PHOENIX — There’s a strong possibility the Patriots will open the NFL season Sept. 5 at Baltimore, if a scheduling conflict can be worked out.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the team’s website Monday that he’d “be surprised” if New England didn’t take on the Ravens for the NFL Kickoff Game at M&T Bank Stadium in an AFC Championship game rematch.
But as it stands today, that wouldn’t happen.
The Orioles are scheduled to host the White Sox in the opening game of a four-game series at 7 p.m. at Camden Yards. The two stadiums share a parking lot, so the team can’t play at the same time.
The NFL is hoping MLB moves the Orioles to the afternoon. The NFL is willing to push the start later than the usual 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
“I have talked to Major League Baseball, I have called [MLB Commissioner] Bud Selig twice and spoken to him about that,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We are trying to work out an accommodation to allow the Orioles’ game to happen earlier in the afternoon and the Ravens to celebrate their Super Bowl championship with their fans at home on Thursday night. We think that is the right thing.
“We think it will be a great day. As a kid who grew up as an Orioles fan, to have the Orioles game in the afternoon and then go to the Ravens’ Super Bowl championship celebration for the Kickoff Game will be a great day. We hope that is the way it will happen.”
It may not. The White Sox play a 6 p.m. game at Yankee Stadium the night before, so the White Sox and the MLB players union would have to agree.
“It doesn’t just involve the Orioles,” Katy Feeney, MLB’s senior vice president for club relations and scheduling told the Baltimore Sun. “There is another team. The Orioles and White Sox have been on the schedule for quite awhile. Both teams are coming off a night game [on the road]. It’s late in the season. To ask them to play a day game is rough, plus you have to factor in the impact on attendance and broadcast revenue.’’
The NFL has ruled out opening the season on Wednesday night because of Rosh Hashanah.
The only alternative would be to have the Ravens open on the road — which wouldn’t happen against the Patriots.
“We think that is wrong for the Ravens’ fans,” Goodell said. “We would not want that to happen. That is why we are trying to reach an accommodation here. We are working on the schedule. We are working on parallel tracks for a couple more weeks. Clearly, we are getting to a point where we have to make that decision.”
Tuck rule on block
The tuck rule, which helped the Patriots win their first championship by overruling a Tom Brady fumble in the waning moments of a 2001 AFC Divisional playoff game, will come to a vote on Tuesday at the league meeting.
“We all think it’s a fumble, so it will be a fumble,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the competition committee. “It’s been well received. It makes sense.”
When asked specifically if the Brady play would be a fumble under the rule change, Fisher said, “Correct,” before joking, “This is not retroactive, by the way.”
Why was the tuck rule in place to begin with?
“It was a bright line to say once the hand started forward with the pass, it was a pass until the player actually tucked the ball away, so there was a clear delineation,” said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s new vice president of officiating. “Now there’s more judgment involved, but we feel we can officiate that, and certainly with replay involved we have the ability to review it in replay.”
Patriots owner Robert Kraft was asked how he would vote on the change.
“I might have to abstain on that,” he joked. “That’s a hard one. I have a great bond with the tuck rule.
“I never, to be honest, prior to the Snow Game, I never knew what the tuck rule was. But I love the tuck rule, and forever will, and I know [longtime Raiders owner] Al Davis, may he rest in peace, is probably smiling.”
A few more of the Patriots contracts have come into focus.
Former Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson was given the kind of contract — three years at $5 million with only a $1 million signing bonus guaranteed — that indicates that he will be part of a three-man competition (Tavon Wilson, Steve Gregory) to play at strong safety next to free safety Devin McCourty.
A year ago, Gregory received a three-year, $7.1-million contract with $3.35 million guaranteed.
Wilson will count $1.333 million against the cap this season, and $1.833 million in both 2014 and ’15. In the latter two years, Wilson has playing-time incentives.
Receiver Donald Jones’s three-year deal has no signing bonus or guaranteed money. He counts $1.131 million against the cap this season, $1.415 million, and $1.555 million thereafter. His base salaries can be split in half against the cap should he land on injured reserve.
Jones has $14,687 in per-game roster bonuses for the duration of the contract.
The Patriots have kicked the tires on free agent right tackle Eric Winston, the former Texans and Chiefs standout, according to a league source. It’s due diligence that could be affected by whether free agent Sebastian Vollmer returns . . . The Patriots reinstated fullback Tony Fiammetta from the reserve/left squad list. Fiammetta left the squad early in training camp to deal with a personal issue, and has been welcomed back with open arms . . . The Patriots did not receive any compensatory draft picks for losing free agents last year. The Falcons and Ravens led the league with four each for losing more free agents than they signed . . . Goodell said the NFL has made another proposal about changing the offseason calendar to spread out events such as the combine, free agency, the draft, and the start of training camps. It’s not known what the calendar looks like. “We think that it makes a lot of sense,” Goodell said. “I think the players saw the benefits of doing that and they wanted to talk to their membership, which they were doing last week at their meeting.” . . . Goodell said expanding the playoff field from six teams in each conference “clearly won’t be happening for this year,” but the idea is still being looked at . . . Goodell was pleased with how the Pro Bowl went in January. “Clearly there was an improved effort,” he said. “I have spoken to several of the players and I appreciate that. I have also had conversations with the players and so have our staff. They have also met with the competition committee last month to talk about what we can do to make the game more attractive, more exciting, and more competitive.”