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Draft changes among topics discussed at owners' meeetings

10/24/2007 - NFL

PHILADELPHIA -- The NFL moved to speed up its draft on
Tuesday during owners' meetings at which it also discussed having
the Buffalo Bills play regular season games in Toronto, expanding
the reach of the NFL Network and moving the Pro Bowl.

No action was taken on any of those issues except the draft, in
which the time between picks in the first round will be cut from 15
minutes to 10 to help speed up a process that went a record 6 hours
and 8 minutes last April.

Starting time was also moved from noon EDT to 3 p.m. for the
first day, which will be limited to two rounds instead of three.

"We believe this will make for a more streamlined and efficient
draft," commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement issued
during the league owners' meetings.

The issue that could have the biggest impact, however, involves
Buffalo's games in Toronto.

Owners considered a proposal that would have the Bills playing
one home game per season there for the next five years to help the
team expand its diminishing market in western New York into
Canada's largest metropolitan area.

While the Bills have marketed in Canada for years, this would be
the first time they played regular-season home-games there.

In addition, they would play exhibition games there in 2008,
2010 and 2012.

"It helps expand our market in Buffalo," team owner Ralph
Wilson said. "It gives us a major metropolitan area to expand our
base."

Two years ago, the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals met in
Mexico City in the first regular-season NFL game played outside the
United States. This Sunday, the New York Giants and Miami Dolphins
will meet in London in the second.

Goodell said at a news conference he thought the changes in the
draft would go a long way to streamlining the process, which in
recent years has become an endurance test.

There was also a change in the second round. It will be cut from
10 minutes to seven between choices for next year's draft, which
will be held April 26-27 at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

In recent years, teams have often used most of the 15 minutes in
the first round, entertaining trade offers or making them.

The time between picks will stay at five minutes for the last
five rounds, which will take place on Sunday. That session will
start at 10 a.m. instead of 11 as it has in the past. Both days
will be televised by ESPN and the NFL Network.

During the meeting, Goodell reinforced his position that
electronic spying will not be tolerated. In September, he fined New
England coach Bill Belichick $500,000 and the Patriots $250,000
after tapes of New York Jets defensive signals were confiscated
from one of their employees on the sideline.

"I emphasized that it has a huge effect on the integrity of the
game," he said.

On other issues:

• Goodell said owners still are considering changing the date and
site of the Pro Bowl, although no vote was taken. The game, now
played in Hawaii the week after the Super Bowl, could be changed to
a site in the continental U.S. the week before the Super Bowl.

• The commissioner and Dallas owner Jerry Jones emphasized they
are committed to the NFL Network even though a long-running dispute
with three of the nation's biggest cable companies has limited its
reach to 35 million homes instead of the 50 million the league
expected at this point.

The dispute has intensified since last season, when the network
started showing late-season games. Jones, the chairman of the NFL
Network committee, said he had been getting numerous calls from
areas which will not be able to see the Cowboys' Nov. 29 game with
Green Bay, a contest between two of the NFC's top teams, because
the cable companies in their areas don't get the network.

• Goodell met with Dean Spanos, president of the San Diego Chargers, to determine the site of the team's game Sunday with
Houston. Qualcomm stadium, where the game is scheduled to be
played, is being used as a staging area for people displaced by
Southern California wildfires. The Chargers said they still are
hoping to play at home, with other options in Arizona, Texas and
Los Angeles.

Four years ago to the week, the Chargers were forced to move a
Monday night game with Miami to Tempe, Ariz., on short notice
because of deadly wildfires.