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Spring league suspends operations, cancels games

The cash-poor Professional Spring Football League moved one step closer to possible extinction Thursday, suspending operations for one week _ meaning players may not get paid for their 18 days in training camp _ and canceling the first two weeks of its proposed 16-game schedule.

"It's a desperate situation, no doubt about that," Rich Fried, owner of the Tampa Bay Outlaws, said from his office in New Jersey, where he co-owns a sports trading card company. "The sand is running out of the hourglass."

The Outlaws, who were supposed to open the season Feb.

29 at Tampa Stadium against Utah, had checked out of their St. Petersburg hotel by the time the team announced the league's decision to shut down football operations until next Thursday.

"We've asked (the players) to go home from camp and we're trying to get the funding to pay them," PSFL commissioner Rex Lardner said from PSFL headquarters in New Jersey.

Unless the league can find "a big infusion of new cash" by Monday, Lardner said, the players will not get paid and the league will go belly up before it plays one game.

"I'm not trying to be the eternal optimist here _ well, maybe I am _ but there are still some people out there," Lardner said, referring to potential investors, "and we want to talk to them."

Fried heads a 14-member limited partnership that paid $250,000 for the Tampa Bay franchise. "When I wrote the check," he said, "I said to myself, "It's gone.'

"When we started, I figured the odds (of the PSFL succeeding) were one in five. Now they're much longer. One in 25? One in 50? I don't know."

In a statement released by the Outlaws, general manager Terry Bledsoe said: "It's unfortunate that we have to suspend football operations, but it is the only prudent thing to do at this time."

He also said he and coach Boyd Dowler would try to maintain contact with the players "in hopes of getting many of them back" if the league resumes operations. If it does, Tampa Bay's first game will be March 14 at Washington.

NFL notes

Broncos: Quarterback John Elway underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in Los Angeles, and doctors said he should be recovered in about six weeks. A bone spur was removed.

Japan exhibition: On Aug. 2, Dallas will play Houston in an exhibition game at Tokyo. It will be the NFL's fourth consecutive visit to Japan.

_ Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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