WATFORD, England -- With the NFL in London this week for Sunday's Minnesota Vikings-Pittsburgh Steelers game -- and another game slated for next month here, there's been plenty of talk about the possibility of putting a team in London permanently. ESPN's Greg Garber examined the idea in a Hot Read piece on Wednesday, but to follow up on that, who better to ask than the Vikings players themselves?
Much like the players quoted in Garber's piece, the Vikings we talked to said they likely wouldn't sign with a team here, mostly because of the travel issues involved with playing in London and having a transatlantic flight before and after every road game.
"I think the fanbase could sustain it," said Jared Allen, who came overseas to meet fans this spring on a promotional trip for the game. "But again, it's a lot to ask for a player. Personally speaking, I probably wouldn't sign over here because of the fact that every road trip is going to be three, four, five days away from your family. And then you start thinking, productivity-wise, about, 'OK, now we're going to play a West Coast game, and you've got an 11-hour plane ride.' Logistically, it's tough on players and family members and stuff like that, but obviously, it'd be fun as an experience, getting to hang out in Europe. But when you're looking at a minimum of a six-hour flight every road trip, I don't know."
Linebacker Chad Greenway also pointed out how difficult it would be to sign players in a salary-cap system, and that, ultimately, would be something I'd think the NFL would have to work out if it did put a team here. When teams in Texas and Florida are already able to tout their lack of state income tax in their meetings with free agents, how would a team in London compensate for higher taxes and the cost-of-living difference, especially if it had to pay players in dollars and ask them to spend their money in pounds? A team might be able to boost its bottom line thanks to the sizable difference between the two currencies, since it would be earning local revenues in pounds, but as much as that transaction would benefit an organization, it would hurt a player.
As Garber writes, the march toward a team in London might be inevitable, especially with the interest in the game growing and the NFL running out of high-dollar U.S. markets that don't have a team. But there would be major issues to work out before the NFL Players Association would embrace it, I'd think. As one Vikings player said yesterday, "[commissioner Roger] Goodell will get his 18-game schedule before he gets a team in London."