Later that morning Tagliabue got the news from Upshaw about the player vote the previous night. It didn't surprise him. During a conference call that included his kitchen cabinet—Upshaw, Giants co-owner Wellington Mara, Steelers owner Dan Rooney and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson—he asked Upshaw to brief the others on the players' stance. Then he made his announcement. "We're not playing," Tagliabue said at 10:45 a.m.
Three minutes after the league informed the Associated Press of its decision, rumors of a bomb threat at a building across the street from league offices resulted in the evacuation of the NFL's building as well.
The league would decide soon enough to cut out the wild-card playoffs and use that January weekend to make up the Week 2 schedule. That would mean a reduction from six to four in the number of playoff teams for each conference, but that isn't much of a sacrifice, considering that since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, no fifth or sixth seed has reached the Super Bowl, and only two have reached a conference championship game. Shrinking the playoff field would normally send coaches and owners over the edge. Last weekend nary a negative peep was heard.
A more immediate concern was security. Last Saturday, Tagliabue met with NFL director of security Milt Ahlerich to discuss provisions for the resumption of games on Sept. 23. He also asked Lew Merletti, the Cleveland Browns' vice president of stadium operations and security and a former director of the Secret Service, to serve on a new security task force. Tagliabue said the league had learned valuable security lessons over the last decade, during the gulf war in 1991 and following the bombings of the World Trade Center in '93 and the federal building in Oklahoma City in '95. "I'm very, very sure our stadiums will be secure for the players and the fans," he said.
He was asked if he could envision any scenario in which the league would not play this weekend. "Yeah," he said quietly. "I can envision things, but I don't care to go into them. They're for the President to worry about."