Vikings impressed with London fans

Vikings officials and players have visited London in waves for preparation and promotion of their game there in September. Players came away impressed with the knowledge of the London fan base.

The Vikings are a little more than four months away from the rare occurrence of playing overseas.

On Sept. 29, they will break from their normal NFL in-season routine, pack the bags on a plane and endure a "home" game that is more than 4,000 miles away against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Everything will be new – most of the fans, the stadium and especially the routine – and a few of the players got a taste of it.

"I don't think it will be that bad. We flew over on a Sunday night, got there Monday morning and were there five days, so very similar to what it's going to be like when we go over for a game," said tight end Kyle Rudolph. "The flight is not all that bad – seven and a half or so to go over. I think we'll have enough time to get used to being in that time zone by the time the game rolls around on Sunday. And then we'll have the bye week to follow so we'll have time to come back and spend time off before we go onto the last part of our season."

Vikings officials have already made the voyage over there and other trips will be made in shifts to gauge the lay of the land, from operations to public relations to security to transportation details.
Center John Sullivan and safety Harrison Smith joined Rudolph in late March, making the player appearances Notre Dame-dominated.

Wembley Stadium in London seats 90,000 over three tiers, has 47 retail outlets, 34 bars and a retractable roof, among other features.

"It was a beautiful stadium, big venue. It seemed like it was very nice for the fans, kind of a clean, modern-type place," Smith said. "But it's going to be fun to play there. It's a really nice stadium."

The travel will take some getting used to and the practice routine in the week leading up to the game, but the passion of the fans impressed the Vikings players who visited.

"It was awesome," Rudolph said. "Sully, myself and Harrison, all three of us couldn't believe how knowledgeable the European fans were on our game of football. We expected to go over there and have to teach them everything and some of those guys knew more about the game than we did. People were asking us questions about the offseason schedule change. Things like that you only know if you're really reading up on things."

The popularity of the NFL began to grow in London in the 1980s, and more recently Sky Sports has been showing at least six regular-season games on a weekly basis. The 2013 series will mark the seventh straight season that the NFL will have at least one regular-season game played in England, which has helped foster international interest in the NFL.

"The No. 1 thing – I guess I was just kind of ignorant to it – is the knowledge and the broadness of the fan base over there towards the NFL," he said. "They knew just as much as the die-hard fans here do. And they were fans of every team across the board, so it was surprising just to see. You kind of think of soccer as what they know most about, but they knew everything about the NFL."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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