- The Washington Times - Friday, May 22, 2009

Adopted seven years ago to encourage diversity in the coaching ranks, the “Rooney Rule” has played a part in allowing six black men to enter this season as NFL head coaches.

At this week’s owner’s meetings, commissioner Roger Goodell said the league discussed expanding the rule, which requires teams to interview as least one minority candidate, to include general manager openings.

Entering this season, 23 of 32 teams have a person with the title of general manager. Of those, five are minorities: Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore), Rick Smith (Houston), Rod Graves (Arizona), Jerry Reese (Giants) and Martin Mayhew (Detroit).

Is expansion of the Rooney Rule necessary? Each man got the job without their employers following a procedure. Evidently, the league feels it is, and since it’s a formality, two issues face Goodell:

*How can the rule be enforced for the nine teams - Buffalo, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, Philadelphia, New England and Washington - that don’t have a GM? Will they be required to interview a minority for a position like team president or — with the Redskins — the executive director of football operations position that runs the front office?



*Will the rule be applicable for promotions from within the organization? New GMs Brian Xanders (Denver), Mark Domenik (Tampa Bay), Gene Smith (Jacksonville) and Mayhew and New England director of player personnel Nick Caserio rose inside their respective front offices.

If the Rooney Rule is implemented for GMs, it likely will include language that requires interviewing a minority for a team’s designated front office chief.

AROUND THE AFC

*A day after Cincinnati drafted him, Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith said he wanted to play left tackle. The Bengals have another plan in mind: Guard Andrew Whitworth has moved to left tackle, and Smith will be the right tackle - a position he has never played.

“I feel that locks us down for a lot of years,” coach Marvin Lewis said. “That’s two very important spots. It’s for as long as I’m here.”

*Even the diehard Terrell Owens haters had to be amused by his arrival in Buffalo this week. With a camera crew for his reality show - “Playing the Field” - shadowing him, he received the key to the city, co-anchored a local sportscast, looked at two condos on Buffalo’s luxurious waterfront and, in his spare time, worked out with the Bills.

*Although Tom Brady won’t take a hit on his healed knee until August at the earliest, the Patriots traded Matt Cassel and didn’t sign a veteran backup. That leaves Kevin O’Connell (six career passes) as the No. 2 quarterback. O’Connell is expected to get major playing time this preseason if the Patriots protect Brady from more than a few series of work. Brady did not participate in this week’s organized team activities.

*This kind of story will continue to emerge: Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said reports from a fake Facebook post claiming he has skin cancer are false. He said he’s not active in Facebook, MySpace or Twitter.

AROUND THE NFC

*Brett Favre isn’t around, but the Minnesota Vikings welcomed first-round pick Percy Harvin for the team’s workouts this week. Harvin missed the rookie minicamp last month after he was hospitalized with severe dehydration.

*A new lease agreement earlier this year ensured the Saints would remain in New Orleans, and the NFL responded by awarding the city the 2013 Super Bowl. The city seemed unlikely to get the title game after Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, but the Superdome was refurbished for $200 million and will get $85 million in future upgrades. The Saints are staying put, and the city will host its 10th Super Bowl.

“This shows that our city is on the rise, viable and thriving, and I have great faith in what we can accomplish,” owner Tom Benson said.

*A tough break for San Francisco cornerback Walt Harris, who could miss the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee Tuesday. He collided with receiver Dominique Zeigler during practice. Harris’ loss means Tarell Brown could join Nate Clements in the starting lineup. Veteran free agent defensive back Dre Bly was scheduled to visit the 49ers on Thursday.

*The Cowboys began their first set of OTAs without Terrell Owens this week, but that didn’t mean he was forgotten. Quarterback Tony Romo didn’t say much about Owens’ release: “He’s a great player, and it’s always difficult to replace someone who’s had the success and been the dominant player he’s been over the years.” Dallas’ first-team receivers are Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton.

FRIDAY FIVE >> 2009 strength of schedule

TeamOpp. win pct.Games vs. playoff teams

1. Miami.5946

2. New England.5927

3. Carolina.5907

4. Atlanta.5885

16. Redskins.4927

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