49ers' Policy: Browns deal 'can be done' Forced Cleveland stay wouldn't help league, team or fans, he says

Urges Tagliabue to step up

Club president offers several solutions

January 09, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Carmen Policy, president of the San Francisco 49ers, said Sunday that he hopes commissioner Paul Tagliabue can negotiate a settlement to keep the Browns from playing a lame-duck season in Cleveland next fall.

"I have a lot of faith in Paul Tagliabue's ability, especially when he's given the opportunity to work behind closed doors in terms of structuring a workable solution," Policy said Sunday at the 49ers' training complex.

Policy said he doubts the owners will vote on the proposed Browns' move to Baltimore at their Jan. 17 meeting, but thinks Tagliabue may produce a settlement before the annual March meeting.

Policy, a member of the committees that heard the presentation by Cleveland Mayor Michael White last Thursday in Atlanta, said: "We've got to find a way to make sure that Cleveland retains pro football, and I'm coming to the conclusion we should also find a way to reinvest Baltimore with pro football.

"I think that, first of all, the commissioner and his office have to engage in very sensitive negotiations with the parties involved. I think you're going to have to hope for a degree of diplomacy and statesmanship as well as open-minded intelligence in order to get this thing accomplished. It can be done."

Policy said there were several possible scenarios to accomplish the goal.

"There might be a way for football to remain in Cleveland under the name the Browns and for [Art] Modell to take a franchise and move it to Baltimore. See, what I'm doing is I'm separating the owner moving the franchise from the Browns' identity," he said.

Policy called that an "assets swap."

Policy said another "plausible alternative" is to have another team move to Cleveland and be called the Browns. He said the most important thing is to avoid having the Browns play in Cleveland in 1996 as a lame-duck team.

"That's not good for Cleveland, the Browns, Baltimore, the NFL or the fans. That's a no-win situation for everyone," Policy said.

He conceded negotiations might not be easy.

"The problem is everyone is painted into a corner where they can no longer avoid their position unless they're given an adequate compromise. Cleveland can't say, 'We're just going to let you go.' Art can't say, 'OK, I'll come back to Cleveland if you promise to love me.' Baltimore can't say, 'Even though we made a deal, we're going to wait to see if we're lucky enough to get a team in the future.'

"We need a compromise to get this thing done. It's time for statesmanship," Policy said.

Modell, who will address the finance and stadiums committees the night before the Jan. 17 meeting, said he didn't want to comment on Policy's scenarios and didn't know if the owners will vote on Jan. 17.

He said he would accept a "slight delay" in the vote, but not until March. "Baltimore wants to know long before March. We have to know something before then," Modell said.

Modell is committed to suing the NFL if the owners reject the move, but it's uncertain what action will be taken if they simply delay the vote.

John Moag, head of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said he thinks there'll be a settlement before the trial begins Feb. 12 on Cleveland's attempt to hold the Browns to the last three years of their lease.

"It's not in Cleveland's interests to be in the courts. It's in Cleveland's interests to be out getting a team," Moag said.

Policy said he didn't think Tagliabue would have any problem negotiating a settlement with Baltimore, despite the resentment over the city's failure to be awarded an expansion team in 1993.

"I can't imagine Baltimore being an obstructionist in terms of getting this situation resolved if they're winding up in the end getting what they want," Policy said.

Policy said he was impressed with Cleveland's $175 million stadium package, but said it should go to a new stadium rather than a renovated stadium.

"I think that everyone is coming to the conclusion that a renovated Cleveland Stadium is not in the best interests of Cleveland or the football tenant that will be playing there," he said. "I got the sense from the interaction that we had with Mayor White and his committee that they have a solid number amongst their group that believe that."

Policy said the committees gave Mayor White the message that he needs a new stadium.

"It's scary renovating a stadium that old. You don't know what you're going to run into. It's absurd," he said.

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