By Doug Farrar, Seahawks.net
WORLD BOWL RE-MATCH KICKS OFF 13TH SEASON
The NFL Europe League is ready to roar back into action with its 13th season kicking off on April 2.
And history will be made in the opening week of the new campaign as Saturdays clash between the defending champion Berlin Thunder and the Frankfurt Galaxy marks the first time ever that a season has begun with a re-match of the previous years World Bowl.
Also in Week 1, the Hamburg Sea Devils will take to the field for the first time when they visit the Cologne Centurions.
The final action on Saturday night sees the Amsterdam Admirals begin their bid for glory in 2005 by playing host to the Rhein Fire.
With a grueling training camp in Tampa Bay, Florida, completed, it is time for the talking to stop and the battle for a championship to begin. The road to Yello Strom World Bowl XIII in Düsseldorf, Germany, on Saturday June 11 begins in earnest this weekend. Who will emerge as championship material? Only time will tell.
The following Patriots have been allocated to NFL Europe:
WEEK ONE SCHEDULE
SATURDAY APRIL 2
Frankfurt Galaxy at Berlin Thunder
Olympic Stadium, Berlin, 6:00 p.m.
Hamburg Sea Devils at Cologne Centurions
RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne, 6:00 p.m.
Rhein Fire at Amsterdam Admirals
Amsterdam ArenA, Amsterdam, 7:00 p.m.
2004 AWARD WINNERS
OFFENSIVE MVP · ROHAN DAVEY · QB, Berlin
Completed 61.2 % of passes for 1,676 yards, 19 TDs and 6 interceptions for 105.6 QB rating (led league)
DEFENSIVE MVP · COREY JACKSON · DE, Frankfurt
26 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 4 passes defended
COACH OF THE YEAR · RICK LANTZ · Berlin
Tied single season record set by 1991 London Monarchs and 1995 Amsterdam Admirals (9-1). Guided club to third World Bowl win in four years.
NFLEL FACTS: Rush to succeed
NFL Europe has been kind to those who run the football in recent years as five of the last six League Offensive MVPs have played running back. Berlin Thunder quarterback ROHAN DAVEY won the award in 2004. In the five years prior to that, the winners were all running backs: 1999 LAWRENCE PHILLIPS (Barcelona), 2000 AARON STECKER (Scotland), 2001 MIKE GREEN (Barcelona), 2002 JAMAL ROBERTSON (Rhein) and 2003 KEN SIMONTON (Scotland).
NFLEL FACTS: Close encounters
NFL Europe has traditionally thrown up close games and wild finishes. The 2004 campaign was a case in point as a record 23 of 30 regular season games were decided by one score (8 points or less). In the past 10 seasons since 1995, 172 of 300 regular season games (.573) have been decided by one score.
NEWS AND NOTES
Big names among record number of allocated players looking to shine in NFL Europe
SOME of the NFLs brightest young stars, as well as big-name players who will be familiar to football fans around the world, will be on display throughout the 2005 NFL Europe League season.
In another outstanding show of support for the NFL Europe League, the 32 NFL clubs allocated a record 271 players for the 2005 campaign.
Among a record 19 NFL quarterbacks assigned to NFL Europe are passers who have started in the National Football League in AKILI SMITH (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), DAVE RAGONE (Houston Texans) and KURT KITTNER (Chicago Bears).
Smith was selected third overall in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. He started 17 games from 1999-2002, throwing for 2,212 yards and 5 touchdowns. Smith will become the highest-ever draft pick to play in NFL Europe when he takes his first snap as a member of the Frankfurt Galaxy.
Smith says: "The amount of players, in particular quarterbacks, who have been in NFL Europe and then come back to the NFL and had success is astonishing. I look at that and knowing how beautiful Europe is to visit, that inspired me to come to NFL Europe.
"A lot of people have not seen me play for over two years now, so this will be an opportunity for me to remind them what I can do. I plan on getting Frankfurt to a World Bowl. Thats why were here. Everything else is nice but this is a team that is used to success and the World Bowl is definitely in my plans."
Ragone started two games for the Houston Texans as a rookie in 2003 and will spearhead the Berlin Thunders charge for a fourth World Bowl crown in the past five seasons.
The left-handed passer says: "Its like Im starting a new life. I feel almost reborn. This league is very competitive and Ive got a chance to go out there on the football field and be a leader for the Berlin Thunder. Im really excited."
