NEW ORLEANS – With Super Bowl just a day away, the NFL hasn't received any warnings that Sunday's game is at risk. The league also said the game's stepped up security measures were here to stay.
"We have no credible threats, or none that have been brought to my attention," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said Friday in his State of the NFL address. "And we do have an understanding — and we have assurances from the FBI and Secret Service — that if there were such threats, they would be brought to our attention.
"In terms of the future, I think that very much enhanced security and major investments in security will be a part of our standard operating procedures during the season, during the postseason and, indeed, during the offseason," Tagliabue said.
"Our belief, which all of the owners share, is that we in the private sector have an obligation and a responsibility to take direction from the president and the federal government ... and they're clearly telling us that part of our responsibility is to invest in security."
Tagliabue saw firsthand the preparations being taken to safeguard the NFL title game between the St. Louis Rams and New England Patriots.
"I was able to tour the other day the Secret Service command center and get a very thorough briefing from the agent in charge," he said. "I have a very high degree of confidence that the security for this game will not only be unprecedented, but will be world class and very, very effective."
The immediate area surrounding the Superdome looks like a militarized zone. Throughout downtown New Orleans, particularly near the French Quarter, the city's primary tourist attraction, national guardsmen and police walk along shops and hotels. Other high-profile areas such as the team hotels and media center are zoned off from traffic and the general public.
Tagliabue said President Bush won't be coming to the game, but his father will attend and participate in the coin toss ceremony.
On other matters:
—Tagliabue said the league is working closely with physicians and the government on how to handle heat-related issues in the wake of the death last summer of Minnesota Vikings tackle Korey Stringer.
Stringer died from heat stroke during training camp.
"The league and the NFL Players Association together have spent a good deal of time since last summer talking to outside experts, physicians and others who deal with extreme heat conditions and high level of exertions in extreme heat," Tagliabue said. "We're going to bring all of these recommendations together at our league meeting in March, where I think we'll have some recommendations for the teams."
— He doesn't expect any major changes in the instant replay system now in use to help officiating. Instant replay was renewed for three years last March and, despite several postseason controversies — particularly in the AFC playoffs — Tagliabue expects no overhaul.
"We don't want to protract the game," Tagliabue said of suggestions to change the number of coaches' challenges or how they are administered. "I don't see a consensus of 24 clubs around any substantial changes to the replay system. It's working as it was conceived."
— He doesn't believe a reduction in the number of preseason games, which could lead to an 18-game regular-season schedule, is in the near future.
— Tagliabue defended the current system of merely fining players for egregious on-field offenses, but said suspending those players also is possible
— He expressed concern about the shrinking audience for "Monday Night Football," and said a more flexible schedule for those prime-time games — and Sunday games — is being explored.
— He admitted the league wants to "leave no stone unturned" in pursuing a return to the Los Angeles area, saying, "We need to be there."