LONDON (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are the closest thing the NFL will have to a London-based team for the next four years. And that’s just fine, for the moment.
Jacksonville is playing the first of four “home” games at Wembley Stadium over four seasons on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
The Jaguars are often talked up as a potential London franchise, but the organization is treating this like a business trip abroad. Jaguars owner Shahid Khan said the team’s commitment to London does not go beyond the current deal.
“I think it’s way too early to think about a team being based over here — if you look at it, it’s the first year with two games,” Khan was quoted as saying by Sky Sports. “Next year there’ll be three games here, so it’s a long time to go, you’ve got to decide if it makes sense, and we haven’t got all the facts.”
The NFL has vied to develop interest in its product in Europe before — most notably through the World League and NFL Europe — but that experiment did not work.
It has instead looked to its International Series as a means to drum up interest, with London being a regular site for NFL games since 2007. This season is the first year that two games will take place at Wembley: The Vikings beat the Steelers 34-27 in Week 4. Next year, the league has scheduled three games, with the Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Oakland Raiders all set to play as “home” teams.
Despite their 0-7 record, the Jaguars have been a good draw at their Everbank Field with just under 60,000 spectators attending on average through three games this season. So while more than 84,000 fans are expected to fill Wembley Stadium on Sunday, the novelty of watching American football courtesy of the Jaguars may lose momentum if the team does not improve. Jacksonville heads into the game against the 49ers (5-2), a Super Bowl finalist last season, having been outscored 89-11 in those three home defeats.
While players are lapping up the overseas experience, many are weary about a full-time franchise across the Atlantic Ocean, with questions over travel, living, and income taxes.
“It would be a brutal schedule for a team that has to be playing on the other side of the world all year because the travel is definitely going to tax the players and the staff on any team. Then you’re talking about people staying away from their families for weeks away at a time, so it’s a difficult situation,” Jaguars guard Uche Nwaneri said.
49ers activate rookie
San Francisco 49ers rookie linebacker Nick Moody returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since Week 1, when he went on injured reserve with the designation to return after breaking his hand. Harbaugh said the Niners might activate another player from the reserve non-football injury list, with wideout Mario Manningham, cornerback Eric Wright and rookie defensive tackle Tank Carradine closest to being ready.
Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather has had his two-game suspension cut in half by an appeals officer. ... Eagles quarterback Michael Vick went through a second consecutive practice with no setbacks. ... A tender ankle forced Peyton Manning to miss practice for the first time since joining the Broncos last year. ... Bills coach Doug Marrone is considering sitting C.J. Spiller to give his sore left ankle time to heal. ... The Patriots have re-signed veteran defensive lineman Andre Carter.