed a lot," he said. "You just have to have patience and work through the process and let the court of appeals review things. It was true with litigation in the '70s and it's going to be true of litigation in the '90s."

Tagliabue also downplayed the $60 million the owners have lost.

"It's not a lot of money by current standards," he said.

When he was asked if the league isn't stringing along the expansion cities, he said, "I think a little bit of patience is going to be important. If people are beginning to lose patience, I couldn't blame them. There are other things to do in life than get involved in sports."

Rankin Smith, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and a member of the expansion committee, was somewhat more sympathetic.

"You can't blame them [for being impatient]," he said. "It's unfair to the present owners to go ahead before we get a deal. But it's almost even more unfair to prospective owners to take their money and not have them know what they're getting into. All the timetables in the world don't mean anything until we get a labor deal. You can't ask these people to hold their breath forever on a promise."

Of the five cities, Memphis seems to be getting the most impatient about the delay. A spokesman said it would evaluate in another year if

nothing happens.

St. Louis will probably do more than evaluate. It'll probably grab the Patriots.

What's in a nickname?

Even though expansion seems to be in limbo, the league office contin

ues to act as if it's going to happen. It has asked each city -- and the three ownership groups in Baltimore -- to come up with nicknames and logos.

Joel Glazer, the son of Florida businessman Malcolm Glazer, said his family had hoped to get the public involved in picking a nickname, but will submit one by the December deadline the league has set.

The Glazers, incidentally, are being patient and are in it for the long haul. "I'm young and my brother Bryan is young," he said.

Herbert Belgrad, the chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, also is being patient. He still thinks Judge David Doty will approve some sort of free agency plan this fall and the owners will go ahead with expansion next year.

Doty will have a hearing Nov. 12. The owners might present a complicated plan tied to a player's salary and draft status. The players are suggesting two simpler plans. Either free all the players or all the players who have been in the league four years or longer.

Hello Bill

As if Ray Handley didn't have enough problems, NBC has assigned former coach Bill Parcells as analyst for the New York Giants' game against the Seattle Seahawks.

If the Giants don't get a big lead, Handley is likely to hear cries for Parcells.

It's obvious the players still miss Parcells. Linebacker Lawrence Taylor said, "I'll wear a clean uniform now that the president's back in town."

Parcells downplayed his return. "I'll broadcast what I see," he said.

It was another tumultuous week for the Giants as cornerback Everson Walls was cut and offensive lineman Eric Moore announced he wants out at the end of the year.

Although it won't be a surprise if Handley doesn't return, it's not likely Parcells would be brought back. He wasn't the easiest guy for the front office to get along with when he was there.

Tom Coughlin, the Boston College coach who was a receivers coach under Parcells, is being touted as a more likely replacement.

Coaching derby

Besides Handley, another coach on the hot seat right now is Joe Bugel of the Phoenix Cardinals.

ESPN has already started a rumor that Dan Reeves, the Denver Broncos coach, will go to Phoenix.

That was probably planted by Reeves' agent, Robert Fraley, who likes to float his clients' names on the rumor mill, especially since Reeves is in the last year of his contract and owner Pat Bowlen is letting Reeves sweat out an extension.

Surrender?

Marv Levy, coach of the Buffalo Bills, is getting annoyed at the criticism from the fans after two straight losses.

"We and everybody else have some fans that probably the day after Pearl Harbor would have been ready to surrender to the Japanese," he said.

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