Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that finding a replacement for NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will be as much a political job as a business decision, and the first indication of that was Tagliabue's announcement that he would not appoint a search committee of owners this week, as originally expected. Eventually Tagliabue will do so, but he has agreed with the suggestion of Patriots owner Bob Kraft and others to hire an independent executive search firm, an effort to avoid the kind of fractious infighting that went on for seven months in 1989 before Tagliabue was elected to succeed Pete Rozelle.
Gayle Fee and Laura Raposa of the Boston Herald's "Inside Track" write that Patriots vice chairman and president, Jonathan Kraft has a shot to be the next NFL commissioner. Kraft was a driving force behind getting the owners to agree to a revenue-sharing plan and an extension of the collective bargaining agreement that found common ground between big- and small-market teams and extended the NFL's record streak of labor peace. It's unclear whether Kraft, who is heavily involved in his family's paper company and soccer team, would be interested in the gig. The team had no comment.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Patriots owner Robert Kraft yesterday said it's up to head coach Bill Belichick and player personnel man Scott Pioli to assemble a competitive team and that he's unconcerned over public relations hits following the losses of Adam Vinatieri and Willie McGinest. "I hold them accountable in this area," Kraft said of Belichick and Pioli. "What's really important is what happens from September to February - that's what I'm focused on. What happens now is important, but what really counts is what happens in the fall."
Gerry Callahan of the Boston Herald writes that it has been a strange and confusing time for Patriots fans, who have grown accustomed to Belichick cutting loose a few of their favorite players each offseason. It's part of the deal. You win championships, you lose old friends,and no one in New England is asking for a refund. They just never thought Vinatieri would be among the casualties.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that Bills general manager Marv Levy wouldn't mind shipping disgruntled wideout Eric Moulds within the division to the Patriots - for the right price. "It depends on what the compensation would be," Levy said at the NFL owners' meetings yesterday. "We would talk to them, of course. We'd talk about it. We wouldn't rule them out." Agent Greg Johnson said he's spoken to Patriots personnel director Scott Pioli about Moulds, who has been given permission to seek a trade. The Bills are believed to be seeking a fourth-round pick or higher, but Levy said that had yet to be determined.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that wide receiver Eric Moulds' advisor, Greg Johnson, said last night that the Houston Texans and Philadelphia Eagles are moving more quickly than the Patriots to strike a deal with the Bills to land Moulds. "It's not going to work out [with New England]," said Johnson. "The timing's not right. The only way it would get done now is if it falls apart with these other teams, and I don't see that happening. The Patriots directly expressed interest in the Bills wide receiver. And the veteran Moulds, who's forcing his way out of a bleak situation in Buffalo, said he'd like to play for the Pats. But the Bills surely would have made it expensive for the Pats to acquire him -- far more pricy than the fourth-round pick they're reportedly willing to accept from Houston. Curran also reports that the Patriots picked up two compensatory draft picks for players lost in free agency last year. For losing Joe Andruzzi, David Patten and Adrian Klemm, the Pats get two picks at the end of the sixth-round of this year's draft (Nos. 205 and 206). The Pats now have 10 picks in the upcoming draft including six on the second day.
Larry Weisman of USA Today discusses the process of finding a new NFL commissioner. Weisman also writes that the NFL's competition committee's officiating points of emphasis this year revolve around sportsmanship and limiting celebrations of touchdowns. The owners will have to vote on the change that states that players may no longer go to the ground to celebrate, nor can they use the ball, the pylon or any other object as a prop as they express themselves in the end zone. Their team will be penalized 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff if they draw a flag, and the player can also be fined by the league.
The Republican reports that Go FIT, a nonprofit fitness and wellness organization based in Western Massachusetts, will hold a fund-raising event, "Breakfast For Champions," featuring keynote speaker Doug Flutie of the New England Patriots on April 4 from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the Blake Student Commons at Bay Path College in Longmeadow. Tickets for this event are $50 per person.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.