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Grubman: NFL negotiating directly with task force on stadium

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After an emotional and at times contentious three hours spent listening to frustrated Rams fans at the Peabody Opera House, NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman spent about 15 minutes talking nuts and bolts with reporters.

Once the 1,500 fans had left, Grubman stood on the Peabody stage encircled by perhaps a couple dozen reporters.

"I think it's a very emotional night," Grubman said. "For them (the fans), it's clearly the time to express their point of view and their passion. And frankly, I think for the NFL employees it's hard.

"It's hard to hear that kind of passion come through and not have answers that make people happy. Yeah, I come away impressed with the passion. How could you not?"

Grubman was one of four NFL execs on stage listening to several dozen Rams fans and citizens Tuesday night at Peabody. The others were Cynthia Hogan, public policy senior vice president; Chris Hardart, corporate development vice president; and Jay Bauman, league attorney.

The group will be in San Diego on Wednesday evening to hear from Chargers fans and in Oakland on Thursday to hear from Raiders fans. The hearings are required by the NFL's relocation guidelines, but Grubman bristled slightly when it was suggested that what took place Tuesday was a dog-and-pony show that won't have any weight on NFL team owners when it's time to vote on relocation to Los Angeles.

"I can't guarantee (skeptics) what weight it's going to have," Grubman said. "But I can guarantee people that I'm not coming to a dog-and-pony show."

Grubman said he and the rest of the NFL's relocation hearing traveling party will report back to the owners on what they've heard in St. Louis, San Diego and Oakland.

"The types of questions that we got, and the strength of the passion," Grubman said. "We'll also summarize the written-in questions as well as the ones from the floor (at Peabody), to try to come up with the common themes that seem to be present over and over again.

"And best we can, we'll try to represent to the owners what it is like in those markets and how strong the passion is."

Written comments may be submitted to the league to stl.hearing@nfl.com through Nov. 13.

One of the common themes Tuesday was a strong belief that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has not met the relocation guidelines, and anger that Kroenke has not engaged the fan base on, well, anything since appearing at a press conference in January 2012 to announce the hiring of Jeff Fisher as the team's head coach.

"I think that whenever the owner of a franchise is perceived as being willing to leave, it is going to inflame the fans," Grubman said. "And fans have nothing to give but their loyalty, and they want that in return. And when they think they don't have it, it's gonna be a pretty tough expression of their points of view."

Grubman says the NFL needs to see three things when it comes to the stadium plan in St. Louis.

"The first is there has to be a specific plan," he said. "The second is it has to be actionable. And the third is it has to be attractive to a team."

Grubman said St. Louis has met the first standard: It has a specific plan.

He said having an actionable plan, one that has a complete financing plan in place, is not yet complete.

As for the third, the attractiveness to a team, Grubman gave one of his most interesting answers of the night.

"I understand when the fans are skeptical because a club may be looking at it and saying it's not interesting to them," Grubman said. "The question is whether it's interesting to the rest of the 32 (owners). That's the purpose of a vote — to make that assessment on a 32-team basis, not on a one-team basis."

Those remarks tied into Grubman's Part 2 — having an actionable plan. Grubman said the NFL as a whole is negotiating with the St. Louis task force headed by Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz on the term sheet for the planned $1 billion riverfront stadium on the north edge of downtown.

It was an admission that Kroenke is not engaged in active negotiations with the stadium task force, which would seem to be a pretty clear violation of the relocation guidelines.

"Let's de-mystify this," Grubman said. "If a club doesn't want to engage, but there's a term sheet on the table, the league takes its obligation very seriously to do the best we can to produce as attractive of terms as we can from that term sheet."

The league has a term sheet from the St. Louis task force on its stadium proposal and currently is negotiating that term sheet with the task force.

"We still have to respond to that term sheet," Grubman said, with "we" being the NFL.

"We have some questions about the term sheet which we hope to get answered over the course of the next couple of days or week, and I think probably next week and the weeks after, we'll be in discussions with the task force."

In layman's terms, Grubman described a term sheet thusly:

"If you're buying a house, you've got to say which house are we talking about. What's the address. Who owns it now. How much are you gonna pay for the house. When are you going to do that. How much money are you gonna borrow.

"Who gets what, who gives what. They're non-binding. When someone produces a term sheet, it's a strong expression about how they see the deal being done. And 99,000 times out of 100,000, the other side responds and says, well, we have a different opinion."

When asked if a completed term sheet means that St. Louis will have then produced an actionable plan, Grubman replied: "It would mean that we've done the best we can to produce the best possible set of terms, and that's really all it means. Whether or not they're attractive to an owner is why the owners have the vote."

Grubman provided little in the way of specifics as to when the owners might vote on relocation. After some initial talk last spring about moving up the relocation timetable, Grubman indicated that the current provision calling for teams to file for relocation no earlier than Jan. 1 would remain unchanged.

He said it's uncertain at this point whether the Committee on Los Angeles Opportunities, other league committees, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — or some combination of commissioner and committee — will provide a report making a recommendation on relocation to be voted on by all 32 league owners.

"Whether it's the LA Committee or some other committee, I believe that Commissioner Goodell will involve the committees," Grubman said. "He has done so consistently for all big topics, and this is certainly one. And we've had committees involved consistently on the LA matter."

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