No home field advantage for Rams in London


No home field advantage for Rams in London

LONDON (AP) The St. Louis Rams are familiar with fans cheering for the opposition, even at their home games.

They're likely to get an even bigger dose of that Sunday when they go up against the New England Patriots at Wembley in the annual NFL game in London.

The Rams are technically the home team, but the Patriots - and especially Tom Brady - have a much bigger international following and may get more fan support.

The Rams (3-4) already had a taste of that in the home loss to Green Bay on Sunday, when thousands of raucous cheeseheads made themselves heard at the Edward Jones Dome.

``We had a lot of Green Bay Packer fans in our stadium last weekend,'' coach Jeff Fisher said. ``So they travel very well as well. Didn't bother us, didn't have an impact on the outcome of the game. We're excited to be here.''

The Rams held their first full practice in London on Wednesday, at the training grounds of Premier League soccer club Arsenal north of the capital. Rams owner Stan Kroenke is also the majority shareholder of Arsenal, and his interests in the British market are part of the reason why the organization was willing to give up a home game in St. Louis to travel overseas.

The Rams were originally set to play a game in London for three straight years - creating speculation that Kroenke may eventually consider moving the team overseas permanently - but dropped plans to return in 2013 and 2014.

That means quarterback Sam Bradford, for one, is keen on making the most of this one opportunity to build an international fan base for the organization.

``It's a big stage, a big opportunity,'' Bradford said. ``Obviously, playing over here, it's going to be broadcast all over the world.''

But Bradford also realizes that his team isn't the main attraction for an international audience.

``We're playing the Patriots, one of most well-known, if not the most well-known teams in the league,'' he said. ``They've been one of the best for quite a while now.''

The Patriots have already played in one of the five previous regular-season games in London, beating Tampa Bay at Wembley in 2009. That added to the popularity of a team that already had a solid European fan base because of the star power of Brady and three recent Super Bowl titles.

So defensive end Chris Long isn't going to be offended when the crowd starts cheering for the ``away'' team.

``That's fine,'' Long said. ``We're the underdogs, maybe some fans will be behind us because we're underdogs. But we're not really worried about that. We're happy about any support we get, but we understand the Patriots are kind of a worldwide brand. That's what we're trying to do, build our brand worldwide, so it's a great opportunity on Sunday.''

However, the Rams are hoping to feel more at home in one way.

The team opted to fly to London on Monday evening, arriving early Tuesday to get plenty of time to get used to the time difference and atmosphere. The Patriots will arrive Friday, meaning they'll have a much shorter time to get rid of the jetlag.

``I think our advantage is coming over here early,'' defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. ``Being over here a little earlier, and getting used to the time change, being as alert as we can on Sunday.''

All three of the Rams' wins so far have come in St. Louis, and the strong performances at home are the reason they have already exceeded their total number of victories from last season, when they were tied for the league's worst record at 2-14. Now they're eager to start a new streak on Sunday.

``Especially coming off a hard loss like we had at home, where we were 3-0 before Green Bay,'' Brockers said. ``This is considered a home game for us, so we'll just try to keep that record going and try to leave Wembley Stadium 4-1 at home.''

There could hardly be a better way to make a splash across the pond than to beat the Patriots.

``It's an opportunity for us to spread the word that maybe the Rams are back,'' Fisher said. ``That was the thing that was exciting for us. Of course, we have to play well.''


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Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

Ted Leonsis maintains optimism amid harsh reality of John Wall injury

CAPITAL ONE ARENA -- It might be quite a while before we see John Wall on the court playing for the Wizards again.

It was already well-known Wall will miss extended time as he recovers from a ruptured Achilles tendon, a rehab that usually takes at least 11 months. But it is starting to sound more and more like he won't play in the 2019-20 season at all.

Wizards managing partner Ted Leonsis shared that harsh reality on Monday during a press conference at Capital One Arena.

"Our highest-paid player, our five-time All-Star, may not play at all next year. He probably won't play at all next year," Leonsis said.

If Wall follows the general timeline for the surgery, he could come back sometime early in 2020. A 12-month recovery would have him return in early February.

If Wall missed all of next season, he would return to start the 2020-21 campaign after a 20-month recovery. That would be nearly double the rehab time many players have taken for the same injury over the years. He would be 30 years old by then.

But Wall and the Wizards have reason to be extra patient. He is entering the first season of a four-year, $170 million supermax contract. Punting the first year, even if he is making $38 million, could be worth it in the long run if it means he returns to his All-Star form.

The Wizards are also likely to have a gap year of sorts anyways. They retooled their roster with young, inexperienced players. The odds they make the playoffs this season are lower than they have been in years. The Wizards are taking the long view and they know getting Wall's rehab right is paramount.

Leonsis and team officials currently get daily reports on Wall's progress. After making the supermax investment, they are taking extra measures to ensure he is holding up his end of the bargain. The Wizards closely monitor his weight and have a rotation of physical therapists working with him every day.

If it were up to Wall, he would be more likely to return next season. The team is the side taking extra caution.

"Trust me, nobody wants to get back to the court more than John Wall," GM Tommy Sheppard told NBC Sports Washington. 

"But I've tried to manage this with him and say there is no calendar or clock that is going to tell you to come back. You're going to come back when you're 100 percent healthy. Anybody who has watched him in the playoffs play with broken hands and all of the aches and pains he's had over the years and he still showed up and played at a high, high level. You know you need to monitor him a little more than most. That's the kind of player that is going to try to sneak back on the court any time he can."

What Leonsis said publicly has been the belief behind the scenes in the Wizards organization for quite some time. They are preparing for next season as if he won't play, 

"We have to see if John Wall comes back and how he looks and how he plays," Leonsis told NBC Sports Washington. "If John Wall can come back at 80 percent the year after [in 2020-21], I would be really happy because then we would have a great, great backcourt."


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Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Redskins365 Episode 1: The Future Starts Now

Over the 2019 offseason, the Washington Redskins periodically released episodes to a new series called "Redskins 365". Here, viewers can get an all-access look into all the important moments leading up to the 2019-20 season. In episode 1 titled "The Future Starts Now" the Redskins begin their journey toward improvement following the conclusion of the 2018-19 campaign.

The episode begins immediately following the disappointing end to Washington's season as players participated in locker cleanout day. A somewhat somber atmosphere, the likes of Shaun Dion Hamilton, Adrian Peterson, Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams reflect on the season and look ahead to 2019.

Following that, it's on to the additions and changes on the coaching staff. Head coach Jay Gruden gives his thoughts on new defensive staff hirings Ray Horton and Rob Ryan as well as Kevin O'Connell's jump to offensive coordinator. Ryan and O'Connell also explain their excitement for next season in their respective roles.

With the coaching staff puzzle becoming clear, the episode transitions to the NFL Combine. Gruden along with Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams, President Bruce Allen and Director of College Scouting Kyle Smith take you through the Combine process. Discussions about the interview process and what the Redskins are looking for in players give insight into how evaluations are done. 

The Combine portion has a heavy focus on players Kyler Murray, D.K. Metcalf and Montez Sweat among others. Released on March 20, one can see and hear from Sweat before the idea of him becoming a Redskin came to fruition and listen to Metcalf's thoughts on Jay Gruden.

Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Chad Englehart also makes an appearance, discussing his viral moment with Ed Oliver at the combine and the fraternity-type bond conditioning coaches in the NFL share.

Washington's journey toward success in 2019 began the moment the clock ran out on the 2018 season. Episode 1 of "Redskins365" picks up right in that preliminary stage.