NFL Affirms Plans for L.A.

DEARBORN, Mich. — Amid signals Thursday that three of the four sites in Southern California still merit serious consideration, NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue affirmed the league's intent to put a relocated or expansion team in the Los Angeles area in time for the 2008 season.

At the same time, Tagliabue said in a news conference wrapping up the NFL owners' annual fall meetings, he was not "hung up on 2008."

The meetings here marked an incremental step in the NFL's oft-expressed desire to return to the nation's No. 2 market. No expansion plan was announced, no relocation of any team signaled, no owner or ownership group identified.

Even so, league officials and key owners said after a 40-minute presentation that there was reason to believe that a deal might be struck by next May, the NFL's announced target.

Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots' owner, who serves on a league committee studying options in Los Angeles, said, "We've been wrestling with this since … I came into the league. We've been talking about it. And now it looks like things really have a chance of happening."

The L.A. area has been without a team since before the 1995 season, when the Rams left Anaheim for St. Louis and the Raiders left Los Angeles for Oakland.

Four stadium sites are known to be under consideration: the Coliseum, the Rose Bowl, Anaheim and Carson.

The 157-acre Carson site faces significant obstacles, requiring significant clean-up and lacking an environmental-impact report, which can take a year or longer to produce. Tagliabue said all four L.A.-area sites were "making progress," but Kraft said, "Three of the four sites are really advancing. You know, have real possibilities."

Larry Ellison, the Bay Area billionaire who founded Oracle Corp., the computer software giant, has "a good, serious, well-rounded interest" in being in on an L.A. team, Tagliabue said, adding that "quite a few" others had also expressed interest. He declined to name others.

Tagliabue, who has said often that the league views L.A. as a great stage for Super Bowls, said that the NFL would announce the site of the 2009 Super Bowl next spring, perhaps the 2010 site as well, and that Los Angeles was in the mix.

Jacksonville, Fla.; Detroit; Miami and Phoenix will play host to the next four Super Bowls.

NFL executives have said one possibility would be for the league to pay for construction of a stadium in the L.A. area, then pass those costs along to the team owner. A Super Bowl — or multiple Super Bowls within a few years — could help offset the cost, estimated at $500 million.

Asked whether Anaheim could be considered Los Angeles, Tagliabue said that was a "value judgment" about which "different owners will have different opinions." In other developments, Tagliabue said the league and the NFL players' union, led by Gene Upshaw, had "very sharp differences about the [league's] underlying economics" but predicted the sides would successfully negotiate a new labor deal. The current contract expires in 2007.

Tagliabue also said talks were underway to extend the NFL's key source of revenue, its television contracts. The current deals, worth $17.6 billion, expire after the 2005 season. A possibility, he said, is that some games might be shown on the recently created NFL Network.