League plans to honor Tillman this season
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. -- The National Football League would like to have a team back in Los Angeles by 2008, Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Tuesday.
Tagliabue said league owners were pushing for a decision on a stadium site by next spring, giving the NFL the time it needs to return a franchise to the country's second largest television market by 2008.
"We're hopeful we can stick to a timeline that would have us make some decisions on a stadium project maybe a year from now in May of '05," he said.
The league, which has not had a team in the Los Angeles area since the Raiders and Rams departed following the '94 season, has been working with groups representing sites at Carson, the Coliseum and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
"Everyone has been working at this," Tagliabue said. "At some point decisions need to be made."
League owners have made no decision about expanding to a 33rd team or moving a troubled franchise to Los Angeles when and if they come to an agreement on a stadium there.
Indianapolis owner Jim Irsay, who is involved in discussions with community and state leaders about improvements in the Colts' situation, said he was confident of working out a new deal to remain in Indiana.
"This is clearly on the frontburner," he said. "More and more we're trying to get people behind this thing.
"I'm 44 years old, I'm not signing until I'm 74 years ... unless I know we have a strong, long-term plan," Irsay said.
The NFL also said it plans to honor the memory of former Arizona Cardinals defensive back Pat Tillman during the regular season -- perhaps by having all teams display a helmet decal with his uniform No. 40.
Tillman, who starred at Arizona State and then the Cardinals before rejecting a multimillion dollar contract to join the Army, was killed last month in Afghanistan during a firefight with the enemy. He was 27.
"We previewed some of the initial thinking we have about paying tribute," Tagliabue said. "The key thing here is to have a proper balance between respecting what Pat did and what all the other men and women of the military do."
Owners also heard some preliminary discussions about the league's preparations for new television agreements and received an update on Jacksonville's preparations for the 2005 Super Bowl, scheduled Feb. 6.
Tagliabue said he would detail the Super Bowl preparations Wednesday. The owners wrap up their spring meeting Thursday.
Former NFL quarterback Jack Kemp briefed owners on the USA Football program aimed at increasing interest in the sport. This year the league will help with a kickoff promotion, "Play Football Week," that will run from Aug. 28 to Sept. 4.
Supported by the league and players association, it will promote youth registration and participation in programs sponsored by police leagues, YMCA's and Pop Warner, among others.
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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