New Orleans could return to the Super Bowl rotation this week.
NFL owners will award the 2013 Super Bowl to either New Orleans, Glendale, Ariz. or South Florida -- where their NFL Spring Meeting take place Monday through Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale.
And while nothing else as definitive as selecting a Super Bowl site is expected, the owners could vote on a proposal to expand the regular season to 17 or 18 games, with a reduction in the preseason that would keep the overall total, minus playoffs, at 20 games.
The Super Bowl has been staged in New Orleans nine times, tied with Miami for the most years hosting the big game. Miami will break that tie in February.
But bringing the Super Bowl back to the bayou for the first time since 2002 not only would be a boon to the Louisiana city but would display the NFL's satisfaction with how New Orleans has recovered as a sports city from Hurricane Katrina.
"We know that it's not a given that it's going to be awarded to New Orleans, and we really want to make the impression on them that we have a strong desire to host this again for a perfect 10th time," said Jay Cicero, the Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation's president.
A few weeks ago, the state of Louisiana and the Saints announced a lease extension through 2025 that, if approved by the state Legislature, also will include $85 million in upgrades to the Superdome in time for the 2013 game.
"In a lot of ways, we're providing a new stadium with the advantages of the old stadium," Saints vice president Ben Hales said.
Still, the competition will be stiff. The NFL has shown its willingness to return to South Florida by holding the 2006 and 2010 games there; no other area has had such frequent hosting duties since Miami in 1995 and 1999. The Phoenix area was praised for its work for Super Bowl XLII, in which the New York Giants spoiled the New England Patriots' perfect season.
A perfect season could require one or two more wins sometime in the near future if team owners approve a restructured schedule. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has mentioned in the last few months the need to replace preseason games in which few star players get on the field with "meaningful" football.
"The idea has merit, I think," Goodell told The Associated Press last month. "You are taking the quality and improving it, taking two meaningless games and making them meaningful within the 20-game framework."
In late March, Goodell said he hoped a plan for restructuring the schedule could be presented to the owners in Fort Lauderdale. Regardless, there will be discussion of the matter.
"A vote has not been ruled out," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
Goodell and the owners likely will be questioned about changes in the pension plan for coaches after two longtime Colts assistants, Tom Moore and Howard Mudd, retired last week rather than lose benefits. The owners voted in March to make the pension, the 401K and the current supplemental retirement plan non-mandatory for the teams, and nine have opted out of the program.
NFL Coaches Association executive director Larry Kennan said the coaches were never notified of the change when it was voted on in March.
Also on the docket in Fort Lauderdale will be possible modifications to the league's tampering rules that would create a window before free agency begins in which teams could contact the representatives of unrestricted free agents and enter contract negotiations with them. No contract could be executed during that time period.
New players union executive director DeMaurice Smith is expected to address the owners.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press