Big-name performers competing for glory in Yello Strom World Bowl XIII in June are not just restricted to the quarterback position.
JARRETT PAYTON (Tennessee Titans), son of the late NFL legend and Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton, will hope to guide the Amsterdam Admirals to a first World Bowl appearance in team history after shining at the running back position during preseason training in Tampa Bay, Florida.
Payton, who starred at the University of Miami before entering the professional ranks, says: "I have worked very hard since I discovered I was going to be in NFL Europe because I take this very seriously as a chance to get my NFL career on the road.
"I want to break the single-season rushing record which means going over 1,051 yards. I have always been taught to shoot for the stars, and thats what Im doing as far as my personal ambitions for the season.
"The biggest goal of them all though is to get this team to a World Bowl. Not many of us have won a championship at any level. To be able to win a championship with a bunch of guys who dont really know each other but are just coming together that would be special."
Fellow running back LARRY CROOM (Arizona Cardinals) started one game in place of the legendary Emmitt Smith in 2004 and ended his rookie campaign with the Cards having rushed for 76 yards on 29 carries. He added 2 receptions for 16 yards and ran back 16 kickoffs for 314 yards.
Croom, of the Hamburg Sea Devils, says: "I talked to coach Dennis Green and he said it would be a good idea to come to Europe, not only for the experience I would get as a player, but also to see the world.
"I welcome the chance to play football and to see some stuff I never saw before. I said yes on the spot."
Also suiting up for the Sea Devils in 2005 will be former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback ERIC CROUCH.
Crouch was named college footballs best player in 2001 as he threw for 1,510 yards and rushed for 1,115 yards at Nebraska. He set an NCAA record with 59 rushing touchdowns during his college career but is switching to defense in NFL Europe and will line up at safety.
He becomes the third Heisman Trophy winner to play in NFL Europe, following in the footsteps of quarterbacks GINO TORRETTA (Rhein Fire 1995) and ANDRE WARE (Berlin Thunder 1999).
Crouch says: "My goal is to help the Sea Devils win a World Bowl in their first season. Im a competitor and I want to win every single game this year. I hope we mesh together as a team and play well."
NFLEL FACTS: History maker
When the 2005 season kicks off, JACK BICKNELL will become the first head coach in league history to take charge of three different teams. Prior to leading the Hamburg Sea Devils in 2005, Bicknell coached the Scottish Claymores in 2004 and the Barcelona Dragons from 1991-2003. Only two other men have served as head coaches of more than one NFLEL team during their careers PETER VAAS (Berlin 2000-03/Cologne 2004) and GALEN HALL (Orlando 1992/Rhein 1995-2000).
How NFLEL teams are built
Here is how NFL Europe League rosters are built:
36 Active roster players
2 Active NFLEL players (eligible to play in games)
2 Inactive NFLEL Practice Squad players (ineligible to play in games)
8 Active roster players. Three teams will carry an additional national player during the 2004 season and these players will be listed as Active NFLEL players.
TOTAL ROSTER SIZE
48 (46 Active, 2 Inactive / 40 American, 8 National)
After selecting the team's 36 active American players at the end of training camp, teams, in consultation with the league office, selected two additional players to be part of the active roster. These players are designated as Active NFLEL players.
Teams, in consultation with the league office, have also designated two players to become part of the NFLEL Practice Squad.
Regardless of which team roster the players are on, all Active NFLEL players and all NFLEL Practice Squad players are the 'property' of the league office.
In the case of injuries etc., teams can request that an NFLEL Practice Squad player or an Active NFLEL player is reassigned from the roster of another team. A decision will be made by the NFLEL personnel department in consultation with the relevant teams. Competitive balance remains the most important factor in such decisions. Wherever possible, NFLEL Practice Squad players will be reassigned before Active NFLEL players.
NFLEL regular season rosters will indicate those players who are Active NFLEL players and members of the NFLEL Practice Squad.
Stay tuned as Seahawks.NET will bring you weekly NFL Europe reports throughout the 2005 season!
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patriots Insider will continue to bring you Seahawks.net's coverage of NFL Europe as it hits the wire. With a number of Patriots players in the league, it bears watching to see if any of these prospects can return to the US and grab a roster spot. With the team looking to upgrade, or at least supplement, their wide receiving corp, don't be surprised to see one of the trio assigned to NFLE actually make it through training camp and onto the 2005 Patriots final roster.
Find more about NFL Europe, visit the official site NFLEurope.com or Talk about it with fellow Patriots fans in the forums