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SPORTS WEEKEND | NFL DAILY REPORT / AROUND THE LEAGUE

Patriots Moving to Hartford

November 20, 1998| Associated Press

New state and new city. But still New England.

Barring any negotiating hitches before the end of the year, Patriot owner Robert Kraft will move the team to Hartford, Conn., as early as the 2001 season.

Kraft, who shopped for a new stadium in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for four years, said Thursday he was keeping his promise to find the Patriots a home without moving the team out of New England.

Under the deal announced by Kraft and Gov. John Rowland on Thursday, Connecticut would build a 68,000-seat, open-air stadium for $350 million as part of a $1 billion waterfront development in Hartford.

The agreement must still be approved by the Connecticut Legislature and NFL owners before the Patriots become the fifth NFL team to switch cities in three years.

"If the city of Hartford and the people of this state had not gotten together and come up with this, our family would have had to put this team up for sale," said Kraft, visibly moved by the raucous reception he received at a news conference.

Kraft said he had received "some very attractive offers" to move the team out of the region, including the West Coast. Rowland and Kraft signed a memorandum of understanding that grants Hartford the exclusive right to negotiate with the Patriots until Dec. 31.

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The Baltimore Ravens' Ray Lewis, the leading tackler in the NFL last season, signed a four-year, $26 million contract that makes him the highest-paid linebacker in the league.

Lewis, 23, who has two years left on his current five-year contract, received a $7 million signing bonus. The extension moved him ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers' Levon Kirkland and the San Diego Chargers' Junior Seau on the salary scale.

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Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf said in an interview with a Milwaukee television station the chances Packer Coach Mike Holmgren will be back next season aren't good. "I think the pressure may be such that he may be forced to go out and explore one of these other jobs," Wolf said . . . Besides John Elway, the Denver Broncos hope to have fullback Howard Griffith and receiver Ed McCaffrey for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. Griffith expects to play, only two weeks after tearing the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, and McCaffrey is questionable after straining his right hamstring Monday against the Kansas City Chiefs. Elway is expected to return after a one-game absence because of a rib injury. . . . The Chiefs, after waiving Wayne Simmons because of bad behavior in Monday night's loss to the Broncos, replaced him by signing former New Orleans Saint linebacker Ernest Dixon, 27, to a two-year contract. Meanwhile, Simmons was signed by the Buffalo Bills. . . . Indianapolis Colt defensive lineman Tony McCoy will miss Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills after undergoing surgery for a torn retina. He is expected to miss a couple of weeks. . . . Barring any problems, Chicago Bear quarterback Steve Stenstrom (sore chest muscles) will start Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Coach Dave Wannstedt said.

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