NFL president to interview contenders for local...


NFL president to interview contenders for local team

NFL president Neil Austrian will head the contingent of league officials to Thursday's preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins at Memorial Stadium. While he's here, he'll interview the three contenders for the franchise -- Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass, Malcolm Glazer and Tom Clancy.

Glazer is scheduled for Wednesday, Clancy on Thursday morning and Weinglass on Thursday afternoon.

But this doesn't mean the NFL will keep to its timetable of naming two teams by "fall" 1992.

With the verdict in the antitrust trial not expected before mid-September, it's not likely the league will name two teams at its annual October meeting even if it wins the trial.

The league now is saying the "fall" goes to the end of the year by its calendar, but it could spill over into 1993. And if the NFL loses the trial, the wait could be much longer.

Trial likely to go to jury

The antitrust trial is in recess this week, but the NFL is nearing the end of its case and the closing arguments could begin the day after Labor Day. There could be settlement talks this week, but they probably won't go anywhere. Both sides seem ready to take their chances with the jury.

The NFL apparently is planning to call only nine or 10 witnesses. It is putting much of its hope on a compelling final argument by its attorney, Frank Rothman.

Meanwhile, the players are thinking of calling Miami Dolphins coach Don Shula to the stand. They'd like to let the jury get a look at his new contract. It reportedly calls for $1.85 million a year, but nobody will know for sure unless he's forced to reveal it in court. Shula is trying to argue he's too busy at the start of the season to testify.

At the trial last week, the NFL was forced to reveal its 1990 financial figures. It was fined $15,000 by a federal magistrate for being so reluctant to provide the figures.

The average operating profit rose to $5.8 million per team, up from $656,000 in 1989 because of the new TV contract. Only two teams, the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots, lost money.

As usual, the Philadelphia Eagles were the most profitable club. They listed profits of $6.7 million, and owner Norman Braman paid himself $7.5 million.

The Saints come marching in

There is a certain irony that the Saints are in the preseason game in Baltimore on Thursday night.

That's because a Baltimore group came close to buying the Saints in 1984 and moving them here before Tom Benson bailed the team out.

The attempt failed when Baltimore officials decided not to back the bid because they didn't want to steal another city's team so soon after losing the Colts to Indianapolis.

Cracking down?

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has warned teams that he'll take away a second-round draft pick if a team is caught illegally stashing a player. The penalty used to be a third-round pick.

Considering Tagliabue's record on edicts, it will be a surprise if he really enforces this threat. A year ago, he threatened to suspend players convicted of drunken driving, but then backed off. He also said Plan B would be delayed a month and it went ahead according to schedule.

The Washington Redskins have turned stashing players into a virtual art form. This year's likely candidate is quarterback Chris Hakel, their fourth-round pick. He figures to come up with some type of "injury" that will allow the Redskins to put him on injured reserve in the next two weeks. Mark Rypien and Cary Conklin each spent a two-year apprenticeship on injured reserve, and now it's Hakel's turn.

The Redskins set the stage by putting Hakel on IR by having him undergo a magnetic resonance imaging on his shoulder Friday. They say he has "pain in his shoulder," though he did play last week.

Another draft

Defensive lineman Darren Mickell, who was kicked off the Florida team for violating team rules, will be available in a supplemental draft Thursday.

Despite his problems in college, Mickell is likely to go in the first round because there's such a shortage of defensive linemen.

Another Florida player, linebacker Mike Kerr, will be in the draft, but is not expected to be selected.

Holdout games

With regular paychecks due to start in two weeks, most of the holdouts are likely to be resolved soon. There's no penalty for holding out now because the players don't get paid in training camp. It's a different story when the real paychecks start.

The most creative ploy was turned in by Terrell Buckley, the fourth player picked in the draft. He signed a minor-league baseball contract with the Atlanta Braves and is scheduled to show up at their instructional camp on Sept. 13. Most NFL people think it's a bluff.

The best exchange of the week was between Jesse Solomon, linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and coach Sam Wyche.

Solomon said: "I don't really think Sam Wyche is really fond of Jesse Solomon. I don't want to start any fires. But it's something I've had [a feeling about] a long time ago, back in the beginning when we first met."

Wyche first said, "Let's change the subject," but he couldn't resist responding.

PTC "You know what a loser is? A loser is a guy who can't have his own way. They say if you don't like me, well, I'm taking my bat and going home," Wyche said.

Wyche always gets in the last word.

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