NFL: Owners to discuss expanded playoffs


NEW YORK — NFL owners likely will consider expanding the playoffs by two teams, beginning in 2015, when they hold their spring meetings in Orlando next week, but a vote on the subject is uncertain.

A groundswell for raising the number of playoff qualifiers to seven in each conference figures to get plenty of support from the 32 owners. Most notably, Arizona’s Bill Bidwill, who saw his Cardinals go 10-6 and not get in, while Green Bay (8-7-1) qualified by winning the NFC North.

The current format of four division winners and two wild-card teams has existed since 2002, when Houston joined the league as an expansion team, bringing the membership to 32.

“There will be a report on the potential of expanded playoffs,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday. “We don’t know if there will be any vote at this meeting.”

Also on the agenda will be alterations to extra points, changing who oversees video replay reviews, and further clamping down on the use of racial slurs by players during games.

A change in the playoff structure would be needed if 14 teams qualify, with the top seed in each conference still getting a first-round bye. The next six teams would play in what is now the wild-card round, with the second seed facing No. 7, the third seed taking on No. 6 and the fourth and fifth seeds playing each other.

One reason the league is looking at more playoff teams is a stalemate in talks with the players union about expanding the regular season from 16 games. Another is the added revenue stream two more postseason games would provide, with those matches up for bidding among the current network partners — Fox, NBC, ESPN and CBS, which just grabbed an eight-week Thursday night package — and potential new broadcasters such as Turner Sports.

California may try Sharper case first

PHOENIX — Arizona authorities say they won’t seek to extradite former NFL All-Pro safety Darren Sharper on rape charges until his sexual assault case in California is resolved, but Sharper isn’t waiting for officials in Arizona to act.

Sharper’s lawyers asked a court in Phoenix on Tuesday to hold a hearing to determine whether their client can be granted bail in Arizona, arguing that the former player is being deprived of due process in not getting such a hearing.

Sharper remains held in Los Angeles after being denied bail last week on charges that he drugged and raped two women in October at a nightclub.

He also is charged with drugging and raping two women in Tempe, Ariz., in November.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said prosecutors would wait until after the California trial to put him on trial in Arizona.

Montgomery said Wednesday that if Sharper is convicted in California, it could strengthen the Arizona case.

Separate sex assault investigations involving Sharper are ongoing in Florida, Nevada and Louisiana.

Newton’s ankle surgery successful

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Panthers say Cam Newton had successful surgery on his left ankle and the two-time Pro Bowl quarterback will be sidelined for four months.

Panthers team physician Robert Anderson performed the surgery on Wednesday in Charlotte.

By wire sources