NFL owners study L.A. scenarios

Stadium issue lingers for city, which has been without team since 1994


Orlando, Fla. -- NFL owners, attending their annual meeting, continue to study placing a franchise in the Los Angeles area and yesterday doubled the size of their L.A. stadium working group to 11 members, plus commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

Los Angeles, which has not had an NFL team since the Rams left for St. Louis after the 1994 season, first needs to come up with a suitable stadium.

Efforts center on renovating the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum or new construction in Anaheim, Calif. In both cases, costs reportedly are projected in the $700 million to $800 million range.

"I think it shows the seriousness of the league in trying to bring this thing to some kind of decision," Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said of the larger study group. "I think the league would like to be in Los Angeles and it's trying to figure out a way to do it."

Still unclear is when a new team could be in Los Angeles and whether it would come from relocation or expansion. Tagliabue said this week that he expected groups representing the two stadium proposals to give presentations in the next month or so.

Meanwhile, NFL team and headquarters officials have been rankled by the so-called poison pills that the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks have put in contract offers for each other's restricted players during the free-agency signing period.

First, Minnesota landed Seattle guard Steve Hutchinson, a designated transition player, by making an offer that would have forced the Seahawks to pay Hutchinson more than his Pro Bowl linemate, offensive tackle Walter Jones.

Now Seattle is taking a run at Vikings restricted free-agent wide receiver Nate Burleson. The Seahawks signed Burleson to an offer sheet that includes a guarantee of the full value of the contract ($49 million) if Burleson plays five games in Minnesota during any year of the contract - a clause that makes a Vikings match highly improbable.

Some team owners have said the deals violate the spirit of free agency, and Tagliabue said he would be discussing such creative contracts with NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw. An amendment to the collective bargaining agreement probably would be necessary to eliminate such individual contract provisions.

Today, owners are scheduled to vote on proposed rules changes, including limitations on end zone celebrations. Players would still be allowed to spike, dunk and spin the ball.

Also up for consideration would be making down-by-contact plays eligible for instant replay review.

Also, while some NFL owners have suggested that the commissioner's job might best be filled by two people, Tagliabue - who has announced he hopes to leave the job by July - said he thought one person should still operate the league as a CEO.

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