Archive for Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NFL commissioner search may drag

League in no hurry to find Tagliabue’s replacement

March 28, 2006

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— The search for Paul Tagliabue's successor may take a while.

As the NFL meetings started Monday, Tagliabue postponed appointing a committee to begin a search for the next commissioner and was vague on when he might do it.

Nor did the owners seem in a hurry.

"It's not a race for speed, it's a race for success," said Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles. "This is the CEO of a 32-team operation, so it's not the speed, it's the quality."

One reason for the delay is trying to avoid what happened in 1989, when outgoing commissioner Pete Rozelle appointed a committee of insiders. That alienated outsiders, leading to a seven-month deadlock.

That could still happen again.

Despite a last-minute agreement on enhanced revenue sharing that resulted in an extension to the NFL's labor deal with the players' union, there is still considerable disagreement by low-revenue and high-revenue teams. Tagliabue is aware of that and will have to ensure the committee is balanced with the various factions among the owners.

Tagliabue, who has said he wanted to step down in July, was asked whether he would stay on through season if he had to.

"Ask me in September," he replied with a smile.

Two candidates are: Roger Goodell, 46, the NFL's chief operating officer, and Atlanta general manager Rich McKay, 47, who also is co-chairman of the league's rulemaking competition committee.

The competition committee recommended a series of rule changes and tweaks. They will be voted on later in the week and include:

¢ Getting tougher on end-zone celebrations to forbid players from demonstrating on the ground, such as doing sit-ups. They also can't use props, but can spike, dunk or spin the ball as long as they are standing up and are in the end zone.

¢ Modifying illegal procedure to allow receivers to flinch if they get back into position before the play and the defense doesn't react to the move.

¢ Toughening enforcement on pass rushers who hit quarterbacks below the knees. However, it wouldn't involve hits that defensive players can't avoid, such as the one in last year's playoffs on Cincinnati's Carson Palmer by Kimo von Oelhoffen, then with Pittsburgh, that severely injured Palmer's knee.

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