Notebook

From the NFL Owners meetings.

Important late-season NFL games this year might be switched from Sunday afternoon to Monday night to attract more viewers.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Monday the 2002 schedule, expected to be released in the next week or two, will allow Sunday games in the last four weeks to be moved to Monday night. The change would be decided at least four weeks in advance.

"We will ensure that there will be attractive games in all the time slots on Sunday and on Monday nights," Tagliabue said. "I think we can make it a win-win situation. We would make sure that CBS and Fox both have strong programming late in the season."

The switch, which has been sought by ABC's Monday Night Football for years, was necessitated by the unpredictability free agency and the salary cap have brought to the NFL.

Two seasons ago, for example, neither Super Bowl team -- the Baltimore Ravens and New York Giants -- had a Monday night game. New England, the current NFL champion, was not on Monday night last year.

At the other end of the spectrum, the final Monday night game of the 2000 season was a 31-0 victory by Tennessee against Dallas. The Cowboys were expected to be strong that season, but finished 5-11.

The games to be switched would have to be consistent with the two networks that carry Sunday games.

For example, if the Monday night game to be switched would wind up on Fox -- say, Washington-San Francisco -- the game switched to Monday night would also be on Fox. If the Monday night game to be dropped is a CBS game, it would be replaced by a game originally scheduled to be shown Sunday by CBS.

Tagliabue also said the NFL would probably not decide until the fall or next year about playing an outside Super Bowl in a nothern city. The commissioner has said he would like the 2007 Super Bowl, the next to be awarded, to be played in New York or Washington, sites of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

However, he noted the league also has promised to make its best effort to bring the game to other sites, such as Arizona, which presumably will have a new stadium built by then.

In other developments, the competition committee discussed nine changes in the rules, most of them minor, such as starting the clock on kickoffs when the ball is touched -- something currently done only in the last two minutes of halves.

It also recommended the clock not be stopped on a sack in the last two minutes to reward defenses for making good plays. Under current rules, the clock stops for five seconds on a sack.

It also seemed apparent the owners would retain the "tuck rule" that became an issue in New England's overtime playoff victory Oakland. In that game, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was ruled first to have fumbled inside the last two minutes, a call reversed when replays showed Brady had not completely tucked away the ball.


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