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Patriots dubious on NFL expansion

New England v Tampa Bay

Sights and sounds from Wembley

By Martin Gough and Tim Love
BBC Sport at Wembley Stadium

New England coaches and players believe it would be difficult to increase the number of games the NFL holds outside the United States in future.

The Patriots beat Tampa Bay at Wembley on Sunday and as many as four games could be played in the UK by 2012.

But Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said: "I think it would be hard to commute back and forth to London."

And veteran Adalius Thomas added: "It was fun, and had the feel of a Super Bowl but it's a long way to travel."

New England defeated the Buccaneers 35-7 in the third annual regular-season game in London.

I'm not sure how it would be feasible to fit so many teams' schedules around an international game

Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas

Teams do not appear to have suffered in the long term having undertaken the seven-hour flight from the east coast of the United States in the middle of the season.

The New York Giants went on to win the Super Bowl - upsetting New England - three months after beating Miami at Wembley in October 2007.

Each year, the teams that have played at Wembley have been given a week off following their trip, giving them time to recover in the middle of a season of 16 games over 17 weeks.

Tom Brady

Brady 'loved' Wembley experience

Belichick continued: "It's a long haul. I can't imagine playing four games here. Fortunately we have a week off next week so that helps the whole process.

"As far as the facilities and the game and the people and the city and all that, that was great."

Linebacker Thomas told BBC Sport: "Imagine what it would be like for teams coming over from the west coast every year.


"Every team that comes here also needs a bye week after the trip, so I'm not sure how it would be feasible to fit so many teams' schedules around an international game."

Any proposals for future expansion of the NFL programme would have to be approved by the 32 team owners at a meeting in February.

League head Roger Goodell told American television during the game: "We're thrilled by the reaction we've got.

"At the first game [in 2007] we had some novelty, the second we grew from that and this year it's even more extraordinary.

"There are such great sports fans over here, there's room for more than a couple of sports and I think the NFL's going to have a place over here.

"One of the things we'd like to do is maybe increase this series from one to two games and if it continues to have the same kind of following, we'll be able to bring more football to fans over here."

The fans were cheering good plays, they seemed intelligent and football-savvy

Tampa Bay lineman Jeff Faine

Owners are likely to consider adding an extra game to the regular season, allowing each team to play one game at a neutral venue, in a move similar to the Premier League's "39th game" proposal.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft indicated last week that he would be unwilling to give up one of his team's eight home games, as the Buccaneers did in order to play in London.

Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh have been mentioned as possible alternative venues in the UK and international sites from Germany to China have also been mentioned.

Several of the players were impressed by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the Wembley Stadium crowd.

Tampa Bay lineman Jeff Faine said: "The atmosphere was unique.

"For the most part it wasn't one-sided, the fans were cheering good plays, they seemed intelligent and football-savvy."

And New England quarterback Tom Brady added: "All the flashbulbs were going out there before kick-off and everybody seemed excited.

"I think it's a privilege for the players to come over here and get to enjoy this type of experience. It probably will never happen again for us."

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see also
London 'may stage four NFL games'
22 Oct 09 |  London
Patriots pound Tampa at Wembley
25 Oct 09 |  American Football
New England v Tampa Bay photos
25 Oct 09 |  American Football
Patriots in form for Wembley game
23 Oct 09 |  American Football
Wembley to re-lay turf for finals
24 Apr 09 |  Football
Saints pip San Diego at Wembley
26 Oct 08 |  American Football
Giants beat Miami at wet Wembley
28 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL fixtures
05 Jan 08 |  American Football
NFL results
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL standings
26 Oct 07 |  American Football
NFL in a nutshell
19 Oct 05 |  American Football
American Football on the BBC
05 Feb 08 |  American Football

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