Realignment issue sure to be divisive for owners

March 21, 1994|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

ORLANDO, Fla. -- It didn't take long for NFL owners to find out how thorny the issue of realignment will be in the coming months.

Although the owners' annual meetings aren't scheduled to officially start until today, a committee studying realignment got its first look at a half-dozen proposed plans over the weekend.

The simplest was a plan in which the NFC East's Arizona Cardinals and NFC West's Atlanta Falcons would switch places.

The most complex would move Atlanta and the New Orleans Saints to the AFC and the Seattle Seahawks and Indianapolis Colts to the NFC, with Houston and Minnesota switching divisions.

A look at that alignment:

* NFC East -- Dallas, New York Giants, Philadelphia, Washington, Tampa Bay.

* NFC Central -- Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Charlotte.

* NFC West -- San Francisco, Arizona, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota, Seattle.

* AFC East -- New York Jets, Miami, Jacksonville, New England, Buffalo.

* AFC Central -- Atlanta, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Cincinnati.

* AFC West -- Denver, Houston, Kansas City, San Diego, Los Angeles Raiders.

Getting 21 votes for any set-up won't be easy, though commissioner Paul Tagliabue is pushing the idea.

For example, in all six plans, Arizona would move out of the NFC East. Arizona owner Bill Bidwill opposes that idea, and he's a member of the committee. He doesn't want to move unless Dallas does, and no plan proposes a Cowboys move.

Also, Seattle doesn't want to leave the AFC West.

Though no final action is expected until later this year, Tagliabue has the right to slot the two expansion teams in the two four-team divisions -- probably Jacksonville in the NFC West and Charlotte in the AFC Central -- if the owners can't agree on a plan.

Trade talks

Ken Herock, general manager of the Falcons, and Bill Tobin, director of football operations for the Colts, yesterday had the first of what are expected to be several meetings to discuss a trade for quarterback Jeff George.

Atlanta hopes to get George for a first-round choice this year and a second-round pick next year, but Tobin apparently wants more.

If Tobin trades George, he is expected to take quarterback Heath Shuler of Tennessee with the second pick of the draft, leaving quarterback Trent Dilfer of Fresno State to Washington with the third pick. Cincinnati is expected to take Ohio State defensive lineman Dan Wilkinson with the first choice.

Staying home

The Redskins have figured how to avoid playing a European exhibition game: have a losing season.

The Redskins refused to make a trip last year on the grounds that they shouldn't have to go two years in a row, even though the league was voted the power to assign teams to overseas trips.

The Redskins finally agreed to make a trip this year if the league would bypass them last year.

But in the wake of the Redskins' 4-12 record, the league isn't asking the team to make a trip this year.

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