NFL owners ratify labor deal, promise secure Super Bowl

Thursday, November 1st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ The NFL is planning on Super Bowl-like security at the Superdome in New Orleans more than two months before the Feb. 3 kickoff.

``This will be the most secure game ever played in the history of the league,'' commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Wednesday.

The increased cost of securing NFL stadiums and assuring a safe Super Bowl, topics that in past years might have required only a few minutes of discussion, dominated talks Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings.

The increased emphasis on security means the Superdome will be secured ``weeks, if not months'' in advance of the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

The discussion came as owners wrapped up their talks by ratifying a three-year extension of their labor agreement. The collective bargaining agreement extension would push the salary cap through 2006 and would carry beyond the NFL's $17.6 billion television contract, which has four more years after this season.

The security discussion developed from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. The NFL rescheduled the second week's games to the end of the season, but Tagliabue said an agreement is needed on how the costs would be split between the owners and players if any future games can't be played.

``Obviously, the whole league is focused on this,'' Tagliabue said. ``The players have been quite vocal about the fans being safe, air travel being safe, the stadiums being safe and secure. We all know, including the players, that we're dealing with a new world.''

The increased emphasis on security means the Superdome in New Orleans will be more secure than any previous game, including the Super Bowl in Tampa played during the 1991 Gulf War.

Since the terrorist attacks, security has been much more visible at NFL games. Fans cannot bring containers or packages into stadiums, and teams are urging spectators to show up earlier than usual to avoid getting stuck in long lines just before kickoff.

Tagliabue has not estimated how much the additional security is costing each team or the league, but suggested it is substantial.

Tagliabue will meet this weekend in New Orleans with local and state officials, including Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster, to review security and other Super Bowl plans.

The labor deal, worked out by the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association in June, still must be approved by the players union. Among the unresolved issues before the players can ratify it are how financial losses would be divided if games are canceled, and how the 2006 salary cap would be adjusted if the economy is in a downturn and TV revenues have decreased.

Among other issues the owners took up:

_ They approved the latest deal to keep the Saints in New Orleans for the next 10 years. The next hurdle will be the approval of financing plans by state legislators, a topic likely to come up during Tagliabue's weekend visit.

_ The roster-stocking plan for the expansion Houston Texans as they enter the league next season. The plan will resemble that of the Cleveland Browns when the team re-entered the league, though safeguards will be in place so teams can't use the expansion draft as a salary cap dumping ground.

``There won't be just high-salaried players are on the list,'' Tagliabue said.

_ The league is urging teams to consider the altered state of the economy in setting ticket prices for the postseason and the 2002 regular season.

``We'll maybe moderate our postseason pricing compared to prior years because we're in a different environment,'' Tagliabue said. ``I'm sure the teams have to look at that for next year.''