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NFL and Coliseum Agree to Lease Terms

Times Staff Writer

The NFL, in hopes of an eventual return to the Los Angeles market, has agreed in principle to lease terms with the Coliseum and is working toward a similar understanding with Anaheim.

In a news conference Thursday on the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said “very significant progress” has been made during the last year in bringing a team back to the nation’s No. 2 market. The league’s goal is to have two signed “definitive” agreements for team owners to consider at the meetings in March.

A day after discussing that progress with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tagliabue had separate meetings Thursday with L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle.

“We are one step closer, two or three steps closer, you can characterize it however you want,” Tagliabue said. “Whether it’s 2009, 2010 or 2000-whatever, our goal ... is to have definitive agreements on all the key subject matters done well in advance of our league meetings.”

Tagliabue did not give an estimate for when a team might return, did not say whether it would be a relocated or expansion team, and did not eliminate the Rose Bowl from the stadium derby, even though the Pasadena City Council has indicated it will not move forward on an NFL proposal.

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After the news conference, an NFL spokesman emphasized that there is no leader between the Coliseum and Anaheim. Also, there is no signed term sheet with the Coliseum.

“We got close enough to start on a detailed lease, but we never signed a term sheet,” said Pat Lynch, the stadium’s general manager. “The binding document is the lease. We went straight to the lease.”

Asked about the New Orleans Saints’ situation, Tagliabue neither ruled that franchise in or out of the L.A. equation.

“We’re not currently discussing the Saints in Los Angeles as a priority,” he said. “We’re discussing the Saints in Louisiana as a priority.”

Also, Tagliabue has long contended that the Los Angeles area could be a two-team market.

It’s unclear whether the league will actually take action on the L.A. initiative in March, considering the years-long process at various times has taken as many steps backward as forward. More pressing for the team owners are the unresolved issues of revenue sharing and extending the collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union.

Asked if the league had used L.A. for leverage to get stadiums built in other cities, Tagliabue said: “I think [that is] mostly a rhetorical idea that sells newspapers and gets people excited, but I don’t think that there’s much reality to it. I think that most of our teams have demonstrated for many decades that they want to continue their operations where they are. They have deep roots in those communities ... and they’ve gotten things done without having to talk about Los Angeles.”

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Quarterback Joey Harrington will start Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals because Jeff Garcia is bothered by a sore leg, Coach Steve Mariucci said.... Duane Starks was put on injured reserve because of a bad shoulder, ending the season for the cornerback who replaced Ty Law in the New England secondary.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


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