NFL Europe update

A record number of current NFL players will play in the NFL Europe League in 2002.<p>

The 32 NFL teams have combined to allocate an all-time high of 254 players to participate in the NFLEL's 10th season, which kicks off on Saturday, April 13. NFL teams are required to allocate a minimum of six players to NFL Europe, but many have exceeded that number. The San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears lead the way by sending 14 players to Europe, followed by the Tennessee Titans with 12 and the Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs (11).

The Green Bay Packers have allocated nine players, including running back Herbert "Whisper" Goodman.

Last year the NFL allocated 229 players to NFLEL. In 1999, 153 NFL players played overseas in the spring league.

This year's quarterback class includes a former Heisman Trophy runner-up in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' JOE HAMILTON, who is bound for the Frankfurt Galaxy, and a pair of former national college championship winners. The Pittsburgh Steelers' TEE MARTIN, formerly of the University of Tennessee, will play for the Rhein Fire, while the Detroit Lions' SCOTT DREISBACH, from the University of Michigan, has been assigned to the Scottish Claymores.

Meanwhile, two European players who made NFL rosters in 2001 will return across the Atlantic for the NFLEL season. Offensive lineman PATRICK VENZKE, who was on the active roster of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been assigned to play for the Rhein Fire in his native Germany. Wide receiver SCOTT MCCREADY, who earlier this month became the first Englishman to win a Super Bowl ring as a member of the New England Patriots' practice squad, will play for the Scottish Claymores.

"The quantity and quality of players being allocated by NFL teams keeps getting better and better," said JOHN BEAKE, the NFL Vice President of Football Operations and Managing Director of NFLEL Football Operations. "We have exciting young talent at all positions. The caliber of players coming to NFL Europe is reflected in the exciting games our fans see every week and the highly competitive nature of the league.

"The fact that we had 217 former NFL Europe players on NFL rosters in the 2001 season proves what a great training ground this is for young players and that is why the number of allocated players continues to increase every year. Once again, we thank the NFL teams for their outstanding support of the NFL Europe League."

The Berlin Thunder have a tough act to follow at quarterback after JONATHAN QUINN led them to World Bowl victory in 2001 before going back to start for the Jacksonville Jaguars, one of 10 former NFLEL quarterbacks to start during the recent NFL season.

Hoping to follow in Quinn's footsteps in Berlin will be TODD HUSAK and TIM HASSELBECK. Husak comes from the Denver Broncos, where he ended the 2001 season on the active roster having spent most of the year on the New York Jets' practice squad. He was an All-Pac 10 selection at Stanford before being drafted by the Washington Redskins, where he was a teammate of former London Monarchs quarterback BRAD JOHNSON. The Philadelphia Eagles' Hasselbeck was MVP of the Aloha Bowl while at Boston College and is the brother of Seattle Seahawks quarterback MATT HASSELBECK.

"I'm excited about playing in NFL Europe," said Husak. "I haven't played in a couple of years and it will be good for me to get back on the field. I played with Brad Johnson for a while in Washington and he was telling me how much NFL Europe helped him because it gave him the chance to get back on the field. I'm looking forward to helping Berlin defend the World Bowl title and this is a great opportunity."

The Amsterdam Admirals have been assigned a quarterback who is already an NFL Europe League record holder. The Tennessee Titans' KEVIN DAFT posted an NFLEL single-season record passer rating of 107.3 with the Scottish Claymores in 2000, leading them to a World Bowl berth as he passed for 1,231 yards and 19 touchdowns. In Amsterdam, he will team up again with Admirals head coach BART ANDRUS, who was his position coach with the Titans in 1999 when Daft was on the team that made it to Super Bowl XXXIV. Also joining the Admirals is BILLY COCKERHAM of the San Francisco 49ers, who ranks fourth in University of Minnesota history with 29 touchdown passes. "I'm excited about coming back to NFL Europe and I'm itching to play football again," said Daft. "The goal is to go one better than I did in 2000 and win the World Bowl. I want to develop as a quarterback, have some fun and win a championship."

The F.C. Barcelona Dragons' bid to reach a record fifth World Bowl will be aided by JOE GERMAINE, who won a Super Bowl ring with the St. Louis Rams in 1999 before spending last season with the Kansas City Chiefs. He finished his college career as the third-leading passer in Ohio State history with 6,370 yards and was the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in his senior year. Competing for the starting job at the Dragons will be MIKE WATKINS of the Carolina Panthers, formerly of the Washington Redskins and the University of Louisville.

