In what some people see as an encouraging step toward the return of pro football to Los Angeles, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue spent the first half of this week in Pasadena and Wednesday attended his first Rose Bowl game.
Tagliabue and Joe Browne, an NFL vice president, watched the game from a third-floor suite along with their wives and a large cluster of Pasadena politicians and business people. City and stadium officials are promoting the stadium as a potential home for an NFL team.
"The main thing we accomplished was getting a good understanding of the status of their process, and what are the kind of issues they're looking at," Tagliabue said. "Whether there's a place for the NFL in all of that, that will be the subject of future meetings I'm sure."
John Moag, a sports investment banker who took up the Rose Bowl's cause at the behest of the league, called Tagliabue's visit "extremely positive and fruitful." Although Moag has assembled a team of advisors -- including the architectural firm HOK -- he said he did not show Tagliabue any renderings or models of what a $400-million, reconstructed Rose Bowl might look like.
"Our concentration is on completing the very complex process we have to go through to deliver a proposal," said Moag, who helped clear the way for the Cleveland Browns to move to Baltimore.
Tagliabue arrived Monday and attended a cocktail party in La Canada, then was the guest of honor Tuesday at a Ritz-Carlton luncheon in Pasadena. He and his wife, Chan, got a look at the stadium and some Rose Parade floats, and Wednesday went for a morning jog. When the planes roared over the stadium as part of the pregame festivities, the Tagliabues watched from the roof.
"We've met a lot of fans here today," Tagliabue said. "[They said] 'Bring back the NFL. Bring us a team. We love college football and we love the NFL.' "
Tagliabue has said the league will consider awarding a Super Bowl to a renovated Rose Bowl, possibly in 2008. The league has never given a Super Bowl to a city -- or, in the case of L.A., a region -- that does not have an NFL team. This unprecedented move suggests the league might already have a team in mind to move to L.A. and wants to grease the skids for a new or refurbished stadium with its crown-jewel incentive.
The San Diego Chargers are the most likely team to relocate, and, in what they say is an unrelated decision, will move their training camp this summer from La Jolla to Carson. They are seeking a new stadium in San Diego, contending Qualcomm Stadium is insufficient in part because it has too few luxury suites.
Tagliabue declined to discuss the San Diego situation or other venue options in L.A., such as the Coliseum or a downtown stadium. He said the focus of this trip was the Rose Bowl and the game, which he called "an American institution." He said the league is very interested in a return to L.A., which has been without an NFL team since the Raiders and Rams left after the 1994 season, but said he doesn't know how soon such a return could happen.
"I don't have a timeline," he said. "I don't have an opinion. There are a lot of things that have to be done, a lot of people working on it. When it happens I couldn't even hazard a guess."
Donovan McNabb won't have to watch practices much longer.
Today the star quarterback will get a chance to show the Philadelphia Eagles he's ready to return from an ankle injury that forced him to sit out the last six games.
McNabb has been out since breaking his right ankle Nov. 17 in a 38-17 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. When McNabb takes the field with the rest of the first-team offense, 45 days will have passed since he last played.
"If he can move around and feels comfortable with it, then he can step in there and go, but we're going to keep a close eye on him," Eagle Coach Andy Reid said. "He wants to be back in there. That's one thing that he'll be fighting just a bit."
When McNabb returns, Koy Detmer will be his backup with A.J. Feeley at No. 3.
Atlanta Falcon fullback Bob Christian will be sidelined for the playoffs because of his second concussion in two months. The Falcons put him on injured reserve Wednesday and signed rookie defensive tackle Ryan Watson off the practice squad.... Darren Sharper, Donald Driver and Tod McBride are questionable for the Packers' playoff game against Atlanta on Saturday. All three sat out practice again, Sharper because of a sprained knee, Driver because of a strained shoulder and McBride because of a groin strain.... Two of the Indianapolis Colts' injured starters, defensive end Chad Bratzke and linebacker Mike Peterson, are expected to play in Saturday's playoff game against the New York Jets.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.