- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The gap between the NFL’s high- and low-revenue clubs has been a growing concern within the league in recent months.

Yesterday’s owners meetings in Washington suggested the divide has narrowed.

Two months ago, Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney wondered when his high-revenue counterparts would “get some brains.” Yesterday, high-revenue owners Bob McNair (Houston) and Bob Kraft (New England) agreed with low-revenue owners Lamar Hunt (Kansas City) and Tom Benson (New Orleans) about the principles of revenue sharing. That’s the precursor for negotiations with the players association to extend the collective bargaining agreement for a fifth time since its 1993 implementation.

“The key is that everyone has the financial resources to remain competitive,” McNair said. “The question is how do you determine one’s competitiveness? When you subtract from their income what it costs to service their debt, the difference between the high-revenue teams and the low-revenue teams is not that [large].”

Hunt is optimistic an agreement will be reached “in due time” — perhaps before the scheduled expiration of the salary cap in February 2007.

“When you have 32 independent people all looking after No. 1 first … you’re going to have a few obstacles, [but] we realize we need the other 31 clubs,” Benson said.

While the finance committee is unanimously in favor of the proposed sale of the Minnesota Vikings to New Jersey shopping mall magnate Zygmunt Wilf, minor issues between Wilf and current owner Red McCombs remain unresolved. Until they are, the owners won’t vote. Approval likely would occur electronically in the near future.

“We’ve got some outstanding people coming into the league,” Benson said of Wilf and minority partner Reggie Fowler. “It’s just a matter of getting all the paperwork done.”

Benson, locked in a contentious struggle with Louisiana officials about renovating the 30-year-old Superdome, and Hunt both said progress was being made toward filling the NFL’s decade-long void in Los Angeles. However, Benson said his Saints won’t be the team to do so.

“I said we weren’t going to move,” Benson said. “There are a lot of offers out there, but I’m not going to sell the club. I don’t care if they offer me $6 billion. We’re not doing anything until after the Super Bowl. [Then] we’ll take a look and see what we can do to work on this thing. I don’t want to leave New Orleans, and the people don’t want us to leave New Orleans, the majority of them anyway.”

The only decision made yesterday was a 27-5 vote to penalize “horse-collar” tackles in which players are taken down from behind by the neck or the jersey in the open field. Offenders also could be fined because those tackles often cause serious injuries.

The only other vote likely to happen before the two-day meeting concludes today will be the awarding of the February 2009 Super Bowl to Atlanta, Houston, Miami or Tampa Bay. With Miami already set to play host to the Super Bowl in 2007, Atlanta (2000) will have gone the longest of the four candidates without a title game. Tampa last had a Super Bowl in 2001, Houston in 2004.

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