Packers part of NFL Europa success story

The NFL shuttered its European experiment on Friday, but not before the likes of Cullen Jenkins and Marco Rivera hit the big time.

Without NFL Europa, Cullen Jenkins might be out of the NFL. Instead, he's a starting defensive end for the Green Bay Packers.

Many success stories came out of the NFL's European experiment. On Friday, though, the NFL wrote off the league as a losing business venture, closing the books on the league after 16 years and about $400 million in losses.

Former Packers guard Marco Rivera was one of the league's biggest success stories. Rivera was a sixth-round draft choice by the Packers in 1996. He didn't play a down that season, but spent the spring of 1997 with the Scottish Claymores. Rivera became a full-time starter with the Packers in 1998, and wound up going to three Pro Bowls.

Jenkins was an undrafted free agent in 2003. He didn't make the final roster, but was signed by the Packers after the season and allocated to Cologne. He made the Packers' roster in 2004, and recorded four sacks in a reserve role.

Other former Packers who were NFL Europa graduates include receiver Bill Schroeder and linebacker George Koonce.

This spring, receiver Carlton Brewster played for Berlin, earning all-league honors with 37 catches for 548 yards and a touchdown.

"I feel like I'm a better player now, physically and mentally," Brewster wrote in his Packers.com diary. "I've got more confidence in my game now. I did some great things over there at the receiver position, and I feel I can come in and be able to compete, and hopefully be on the active roster by the end of training camp."

While NFL Europa wasn't a business success — in the end, five of the six teams were from Germany, and even the World Bowl was shown on tape delay there — it did prove to be a quality minor-league system of sorts.

Annually for the last few years, about 225 players with NFL Europa experience earned roster spots in the NFL. Its most famous alum, of course, is two-time NFL MVP and Super Bowl XXXIV MVP Kurt Warner. Because of that success, expect the NFL to roll out a new spring developmental league to capitalize on Americans' love affair of professional football.

Lawrence is a regular contributor to PackerReport.com. Send comments to steve_lawrence_packers@yahoo.com.


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