Tags: Bills won't be forced to relocate

WASHINGTON -- NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue reassured a
New York senator and jittery Buffalo Bills fans Thursday that the
league's new labor agreement won't hurt small market teams and
force the team to relocate.

Tagliabue also told Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer that Bills
owner Ralph Wilson, whose vocal complaints sparked Thursday's
meeting, will be one of eight owners on a committee that will
hammer out details of how teams will qualify for NFL money under
the new labor agreement.

"There is every reason to believe the Buffalo Bills will be
able to continue as they have with a competitive team," said
Tagliabue, adding the team's well-being "turns more on who the
quarterback is and who the running back" rather than on the
specifics of the labor deal.

"What we're striving to do is focus not just on the Buffalo
Bills but on all the small market teams," said Tagliabue,
mentioning the Jacksonville Jaguars, Green Bay Packers, and Kansas
City Chiefs.

Wilson praised the outcome as a success, particularly his team's
inclusion on the eight-member committee. "This is only the first
step. The senator told me he is going to continue to monitor this
situation as will the Bills and all of our fans," Wilson said in a

Schumer said he ended the discussion "very happy and very
hopeful about a long future for the Bills in Buffalo."

Also in the meeting in Schumer's Washington office was NBC
newsman Tim Russert, a self-described "son of Buffalo," who said
his favorite team has "a very good future if this agreement can be
worked out."

Wilson, one of two owners who voted against the labor agreement,
has complained the new deal threatens the financial viability of
his and other small market teams. Tagliabue said that won't be true
once the specifics are hammered out.

"My own belief is that the ground rules that come out [of the
committee] will not be troublesome or problematic for the Buffalo
Bills," said Tagliabue.

Wilson, the Bills' sole owner since founding the team in 1960,
has suggested the league's wealthier owners played too big a role
when the league extended its collective bargaining agreement last
month. The Bills and the Cincinnati Bengals cast the only votes
against the agreement.

Since the vote, Wilson has sought to put political pressure on
the NFL to ensure the viability of small-market teams.

Wilson, long one of the NFL's most outspoken owners, believes
the new labor deal establishes an unequal playing field between
large-and small-market teams because it produces an equal
allocation of player costs with an unequal distribution of

While reiterating he has no intention to move or sell the team,
Wilson said he's not sure how long the Bills can survive under the
new deal.

Tagliabue said the league's long-standing salary cap is designed
specifically to protect small-market teams and keep competitive
balance in the league.