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Inside the NFL | ON THE NFL

Colt Moving Vans Not Coming

September 14, 2002|Sam Farmer

Bought your Peyton Manning jersey yet? Don't bother.

Ready to wait in line for tickets to see the L.A. Colts play? Bring a book.

The Colts won't be bolting Indianapolis for the West Coast any time soon, despite an ESPN report that owner Jim Irsay and his team could be heading to Los Angeles "faster than people think."

Apparently, if Irsay wants to own a football team in this city, he might want to look into arena ball.

"There is no appetite for accommodating Jim Irsay in terms of moving," said an influential NFL owner, who is very familiar with the league's position on L.A. and spoke Friday on condition of anonymity. "The appetite could grow to accommodate a sale of that team to move--without him--to local ownership. Enough is enough with people who relocate and dislodge and aren't able to make it work in their own market.

"[L.A. is] too big a market and too important a move to allow it to fail. The NFL will not permit a situation to occur that's not right for that market and for the league."

Irsay did not return phone messages for this story and has kept a low profile since the ESPN report. It's not the first time the subject has been raised; The Times has reported for almost a year that Irsay has been eyeing L.A. Their lease keeps the Colts in Indianapolis at least until 2006, and city officials are convinced there are no gaping loopholes.

City and Colt officials have talked for months about ways to bolster the team's revenues, and several options are being considered. Among them, building a new stadium to replace the RCA Dome and city payouts to enhance the team's bottom line.

ESPN reported the team could move to L.A. as soon as next year.

Not so fast.

"Nothing will happen in Los Angeles until the scenario in San Diego plays itself out," the aforementioned influential owner said, referring to the Chargers' push to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium, site of this season's Super Bowl.

"There won't be discussion before the Super Bowl, and nothing before the post-Super Bowl discussion plays out."

Maybe that's why the L.A. task force that NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue assembled in May--a group composed of New England's Bob Kraft, Pittsburgh's Dan Rooney, Cleveland's Carmen Policy, Miami's Wayne Huizenga and Carolina's Jerry Richardson--has convened only once--by conference call--and merely had a casual conversation.

The next twist in the L.A. story?

Never mind. Wake me when it's over.

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The NFL has nixed Manning's request to wear black high-top shoes against Miami on Sunday in honor of Johnny Unitas, who died of a heart attack Wednesday. Unitas wore similar shoes throughout his career.

The league sent out a memo Friday saying no team other than the Baltimore Ravens will be allowed to wear a patch or armband Sunday in remembrance of Unitas.

My memo to the league: Lighten up.

Actually, it isn't the first time this type of thing has come up. In 1999, after Walter Payton had died of a liver ailment, several players, among them Marshall Faulk, wanted to change their jersey numbers to 34 to honor him. No dice.

*

They are only Unitas' adopted team, but the Ravens are planning several tributes to him at Sunday's game.

The marching band will take the field and form a No. 19, then a video homage will play on the monitors at either end of the stadium. One of Unitas' former teammates, running back Lenny Moore, will unveil a blue and white 19 where Unitas used to stand during games--around the 30-yard line, to the left of the Raven bench. A pair of his cleats will be placed near the number and will stay there for the rest of the season.

"We'll do whatever we can to salute him posthumously," said Raven owner Art Modell, who counted Unitas among his closest friends. "He was an icon in this town. I can't tell you how much of a beloved figure he was in Baltimore."

*

If the Dallas Cowboys are America's Team--a dubious nickname in the wake of Sunday's face plant at Houston--the Cleveland Browns belong to the world.

For evidence, look no further than the Bougouni Browns Backers of Mali, West Africa, a group selling Cleveland T-shirts to raise money to build a school in its village. The goal is to sell 500 shirts.

"What touches us most is not necessarily the orders that we are receiving, but the outpouring of support and encouragement," reads a statement on www.clevelandbrowns.com from Scott Lacy, president of the Bougouni Browns Backers. "People from Ohio to Nevada and beyond have sent us inspirational notes and inquiries about our life here in Mali."

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Of the 10 teams that made the playoffs last season, only three started quarterbacks they had drafted--Pittsburgh with Kordell Stewart, New England with Tom Brady, and Philadelphia with Donovan McNabb.

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