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tiggerpolice 06-05-2005 06:29 AM

Benson setting trends for owners
 
Benson setting trends for owners
Sunday, June 05, 2005
Jeff Duncan
Tom Benson might have started something.

The Saints owner's recent public outcry for a new stadium appears to have touched off a brush fire of stadium talk around the league.

With Arizona and Dallas slated to open new buildings in 2006 and 2009, respectively, and Indianapolis in line to fund a new facility, only a handful of stragglers remain with old buildings or ones that haven't been renovated recently.

On the outside looking in are San Francisco (1960), San Diego (1967), Kansas City (1972), Buffalo (1973), New Orleans (1975) and the two New York teams.

The group could be reduced even further soon.

San Diego and the New York Jets are campaigning in earnest for new stadium projects. And now Kansas City has joined the hunt.

Venerable Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt looks to be following Benson's blueprint.

First, Chiefs officials issued idle rumblings that they can't keep pace with their large-market brethren. Then they lobbied the Missouri legislature for financial support in the form of athlete and entertainer taxes. When lawmakers dragged their feet, Chiefs officials subtly threatened to break their lease at Arrowhead Stadium if the Jackson County Sports Authority, which operates the building, doesn't maintain the stadium in "state of the art" condition as stipulated by the lease, which runs through 2014.

Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt told Missouri legislators either the Chiefs or neighboring Royals "could be out of here" in 10 years, adding that a move across the state line to Kansas City, Kan., where NASCAR built a $260 million speedway five years ago, is possible.

Sound familiar, New Orleans?

Hunt recently backed off his earlier statement, but the message was clear: Kansas City needs to get its act together or the Chiefs will join the Saints and Chargers on the list of top candidates to relocate to Los Angeles.

"(The Hunts) are not going put in $150 million for a new stadium, not with Los Angeles out there," said Kevin Gray, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission. "If you gave Los Angeles an opportunity, they're going to give (the Hunts) a blank check. That's the scary part."

Chiefs fans, who have supported the team as well as any fan base in the NFL, are in a tizzy at the thought of the Los Angeles Chiefs. The club has a sellout streak dating to 1991, and still it's not enough.

"We're not like a St. Louis market that can capture (an NFL franchise )back, we're not like Cleveland or Baltimore," Michael Smith, president of the Jackson County Sports Authority, told the Kansas City Star. "Los Angeles is a big enough market to capture it back. We are in a more critical position now than we were when we put the (sports complex) on the ballot in 1967."

Welcome to the jungle, K.C.


HIGH HOPES: The always-high expectations in Dallas have reached the stratosphere this offseason after the club landed six potential new starters: quarterback Drew Bledsoe, guard Marco Rivera, cornerback Anthony Henry, nose tackle Jason Ferguson, rookie linebacker Demarcus Ware and rookie defensive end Marcus Spears. Coach Bill Parcells, while admitting that his third Cowboys team is more talented and deeper than the previous two, is also realistic, summing up the thoughts of every NFL coach at this time of year. "Just looking on the outside, I think we're going to have more depth, more competition," Parcells said. "But I don't know what we're going to have on the inside. I don't know what kind of chemistry we're going to have. I don't know what kind of mental toughness we're going to have. I don't know. When we get hit in the mouth the first time, what we're going to do."


FRESH RICE: Some critics have questioned Jerry Rice's decision to play a 21st season, claiming the future Hall of Famer will tarnish his legend at this stage of his career. Rice, though, has a message for the skeptics. "I still love the game," Rice said during his first day as a Bronco. "I know a lot of people have their opinions out there and I respect that. But I still want to play. A lot of people are talking about the legacy, but I think the legacy is intact. I still want to play football, and I still want to run on to the field and hear the cheers and all that." So, I ask, what's wrong with that?


SAY WHAT?: Reporters are an impossible lot. We constantly beg for candid comments and fresh copy, then when a player tries to deliver something off-beat we crack on him. Case in point: Green Bay Packers wide receiver Javon Walker. A reporter asked Walker, who is holding out this offseason for a larger contract, if the Pro Bowler needed to prove himself for more than just one season to merit a big raise. "Anybody can (say), 'OK, he had a great year, let's see if he can do it again,' " Walker said. "That's like trying to tell a person to go to war in Iraq, but let me see if you can go to war again and come back and then we'll give you a Medal of Honor. You can't send a soldier out to a battlefield twice for him to be consistent." Advice to Walker: Stick to football.


AROUND THE NFL: The Detroit Lions plan to deploy their three-receiver package with Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams like this: Roy Williams will play split end with Rogers manning the prolific flanker spot in Ted Tollner's West Coast scheme. Rookie first-rounder Mike Williams will man the slot. . . . Look for the Titans to release veteran safety Lance Schulters soon. The move will clear $2.75 million in cap room for the cash-strapped Titans. . . . Former Tulane wide receiver Chris Bush has opened eyes in Titans camps. Bush is one of six of the club's massive rookie free agent crop singled out by the coaching staff, along with defensive tackle Marcus White, running back Walter Reyes, center Joel Rodriguez, linebacker Robert Rodriguez and defensive end Karlton Neal. . . . The Denver Broncos are moving another cornerback. This time it's 2004 third-round pick Jeremy LeSueur, who missed his entire rookie campaign because of a hernia injury. LeSueur is moving to safety. . . . Carolina Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme was the unofficial winner of the EA Sports Quarterback Challenge. The competition was conducted May 13 but won't air until July. . . . Former St. Augustine High standout Raynoch Thompson is the favorite to win the starting weak-side job in Green Bay.


AROUND SAINTS CAMP: The Saints have an offer on the table to Az-Zahir Hakim but the veteran receiver plans to make a visit or two more before making a decision. He's visiting Kansas City today. . . . The Saints might also pursue Rod Gardner if the Redskins release him, but Gardner is likely to seek a starting spot and the Saints are looking strictly for a No. 3 or 4 receiver. . . . The Saints' offer to Troy Brown was $300,000 more lucrative than the $800,000 deal he received in New England. In the end, Brown picked the Patriots because of family concerns -- Brown and his wife have two school-age sons -- his familiarity with New England's system and the chance to defend two Super Bowl titles. . . . Here's how close Chad Brown was to signing with the Saints. The veteran linebacker personally called General Manager Mickey Loomis to tell him he was going to New England but that he was torn about the decision. Loomis said it's the first time in his 20-plus-year NFL career that a player has made such an effort. . . . Two players who opened eyes in coaching sessions this week: rookie safety Josh Bullocks and wide receiver Nate Poole. Bullocks has shown great speed and instincts in center field, while impressing coaches with his aptitude in the playbook. Poole is not fast but has excellent hands and runs precise routes. Even if a veteran receiver isn't signed, Poole will challenge Devery Henderson, Michael Lewis and Talman Gardner for a reserve spot.

. . . . . . .


Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3405.


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mayoj 06-05-2005 10:28 AM

RE: Benson setting trends for owners
 
I would give my left testicle to get rod gardner. i saw him play at clemson, and he is big and has great hands. no comparison to hakim. he'll probably cost more though and not be happy about the #3 spot but it would put us at one of the best three in the nfl with his addition.


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