Is the NFL on the verge of coming back to Los Angeles?
Depends on which team owners you ask. Some are optimistic. Others are unconvinced the ball has moved on that front.
"It hasn't gone backwards, but it hasn't gone forwards," New York Giants co-owner Steve Tisch said Wednesday after the owners got a status update on L.A. from league executives. "There seemed to be one or two references to potential new locations, a couple of locations in Carson, but certainly no breaking news."
The odyssey of the NFL's return, which has meandered the past 20 years, has ostensibly picked up steam in recent months in part because the St. Louis Rams, San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are all now on year-to-year stadium leases, and all are unhappy with their current venues.
What's more, Rams owner Stan Kroenke in December quietly purchased 60 acres of potential stadium land next to the Forum. That has generated a lot of speculation the Rams are poised to move.
ProFootballTalk.com, citing a league source, reported last week that the current plan is for the NFL to send one or two teams back to L.A. within 12 to 24 months. The league for years has said that it views L.A. as a two-team market and that it at least wants a new stadium to be two-team compliant.
Asked about the recent report, and what discernible steps the league has made that would indicate it is moving forward in L.A., Commissioner Roger Goodell said: "I've always been reluctant until we have a solution to project where we are. There are reasons for optimism, but that can change quickly also. Until we have a solution that we're all comfortable with, and the ownership's voted on it, I'm not going to make any comment whether that's realistic or a high probability or not.
"What we want to do is make sure we're doing the work to evaluate those alternatives, understand those alternatives, and if there's an alternative that makes sense, bring that to the membership. Until we do that I couldn't make any projections about whether we're close or not. To me, at the end of the day it's not about whether we're closer, it's about whether we get there."
Many people have connected the dots between Kroenke's owning the stadium land and his ability to move the team, surmising that it's only logical that the Rams will pack the moving vans and leave St. Louis after the season. But John Mara, also co-owner of the Giants, cautioned against drawing any such conclusions at this point.
"I think it's a lot more complicated than that," Mara said. "There are other teams that are interested, and that's going to be a complicated situation to sort through."
Asked whether the league has budged on the L.A. front, Mara said: "It's hard to say. We discussed it a little bit today in terms of what sites are going to be in play. But in terms of what team it's going to be and when it's going to happen, I don't know if that's moved at all. At least we haven't been told about it.
"Do I think we're going to be in L.A. within the next few years? Yeah, I think somebody's going to be there."
Bob McNair, owner of the Houston Texans, said there are "far from any resolutions" on the L.A. situation "but we're optimistic something might happen."
Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross sounded more convinced something is in the works.
"I know L.A. and I know a lot that's going on in L.A. because we do a lot of work out there," Ross said. "I know the league wants it, and they'll find a way. Stay tuned."