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Rams arrive in London to gear up for Wembley game

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Rams arrive in London to gear up for Wembley game

LONDON (AP) 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 Europe.

``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 Friday.

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 day.

``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 Greg Zuerlein.

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 here.''

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 it.''

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4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

4 prospects Baltimore Ravens fans should be keeping an eye on in 2019 NFL Draft

The Baltimore Ravens will add to their historic franchise this weekend during the 2019 NFL Draft. All eyes will be set on who they take with their first pick, whether that's at No. 22 or beyond. 

With a handful of needs, which prospects should you be aware of? Here are four players projected to possibly land with the Ravens Thursday night.

WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi

Metcalf grabbed the attention of the football world during the NFL Combine, running a 4.33 40-yard dash and posting a 40.5 vertical jump. The jury is still out, however, on how he'll pan out in the NFL. Metcalf missed part of the 2018 season with a neck injury and a foot injury derailed his 2016 season after just two games. Metcalf admitted that his history of injuries was brought up often when meeting with NFL teams, and his apparent 1.9% body fat simply isn't healthy, according to a combine trainer. Nonetheless, draft experts have the receiver as a top option for the Ravens. 

DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson

The Ravens are going to need some help on defense after losing Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith in free agency. Ferrell had 38 tackles for loss and 21 sacks over the last two seasons with the National Champions. Standing at 6'4", 264 pounds, the defensive end's combine profile describes him as having "prototypical size, length and strength to offer early help against both the run and pass."

C/G Erik McCoy, Texas A&M

The Ravens could be looking for their center of the future. McCoy earned a starting role with the Aggies during the 2016 season, starting all 16 games after redshirting his freshman season. In his sophomore season, McCoy helped Texas A&M average 406.8 yards per game. From 2016-19, the center helped his team rush for over 2,000 yards. A talent like that could be extremely helpful with Lamar Jackson under center. 

WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma

Another wide receiver in the mix, Brown averaged more than 18 yards per reception over two years at Oklahoma, racking up 1,300 yards with 10 touchdowns on 75 receptions in 2018 alone. Nicknamed "Hollywood," the 21-year-old's speed and ability to threaten deep "gives him a chance to become the most impactful wideout in this draft."

The 2019 NFL schedule is set!  See the Baltimore Ravens defend the AFC North at M&T Bank Stadium this season. Get your tickets now at www.BaltimoreRavens.com/tickets.

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Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

Report: Dwayne Haskins is the Redskins' 'target' for solving QB issue

It'd be borderline shocking if the Redskins didn't add a quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, and with the first round coming Thursday, one report suggests the team is interested in doing so with a top pick.

ESPN's Dianna Russini tweeted Wednesday that "sources have indicated Dwayne Haskins is [Washington's] target despite multiple holes at several positions on this roster." She then added that the 'Skins aren't talking to the Cardinals about Josh Rosen.

Now, the question for the Redskins becomes: If Haskins is their target, will they have to move up in the order to get him?

Insider JP Finlay wrote Wednesday the franchise could be willing to make a big leap up to pick No. 3 if Kyler Murray isn't taken first overall. So, you'd think they'd be willing to do the same for Haskins, whether that means swapping with the Jets to get the Ohio State passer third or with another organization if Haskins slips lower.

There's also a chance he lasts until the 15th pick, but that's far from certain. The front office may not feel comfortable enough to wait for him to fall.

A combination of Colt McCoy and Case Keenum could get the Redskins through the 2019 season, but neither sets the squad up for long-term success under center. Haskins could, although he started just one year for the Buckeyes and Jay Gruden has said this offseason how valuable experience is for signal callers entering the pros. 

There should be plenty of appealing prospects available for Washington when it's their turn on the clock. However, landing a QB on a rookie deal would be the most impactful acquisition if that guy pans out. So, if Haskins really is the "target" as reported, look for them to be aggressive in chasing him.

For an in-depth look at Haskins' development and life, check out NBC Sports Washington's "I am The Prospect: Dwayne Haskins."

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