NFL starts Q&A to decide whether to return to Wembley Print
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Monday, 29 October 2007 09:01
NFL Headline News

 LONDON (AP) -While the Giants and Dolphins were sliding around the turf at Wembley Stadium, the NFL had a cadre of about 40 volunteers working the stands doing other important work.
They were asking questions of the fans who attended the NFL's first regular-season game outside of North America what they liked and didn't like and, maybe most importantly, if they were aware of the meaning of the game they were watching.
The information from those surveys will be combined with data from interviews the league conducts with players, coaches and owners from the two teams later this week, and the results will help determine where next year's international games will take place.
``We'll get a lot of learning out of Wembley and one of the questions we'll ask ourselves is, having gotten that learning, should we reapply it back to Wembley again or not?'' NFL vice president-international Mark Waller said Monday.
Waller said nothing about Sunday's game - a rain-soaked, sloppy 13-10 win for the Giants - would change the NFL's plan to play up to two international games next season, a plan owners approved last year. Wembley is a candidate to host one, as are stadiums in Germany, Mexico and Canada.
The location and the teams will likely be determined around Super Bowl time, and Waller said it wasn't absolutely necessary to bring big-name teams such as the Giants and Dolphins to ensure a big crowd.
``One of the great things in our league is that in any season, all teams, or most teams, are competitive,'' Waller said. ``From a marketing perspective, it's probably easier to have a couple of (high-profile) teams. But I think the popularity of our game is that, yes, we'd sell out any stadium with any teams.''
Almost certainly, however, the Giants and Dolphins are off the hook.
On Monday, as they had all week, the players smiled and spoke the party line, saying the long trip wasn't that taxing and talking about the honor of being part of history and the NFL's mission to expand its international presence.
``I would tell other players that things worked smoothly,'' Giants quarterback Eli Manning said. ``There weren't any problems. It was just like you're playing a normal game, except that you're in a different country.''
Giants coach Tom Coughlin, who walked into Monday's news conference with his boarding pass for the flight home in hand, once again would not get drawn into a conversation about the pros and cons of the NFL's initiative.
``I will have the opportunity to visit with the commissioner and I'll tell him exactly what I think,'' Coughlin said. ``Under this circumstance, the way it was done, it can be done. ... But there are issues, no question about it. There is a fatigue factor the first day you get here and there is a work schedule that has to be completed before you can play a game.''
If the NFL comes back to London, it will almost certainly have to smooth out transportation issues for the teams. Even with police escorts, the Giants and Dolphins found themselves mired in traffic on their way to practice and the hotel - kind of like everyone else who insists on driving in a city notorious for gridlock.
As for the conditions of the field, well, it rains in London. The grass at Wembley Stadium was cut short and the turf came out in chunks. The players struggled with footing and that, probably more than jet lag or fatigue, helped turn the game into something less entertaining than the NFL's normal Sunday afternoon product.
``It's too bad it became like that because it could have very well been a very nice performance,'' Coughlin said.
But was it hard to watch the replay?
``No, because I knew the outcome,'' he said.
Not that the NFL was fretting over the quality of Sunday's play.
The game was a sellout and the league said it could have sold five times more tickets at the 90,000-seat stadium. Queues at merchandise tents were long and fans were enthusiastic, seemingly knowing what was going on most of the time - save that booing during the last three plays when Manning kneeled down to run out the clock.
``I think a lot of people were surprised at how knowledgeable the fans were,'' Waller said. ``It was a good feeling to come all this way to play a meaningful game like this for fans who love the game. That was a key for us.''
Notes: Waller said he didn't take issue with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' statement last week that, while he supports the NFL's international plans, he doesn't want to take his team on one of these trips. ``Jerry's a huge supporter of the league and what we do, but he's also responsible for making sure he funds a $1 billion stadium and keeps things going there,'' Waller said. ``He's focused on getting that done and making sure the fans who are going to fill that stadium are happy.'' ... Coughlin said he was sticking with PK Lawrence Tynes, who missed a 29-yard field goal Sunday, his third miss from less than 40 yards this season. ... Dolphins coach Cam Cameron was noncommittal when asked if QB Cleo Lemon would keep the starting job for his 0-8 team. Rookie John Beck was drafted to be the team's future quarterback. ``For us to win, he has to take care of the football,'' Cameron said of Lemon, who lost a fumble Sunday and has four interceptions in four games.
 

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