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City lowers profile of its NFL pursuit


Pssst. Hear about the Bengals?

The NFL team is considering moving to Baltimore, but you wouldn't know it listening to fans on the streets of Baltimore. After a decade of --ed hopes, the leaders of the effort to bring an NFL team to Baltimore have taken the job underground. Deep underground.

And it's not by accident.

"In the past, Maryland and Baltimore have been used as pawns in their negotiations," Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday. "Teams would come here, have their picture taken with the former governor and go home and strike a better deal at home.

"I am determined that we will not permit the city and state to be used that way."

Toward that end, he declined to discuss the state's talks with the Cincinnati Bengals or anyone else, and has instructed state officials to observe the same rules.

Maryland Stadium Authority chairman John Moag has been similarly closemouthed about discussions with teams, declining even to confirm a trip to Baltimore that Bengals owner Mike Brown last week said he was planning.

One source familiar with the NFL drive said Bengals officials also were here a month ago, in a secret visit that included a tour of Memorial Stadium -- which probably would be temporary home to an NFL team waiting for its stadium to be constructed at Camden Yards.

Also quietly visiting the city last month: Los Angeles Raiders owner Al Davis, who toured Camden Yards and had lunch with potential investor and Orioles owner Peter Angelos at the Center Club. Davis since has told Angelos that he probably is staying in California, according to a source familiar with those talks.

Davis has received offers for a new stadium in Los Angeles and a renovation of the team's former home in Oakland.

Glendening says commenting on visits only would give leverage to teams trying to strike better deals at home. However, Maryland officials are not the only elements in the equation. The Bengals have been very public about their needs at home and their interest in Baltimore.

"There are obviously discussions going on," Glendening said. "We are serious about trying to get an NFL team. But we are not going to be going on TV or having our picture taken."

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