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Raiders Slapped With $50,000 NFL Fine

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SAN DIEGO (AP) _ This time, petulance came at a price for the Oakland Raiders.

The NFL fined the Raiders $50,000 on Thursday for violating the NFL's Super Bowl media policy the previous day by skipping the mandatory morning interview session.

``The failure to make all players and coaches available for the required media session Wednesday was the result of a communications breakdown on the part of the club,'' NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

Communications breakdowns involving the Raiders have been common over the decades, and the leadup to the Super Bowl against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hasn't been any different.

On Tuesday, Oakland's media day interview session started 50 minutes late. At the time, Steve Alic of the NFL told an Associated Press reporter it was because of a ``miscommunication'' between the team and the league. The Raiders blamed it on an ABC-TV interview that ran long.

On Wednesday, the Raiders and Buccaneers persuaded the NFL to close part of practice to pool reporters, a practice not done for at least the last 19 years _ the last time the Raiders were in the Super Bowl.

In announcing the fine, Aiello said the Raiders had ``fully participated in all other required media sessions this week,'' even though a number of them missed the Thursday media session, as well.

If the scheduling problems bothered coach Bill Callahan, he sure didn't show it.

``We're right on schedule,'' Callahan said. ``We've really acclimated well in our time down here. Our goal was not to leave the state of California during the playoffs, so that's really worked out well for us.''

Earlier, the NFL Players Association announced that it was in favor of a change in overtime, the first major group to support altering the sudden-death system that has been in place since 1974.

``If you look at the games this year, you see how much closer they're getting,'' NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw said. ``It only stands to reason that if you get into overtime, you should have a fair chance to win.''

Upshaw said players favor a system in which both teams would get a chance with the ball.

There were a record 25 overtimes in the 2002 regular season, four more than the previous high set in 1991. Nine of those games were won by the team that got the ball first and scored without the other team getting possession. The same thing happened in the playoffs, when Tennessee beat Pittsburgh 34-31.

Upshaw said the union is not in favor of the college rule, which gives each team the ball at the opponent's 25-yard line at least once.

``We'll let the football people decide'' the system, Upshaw said. ``But we do need a change.''

The NFLPA also released its biennial report on turf conditions and, to nobody's surprise, Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia was rated the worst field in the league.

The Vet hosted its last football game ever last week _ Tampa Bay's 27-10 win over the Eagles in the NFC title game. It will be replaced next season by a new stadium nearby in South Philly.

``Everybody's glad,'' Upshaw said. ``It's a horrible field. Just awful.''

Second worst was the grass field at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., followed by another natural surface in Cincinnati.

In fact, five of the 10 worst fields in the rankings were grass, a result that flies in the face of conventional wisdom that dictates artificial turf is always worst.

``It just shows that a bad field is a bad field, no matter what the surface is,'' Upshaw said.

The grass field at Qualcomm Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played, ranked 10th worst.

Upshaw also said the union's diversity committee is working with the league to get more minorities into front offices. He said internship programs have been established so players who are interested in futures in the front office can start learning while they're still in the league.

``We're getting a lot more minority coaches from the playing ranks because that's Xs and Os and players know that,'' he said. ``But it's harder to get players with skills that would translate to the front office.''

On Thursday, the Jacksonville Jaguars hired James Harris as their vice president of player personnel.

He is the second black man to be elevated to a high-ranking executive's position this month, along with Rod Graves of the Arizona Cardinals.

In November, the Ravens made Ozzie Newsome the NFL's first black general manager.
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