Rams arrive in London to gear up for Wembley game
Things are moving quickly for Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams as
they deal with a change of continents and time zones.
Now their bodies just have to catch up in time for the annual NFL game
in London on Sunday against the New England Patriots.
The Rams (3-4) arrived at Heathrow airport early Tuesday morning, and a
few hours later they were on a wet field in Regent's Park in central
London doing drills with local school children to show off the American
version of football.
Not much time for resting up so far for the NFL's latest ambassadors to
''I can hardly believe we're here in London,'' Bradford said between
drills. ''Probably less than 12 hours ago we were back in St. Louis in
a team meeting. ... I think everyone was a little bit tired on the bus
ride here, but that's why we got here so early in the week so that we
could acclimate ourselves to the jet lag and get accustomed to the time
difference. So hopefully by Sunday it'll be a non-factor.''
The Rams are hosting the Patriots at Wembley Stadium in the sixth
regular-season game played in Britain. The Patriots, who also played at
Wembley in 2009, are practicing at home this week before arriving on
As the home team, Bradford said the Rams are also taking their
ambassadorial duties seriously and want to have a visible presence in
London to help boost the game's popularity. That's why the players only
spent about an hour at their luxury resort outside the city before
hopping on a bus to Regent's Park to spend the afternoon with a couple
of hundred school children running passing drills and other exercises.
The event was part of the NFL's Play 60 program, which is aimed at
encouraging children to do something active for at least 60 minutes a
''I think it would be really easy for us to come over here and lock
ourselves up at the hotel and just go through our normal routines,''
Bradford said. ''But I think this is a great chance for the NFL to
expand their game beyond the states. And for us to be able to come out
here and share our game with some of the local youth, I think it's a
great opportunity for us.''
But while the NFL has enjoyed continually increased popularity in
Britain since its first regular-season game here in 2007, it was soon
clear to the Rams players that this is still the land of soccer.
''They just kick them,'' backup quarterback Kellen Clemens told
Bradford laughingly after a group of kids finished a passing drill by
gleefully kicking away their footballs before moving on to the next
exercise. ''The kids are going, `What kind of football is this? We
didn't use our feet one time.'''
Of course, the British love of soccer is just an added bonus for kicker
The rookie has quickly become a household name among NFL fans in the
States after a spectacular start to the season, but is hoping the
kicking game will get even more attention in Europe.
''They have a great appreciation for soccer,'' said Zuerlein, who grew
up playing the sport. ''In America, it's the fifth or sixth biggest
sport. Here it's awesome, they love it. I feel at home.''
Like most of his teammates, though, he had yet to find his bearings in
the British capital.
''I don't even know what this place is, is it a park?'' Zuerlein said,
looking around the sprawling fields inside a Regent's Park that was
covered in a fog so thick it made it impossible to even see any of the
surrounding buildings. ''My only time seeing the city was on the drive
The Rams have a close connection to British soccer, as owner Stan
Kroenke is also the majority shareholder of Arsenal. St. Louis will be
practicing at Arsenal's training facilities in Colney on Wednesday and
Thursday, and there are plans for some players to attend the London
club's Premier League game against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
''I'm a huge fan,'' cornerback Cortland Finnegan said. ''I'm like a kid
in a candy store. I can't wait to get there (to Colney).''
Other players felt the same way about Wembley, arguably the most famous
venue in soccer. For linebacker James Laurinaitis, playing there will
even continue a family tradition.
''My father was a professional wrestler, and he wrestled at Wembley,
the old Wembley,'' Laurinaitis said. ''So to be able to be a father-son
duo, to be in the same spot, is pretty exciting to me. I used to watch
that SummerSlam on VHS over and over growing up, that was pretty
exciting. So to be able to be in that stadium, and with the Olympics
just being here and everything, it's going to be pretty cool.''
Judging by responses from the school kids, though, Laurinaitis may not
get as much attention as Zuerlein by the Wembley crowd.
''They ask you what position you are, you say `linebacker,' and they
say `I have no idea what that is,''' Laurinaitis said. ''But they're
learning, and hopefully it just draws their attention to the game on
Sunday and they watch. And maybe we get a couple of more fans out of
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