Baltimore is in no hurry to lure team NFL snubs Baltimore with upset pick

December 01, 1993|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer Staff writers Vito Stellino and Jon Morgan contributed to this article.

ROSEMONT, ILL. — Roger Goodell, the National Football League's vice president of business development, says he does not know if the Los Angeles Rams would qualify for a franchise move under the league's relocation rules. His views were misrepresented in reports in The Sun last week.

The Rams have not asked, and the league has not considered, whether the team would meet the requirements. The team is among a handful reported to be considering a move to Baltimore.

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- When the door to NFL expansion slammed shut yesterday, Baltimore officials needed time to reflect and refocus.

The decision on whether to pursue an existing team -- seemingly the city's only NFL alternative after Jacksonville, Fla., was awarded the league's 30th franchise -- will come later.

"Will we listen to people who want to move to Baltimore? I don't know," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said. "We don't want to make any decisions right now. It's pretty emotionally charged.

"The strategy has always been if a team had made a firm decision to move and is not using us as a bargaining chip, then we would be foolish not to listen to them."

The most likely relocation candidate: the Los Angeles Rams, who are unhappy with their lease at Anaheim Stadium. Other teams that might be looking to move are the Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In addition, football could come to Baltimore in the form of a Canadian Football League team.

After yesterday's verdict, Rams executive vice president John Shaw deflected a question about a possible move.

"I'll say what I've been saying -- we'll explore our options at the end of the year," he said.

Nevertheless, Mr. Shaw may have tipped his hand -- or merely sent up a smoke screen -- when he recently hired the Washington law firm of Williams and Connolly, of which ex-Orioles president Larry Lucchino is a member. Lucchino was traveling yesterday and was unavailable to comment.

The possibility of the Rams abandoning Southern California seems remote to Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

"It's inconceivable to me that a team would leave the Los Angeles area," Mr. Jones said.

"They've got such a great tradition as the Los Angeles Rams and I just think there are some positives for the city of Los Angeles, having the Rams and Raiders out there. When it gets down to making decisions, a lot of times the communities such as Los Angeles will basically respond to do some things that will make it a tough decision."

To relocate, a team must meet certain criteria established by the NFL, and then gain approval from league owners. Among the criteria are adequacy of stadium, willingness of the stadium authority to correct deficiencies and fan support.

Roger Goodell, an NFL vice president in charge of expansion, said he doesn't believe the Rams meet the qualifications necessary to move.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, perhaps attempting to head off rampant negotiation, said the league will "continue to enforce the policies we have. I can't say I've lost sleep over that."

Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen acknowledged there will be a temptation for some teams to relocate. But he said those teams "will have to show good reasons to move. I don't think we're going to be encouraging teams to move, but there may be some that are qualified."

The Patriots and the Buccaneers may fit into that category.

Patriots owner James Orthwein, who previously was involved in St. Louis' expansion effort, is trying to sell his team. League owners don't want him to move it to St. Louis, though. They hope to keep a team in the Boston market to enhance their position in TV negotiations.

The Buccaneers are owned by Hugh Culverhouse, who has cancer. The team has hired Jack Donlan, former director of the NFL Management Council, to find a buyer.

Jacksonville expansion leader J. Wayne Weaver had been considered a possible buyer for the Bucs, who now must look elsewhere.

Baltimore's financial package figures to draw the attention of discontented teams. The city has $8 million in the bank in premium-seat commitments, legislation for a $165 million, football-only stadium adjacent to Camden Yards, and a lease that will generate millions of dollars for a team owner.

There is no expiration date on the legislation, which was pushed through by Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Despite yesterday's defeat, Herbert J. Belgrad, chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said the legislation should remain in place.

"The governor's still the governor," Belgrad said.

One potential snag in the deal is that all deposits on premium seats are to be returned within 10 days of an expansion decision.

The Baltimore deal drew interest from the Cincinnati Bengals earlier this month. Bengals vice president Mike Brown threatened to move if city officials did not improve his current lease at Riverfront Stadium. City officials in Cincinnati responded with negotiations that have appeased Brown.

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