NFL coming, someday

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

Will the NFL put a franchise in Toronto in your lifetime? "Depends on how long you expect to live," a smiling NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said yesterday in a Jacksonville ballroom at his annual Super Bowl state of the league address.

Though the commissioner said there is clearly no timetable on expansion -- especially until Los Angeles gets a team -- he left the door more open for Toronto than he has in the past.

"I said before and I still feel this way that I think it could be very likely that the next franchises in the NFL beyond 32 are outside the United States," Tagliabue said. "Toronto certainly would be a candidate.

"My guess is it will happen. And I'm expecting to live a good many years, so hopefully I can be there to kick it off in Toronto."

Tagliabue's lukewarm endorsement was well received by Blue Jays president and CEO, Paul Godfrey, who has long lobbied for an NFL franchise.

"I've always said two things -- number one, it's not a question of if, it's only a question of when (the NFL comes to Toronto)," Godfrey said yesterday in a phone interview.

"And two, this is the only major sports league that has not gone international. And if they NFL is going to go international, Toronto has got to be the obvious first choice."

MAY GET ONE GAME

Tagliabue said the league is considering playing a regular-season game outside of the U.S. sometime in the next two years as well as continuing its American Bowl series of pre-season games.

Godfrey said that he will be submitting a proposal for both options now that the Rogers has ownership of the stadium.

In the past few years, the NFL had shied away from Toronto for pre-season contests because of the difficulty in getting a contract for the game and the fact that the league didn't approve of the old worn turf in the stadium.

"I will be presenting a case to (the NFL)," Godfrey said. "I know I have a stadium to rent and great turf for them to play on."

And for the record, Godfrey believes he will still be around when the NFL expands to Canada.

"I'm committed to pursuing the one unfinished piece of business to the sports world in Toronto," Godfrey said. "We're still going to see it in our lifetime."


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