Tagliabue addresses NFL issues

By Wes Holtsclaw
STAR STAFF
wholtsclaw@starhq.com
CHARLOTTE, NC -- As commissioner of the National Football League, Paul Tagliabue has his plate full on a weekly basis.
Of the 12 games each week, Tagliabue makes the effort to attend one, with the Carolina-Tennessee battle being selected in advance this past summer.
"Early this summer I told (Carolina owner) Mr. (Jerry) Richardson that I would like to attend a game in Charlotte this year, and we selected this one," Tagliabue said in the Panthers' press box before Sunday afternoon's game. "It turned out to be a big one on the schedule."
Tagliabue addressed several of the question marks that have been placed over the National Football League throughout the past months, including expansion to Los Angeles, instant replay, the overtime rule and everybody's favorite smack talker, Tampa Bay Buccaneer defensive tackle Warren Sapp.
Last week, Sapp was fined $50,000 for bumping into an official, and he made some bold reactions against the NFL.
"I don't know anything about his reaction," the commissioner said. "His conduct over a three-week period was over the line. He had been warned explicitly by many people, and then he bumps into an official last week. He's lucky to be playing this week."
Many people have questioned the plans for Los Angeles as the idea for an expansion team or the movement of teams from Indianapolis, New Orleans or Arizona.
Tagliabue says that it's a stadium issue instead of an expansion issue.
"Los Angeles is a stadium issue, not an expansion issue," he said. "At this point, we are working with three different communities in the area and doing some in-depth environmental and construction research."
"(Moving a current team) is not something we're thinking about at this time. It should be an expansion team."
After last week's Carolina-Indianapolis game, Colts general manager Dom Anile made a bold statement against instant replay. The commissioner believes it is a good system.
"We revisit it every year, month and week it seems," he said. "Yes, it's working well. I don't think there will be many changes."
He also believes the overtime rule is a postseason matter instead of an in-season problem. He expects new ideas to be thrown onto the table after the season.
The idea of playing more regular season and less pre-season games has arrived, and the current setup will probably stay the same.
"We've mentioned it and will discuss that again," Tagliabue said. "The outstanding sentiment is for it to stay the way it is. It's a time-tested system and coaches feel that it's important."
Many people were interested in what it takes to host a Super Bowl, and if cities like Charlotte or Nashville could be considered.
"(The list) is so long right now that if Carolina added themselves to it, it would be 10 years before they could be considered," Tagliabue said. "Right now, our focus is on teams with new stadiums."
"I told many owners that competing for the Super Bowl is as tough as competing for a divisional title."
TITANS DEFENSE AND SPECIAL TEAMS BIG
The big statistics from Sunday afternoon's 37-17 Tennessee win over Carolina came from the Titans' defense and special teams.
The same could not be said of the Carolina Panthers defense, which had not allowed any first-quarter points all season until Sunday, when Tennessee scored 17.
The Titans scored 20 points off turnovers and that was a big key, according to coach Jeff Fisher.
"They hadn't given up any points in the first quarter all year, we knew that and still respect that," he said. "We knew our defense had to focus and they did."
Juqua Thomas connected for two sacks, while Jevon Kearse and Kevin Carter upped their season totals with a sack apiece.
OTHER GAME NOTES
- Sunday's contest was the second meeting in between the franchises, as Tennessee tied it 1-1. The Panthers defeated the Houston Oilers 31-6 during their last meeting in 1996.
The Panthers will next play the Titans in 1997, when they visit Nashville.
- The Panthers' win streak of seven games, dating back to last season, is over. However, the squad is still in the midst of its best start ever.
- It was a sellout crowd of over 72,000; however, just over 69,000 made the venture into one of the NFL's top facilities.
- Titans' field goal kicker Gary Anderson connected for three field goals for the 74th time in his career.
- Billy Volek's 50-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Berlin was the first scoring toss of his career.