This time, Colts want to stay put

ON THE NFL

Pro Football

May 19, 2002|By KEN MURRAY

The Indianapolis Colts allegedly are back in the relocation market, but this time without the acrimony that accompanied their middle-of-the-night flight from Baltimore in 1984. In fact, if left to owner Jim Irsay, the Colts will not be going anywhere other than the playoffs.

Nevertheless, they have been identified by the Los Angeles Times as one of a half dozen relocation candidates for a proposed, $400 million downtown football stadium in Los Angeles. One Times story last week even labeled the Colts as front-runners.

Irsay responded by saying he is "100 percent focused on staying" in Indianapolis, and that he's working with the city toward that end. But he acknowledged it will be difficult for the team to stay competitive in the NFL with its current revenue structure at the RCA Dome.

Conspicuously absent from the dialogue was an ultimatum. Obviously, he learned from the team's turbulent move from Baltimore under his father, the late Robert Irsay, nearly two decades ago. Michael O'Connor, chief deputy mayor in Indianapolis, told the Indianapolis Star that Irsay has never threatened a move to Los Angeles - or anywhere else.

"You don't make demands on your partner," Irsay told the Star. "You work with them to find solutions."

Possible solutions include a renovated RCA Dome, a new stadium, or, apparently, a relocation. It's easy to see why the Colts would be an attractive new tenant in Los Angeles, with headliners like quarterback Peyton Manning, running back Edgerrin James and wide receiver Marvin Harrison. But that won't happen if Irsay gets his way.

The gold rush

The prospect of putting a team back in Los Angeles was big news at the league's spring meetings last week. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue even appointed a five-man committee, which he will chair, to explore the possibilities.

What prompted that flurry of activity was the downtown stadium proposal by the Anschutz Entertainment Group, owned by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz. To build, the AEG wants a $150 million loan from the NFL and the promise of at least two Super Bowls in the next 10 years. The chance to get into the nation's second-largest market is so enticing that at least two teams - the San Diego Chargers and reportedly the Minnesota Vikings - have already initiated talks with the developers.

Other teams that figure to be interested are the New Orleans Saints, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals. The earliest the stadium might open is 2005, and, according to AEG, there might even be two teams playing there then.

Getting a (tighter) grip

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren not only isn't ready to give up play-calling duties with the Seahawks, but for the first time since 1994, he'll send plays into the huddle, too. Quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn handled the job before. Given communication problems with the quarterback in the past, Holmgren wants to reinforce his preference.

"Two things can happen," Holmgren said. "I get excited and start yelling, which is not a good thing, or I can give the quarterback too much information. We'll see how it goes. I'll know by the preseason whether it's going to work."

Masquerade party

Cincinnati Bengals coach Dick LeBeau may be 64, but he's not bashful. He greeted players at a recent minicamp wearing a Superman costume and lip-synching a theme song. First, he broke through a homemade banner that read, "Bengals 2002 Super Bowl," and then he mouthed the words to Little Richard's mid-1960's hit, "Slippin' and a Slidin.' "

His emphasis was on this verse: "I been told, baby, you've been bold. I won't be your fool no more." LeBeau told his players the Bengals will be no one's fool this season.

But they'll still be the Bengals, right?

Devine's Packers legacy

The passing of longtime coach Dan Devine last week dredged up some bitter memories in Green Bay. In four years under Devine in the 1970s, the Packers won one division title but went 25-27-4 overall.

Devine authored one of the most one-sided trades in league history in 1974, his final season with the team. With his job status shaky, Devine dealt five prime draft picks to the Los Angeles Rams for John Hadl, a 34-year-old quarterback. Hadl had a passer rating of 54.0 in eight games for the Packers in 1974, then threw for six touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 1975 before ending his career in Houston.

The Rams, meanwhile, got two No. 1 picks, two No. 2s and a No. 3 in the next two drafts.

Third-and-short

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