"I'm really excited about this opportunity," said Germaine. "NFL Europe is a really good place for guys like myself who don't have a lot of NFL experience to sharpen their skills against a very high level of competition. Every player that goes to NFL Europe wants to work hard and get better as an individual but this is a team game and the aim is to win a championship. Hopefully, we can put this thing together, develop some team chemistry and be in the World Bowl at the end of the season."

For the second consecutive season, the Galaxy will have a Heisman Trophy runner-up at quarterback. Hoping to follow MICHAEL BISHOP as the team's No. 1 play-caller is JOE HAMILTON, who has spent two seasons on Tampa Bay's regular-season roster after being a seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia Tech. Hamilton finished second in the voting for the nation's top college player in 1999 and completed his NCAA career with 10,640 yards passing.

The Galaxy have also been assigned CHRIS SANDERS, allocated by the Atlanta Falcons after previously being with the Titans. He set school records at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga with 7,230 yards and 49 touchdown passes.

TEE MARTIN, allocated by the Steelers, will be hoping to add a World Bowl title to the NCAA crown he earned at the University of Tennessee when he teams up with the Fire. In addition to passing for 4,592 yards in college, he rushed for 16 touchdowns in his final two seasons at Tennessee.

"I think this is a great chance for me to get some playing time and to compete for a championship," said Martin. "I'm looking forward to going to Europe and showing the Steelers what I can do."

Martin is joined in Rhein by ROMARO MILLER, the latest Minnesota Vikings quarterback to seek success in Europe following BRAD JOHNSON (London 1995) and TODD BOUMAN (Barcelona 1999). Miller is the career passing leader at Ole Miss.

SCOTT DREISBACH, of the Lions and now Claymores, played four seasons at the University of Michigan, where he was part of the 1997 national championship-winning team. In 1996 he became only the fourth Michigan quarterback to pass for more than 2,000 yards in a season. Also assigned to Scotland is the San Diego Chargers' BART HENDRICKS, who is the leading passer in Boise State history.

Some well-known names from previous NFLEL seasons are making their way back to Europe, including Rhein Fire safety DEKE COOPER, who led the league with six interceptions last season and was named to the All-NFLEL team. Allocated by the Arizona Cardinals last year, he is now with the Carolina Panthers.

Tight end DAMIAN VAUGHN, allocated by Tampa Bay, returns to the Dragons, for whom he caught 40 passes for 326 yards in 2000, earning a selection on the All-NFLEL team. Wide receiver RICKY HALL, allocated by Denver, is back with Frankfurt, where he caught 27 passes for 488 yards last year after being allocated by Kansas City.

Out of the total of 254 allocated players,102 players,17 per NFLEL team, have been assigned to teams by the NFL office, while a further 137 were drafted by the NFLEL coaching staffs through the NFL Allocated Player Draft.

The first player chosen in the NFL Allocated Player Draft was San Francisco 49ers defensive end JEROME DAVIS, picked by the Galaxy, for whom he started 10 games in 1998, posting 22 tackles and two sacks. The other first-round selections were Chicago Bears guard ADAM DAVIS (Amsterdam), New England Patriots defensive end RADELL LOCKHART (Scotland), Washington Redskins defensive end LADAIRIS JACKSON (Rhein), Tennessee Titans cornerback WADE DAVIS (Barcelona) and Atlanta Falcons linebacker ANTICO DALTON (Berlin).

Selected by the Admirals in the fifth round of the allocation draft was 2000 All-NFLEL safety BLAINE MC ELMURRY, who posted a league-leading four interceptions for the Scottish Claymores. Scotland's 12th round selection was Miami Dolphins safety SCOTT SHIELDS, who led the Pittsburgh Steelers with four interceptions in 1999.

An additional 15 kickers and punters will be assigned to teams after a kicking camp in Tampa in March. NFLEL teams begin practicing on March 6 and will spend four weeks working out and scrimmaging in Florida before heading to Europe for the opening of the season. The 2002 season concludes with World Bowl X at Düsseldorf's Rheinstadion on Saturday, June 22.

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