KONA, Hawaii -- Victor Kiam, the owner of the New England Patriots, said yesterday he plans to meet with Baltimore officials next month as a favor to a friend.
Kiam, who told Massachusetts officials last week that he would move his team if he doesn't get a new stadium, said after arriving at the annual National Football League March meetings that "a friend of his" asked him to agree to a meeting.
"I told him I didn't want to do it. He said, 'Hey, do me a favor just meet with them,' " Kiam said.
Herbert J. Belgrad, the chairman of the Maryland Stadium Authority, who is heading the Baltimore delegation to the NFL meetings, confirmed that Kiam plans to meet with a "leader in the Baltimore community," but said Belgrad won't be involved in the discussion. Belgrad also said he didn't believe the Baltimore leader initiated the discussion.
Belgrad said he didn't want to give the impression that Baltimore is trying to induce Kiam to leave New England and stressed that getting an expansion team is Baltimore's top priority.
"With expansion so close, we don't want to take any backward step," he said.
But Belgrad said that the meeting with Kiam could be positive for Baltimore, "even if it does nothing more than generate good will for the future."
In the only formal action the owners took yesterday, they approved the sale of half of the New York Giants to Bob Tisch, the New York businessman who had been interested in getting an expansion team for Baltimore.
Jim Finks, the New Orleans Saints president, who is the head of the competition committee, said it voted, 4-3, to reject instant replay. But Finks, who favors instant replay, noted the committee rejected it, 5-2, last year, but it still passed, 21-7, in a full league vote. Finks said he hopes it'll pass again this year.
Finks also said the committee will recommend that the in-the-grasp rule for quarterbacks be liberalized so officials won't stop play even if a defensive player has his arms wrapped around a quarterback's legs as long as no other defensive player is close enough to harm the quarterback.
The competition committee will recommend that the teams be )) allowed to dress a third quarterback as a 46th player, Finks said. The quarterback would be allowed to play only if the first two quarterbacks were injured.