LONDON -- Some teams grumble about the idea of packing up and spending a week in England during the regular season as the NFL tries to sell the league brand to affluent and sports-hungry European fans.
However, don’t count the San Francisco 49ers among those who may be reluctant to take their show to London. The 49ers are embracing this midseason jaunt over the pond. The 49ers-Jaguars game will be the second game played at London’s Wembley Stadium this season. The NFL has three games planned for London next year.
This has yet to get stale. In fact, the 49ers could be considered darlings of the local media. Their injured rookie project, London's own Lawrence Okoye, is a star attraction despite not playing. Defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, a former NFL Europe head coach, is a downright media star here. Tomsula talked about the virtues of the NFL playing in England to a large throng of media Wednesday.
San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh and quarterback Colin Kaepernick shined under the spotlight at the first media session at their resort, The Grove, outside of London on Wednesday.
Harbaugh called the team’s facility in England a “football oasis” and he asked the English media about a favorite television show, “Foyle’s War.” Kaepernick talked about enjoying the London sights Tuesday without being noticed too much. He said he doesn’t even try going out in the Bay Area anymore because of his newfound fame.
The 49ers are all-in for this trip and Harbaugh thinks it can benefit the team.
“Can’t say what the biggest challenge has been,” Harbaugh said when asked Wednesday. “But, it’s a great place to set up camp, hunker down in a great football environment. I think we have everything we need. Great set up here at The Grove, football oasis. So, it’s been a pleasure.
“And I really thought two percent [improvement this week] would be a good goal. If we could improve two percent as a football team this week, but might have underestimated that. I think we might be able to get three percent, or four percent, or maybe even five percent better with the surroundings we have here and the accommodations. Excited to get out on the practice field and see the guys moving around and see if we can’t start chasing those percent improvements.”
If the 49ers win their fifth straight game Sunday against the 0-7 Jaguars, Harbaugh will likely be open to returning to his own European oasis.