Canadian expansion not on NFL radar

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue addresses state of union

Being close to the border didn't soften NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's stance on possible expansion of the league into Canada.

Tagliabue said on Friday the league has no plans to expand north of the 49th parallel.

"I don't see any expansion on the horizon," he said during his state of the league address.

In October, Tagliabue suggested Toronto might host a regular-season game next season, the way Mexico City did in 2005, but on Friday he also shot that down.

"Right now, I think it's going to be difficult to play a regular-season game outside of the United States in this upcoming '06 season," he said. "We're still exploring alternatives but I would think over time we would do it in the right way and the right place."

Tagliabue said the league's priority remains putting a team back in Los Angeles.

Tagliabue added that the league doesn't need to add two franchises at a time in order to have an even number of teams in the league, which hurts the prospects of Toronto and, more realistically, American cities interested in a franchise in the near future.

"I could not see, at least now, a decision that would involve a two-team expansion," Tagliabue said. "If there is expansion, I would think it would leave us with an odd number of teams for some period of time, which we have had in the past.

"I don't see expansion to Canada as being related to what we might do in Los Angeles."

CFL commissioner Tom Wright attended the news conference.

"Clearly he also knows the CFL wouldn't have had the chance to renew itself following the U.S. expansion had the NFL not stepped forward and supported us," Wright said. "They've seen what happens when there's a strong organization that is focused on growing the game in Canada and what it results in is a healthier football climate for both of our leagues."

The leagues entered into a decade-long deal that allows CFL players in the option year of their contract a six-week period during which they can pursue contracts in the U.S.

The deal expires in April of 2007.

Meanwhile, Tagliabue was even less sunny when talking about the status of contract talks with the players' union.

"We're not making the kind of progress we need to be making," he said. "I don't think negotiations are going very well."

The collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2007 season. But under the current contract, there would be no salary cap in 2007, and NFL Players Association executive Gene Upshaw insists if the cap disappears then, it won't come back.

While avoiding the strong rhetoric uttered by Upshaw earlier this week, Tagliabue did not sound too optimistic about getting a deal done before the NFL meetings begin March 25 in Orlando, Fla.

"I do think there needs to be an outreach and more reality on both sides," Tagliabue said. "There needs to be a positive dose of reality on both sides of the table. To some degree, positions are hardening on both sides when they shouldn't be."

The league and the owners have been negotiating for more than a year on an extension to the contract first agreed upon in 1993.

with files from CP Online & Associated Press