Owners decide NFL Europe will play on

Consensus is war in Iraq won't compromise safety of league teams, officials

NFL owners meetings notebook

Pro Football

March 25, 2003|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

PHOENIX - Despite the war in Iraq, league owners have decided not to cancel NFL Europe.

The only decision made on the first day of the annual NFL owners meetings was continuing the developmental league overseas this season. Following an hourlong discussion that dominated yesterday's executive meetings, the Ravens were among the teams voicing overwhelming support of playing the games in Europe rather than in Florida, where the teams are currently practicing.

The players and coaches will leave for Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Scotland this week and will play a schedule that will end in June. The Ravens have allocated running back Dameon Hunter, guard Mike Collins, offensive tackle Lawrence Smith, defensive tackle Nate Bolling, receiver Marc Lester (Morgan State) and guard Jim Jones to NFL Europe.

"We're an American business in Europe," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said. "Like other American businesses, we have to continue on. There was a strong consensus that we play the season."

Tagliabue said there is little concern about the safety of the NFL Europe players.

"We had over the years done a better job with security in NFL Europe, trying to bring it up to the standards that we have here with the NFL teams," Tagliabue said. "There was a considerable effort on that last year post-9/11 and that will continue."

Ravens compensated

The Ravens were awarded four additional picks in the NFL draft as compensation for losing unrestricted free agents a year ago. They received an extra pick in the fourth and fifth rounds, as well as two additional selections in the seventh round.

"We lost [unrestricted free agents] Duane Starks and Lional Dalton and that would be tough to say we could replace them with fourth- and fifth-round picks," Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said. "But this allows us the flexibility to move around the draft [by way of trading picks] and better replace them."

The Ravens are one of five teams to gain four compensatory picks, joining Green Bay, Miami, the New York Giants and St. Louis. Chicago will get three picks while one each will go to Arizona, Cincinnati, Detroit, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Philadelphia, Seattle and Tampa Bay.

OT, playoff voting soon

The vote on hotter topics such as altering the overtime system and expanding the playoff format will take place either today or tomorrow.

Neither change is expected to pass - only eight teams need to vote against it to shoot down either proposal - but modifying overtime has the better chance of the two plans. The competition committee, which recommends rules changes, split 4-4 on a move to change overtime and allow each team at least one possession.

"Historically these are not rules that pass the first year they're proposed," said Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the committee. "Sometimes you have to let them percolate into the second year."

Increasing the playoff field from 12 teams to 14 is considered a long shot.

"There's always support for expanding the playoffs from teams that don't make the playoffs," Tagliabue said.

Bucs-Eagles II

The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will visit the Philadelphia Eagles again on the opening Monday night of the 2003 NFL season in a rematch of last season's NFC championship game, the league announced yesterday.

The Ravens remain the only Super Bowl champion since the 1995 San Francisco 49ers to not kick off the next season on Monday night.

The Monday night game is one of four announced by the NFL on Monday for the opening weekend of the season. Other featured games the first week include Oakland at Tennessee in a rematch of the AFC title game, Atlanta at Dallas in Bill Parcells' first game as the Cowboys' coach and Indianapolis at Cleveland, another meeting of two playoff teams.

The league's opening game - the New York Jets at Washington on Sept. 4 - was announced earlier. The rest of the schedule will be made public in the next few weeks.

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