Kraft: 'It's time' for an NFL franchise in London

Kraft: 'It's time' for an NFL franchise in London
October 27, 2012, 1:54 pm
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LONDON - Robert Kraft tries awfully hard to make it seem like playing 3,100 miles away from home gives the Patriots an edge.

At an NFL Fan Rally Saturday in Traflagar Square, the Patriots owner was asked if his team is at a competitive disadvantage after traveling from Seattle two weeks ago, playing an overtime game against the Jets in Foxboro and then heading here for Sunday's game with the Rams.

To argue his point that the Patriots have a leg up, Kraft employed some pretzel logic.

"Well, if you think about it like this, this is an away game for us," Kraft began. "We came from Boston to London. St. Louis came from Missouri to London. This is their home game. So if we have to play a team at home in London, I don't know, I sort of feel like this is a home game for us when we're playing the Rams."

The point Kraft is making is that the Rams gave up a home game to play here but the Patriots had a shorter commute. So the angle is valid.

But how does it help the Patriots in the overall, not just this Sunday? How does a team with Super Bowl aspirations realize an edge over the rest of the NFL elite by volunteering to travel all over God's green earth?

"Well, that's part of the challenge of organizing yourself," Kraft said when asked if this trip asks a lot of his players and coaches. "You get different time zones, you get players sick, you get players injured, it's just part of the operating experience.

"We only look at the positive side and we think the way we've set things up, hopefully we have a competitive advantage week in, week out, home or away," Kraft continued. "I think every football coach in America that coaches in the NFL would prefer to have every one of their games at 1 o'clock Sunday at home. But that's not the way the world works."

At least not for the Patriots, it doesn't work that way.

The noontime rally was held under chilly gray skies and was well-attended by a blend of both American fans who made the trip to Europe and curious Londoners.

The Rams took the stage first followed by the Patriots who hauled out Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Wes Welker, Zoltan Mesko and Brandon Lloyd to parade across the stage.

Kraft spoke first during the rally, pushing the agenda of the NFL planting a permanent flag in Europe.

"You're already hosting the premier league, and we believe we're the premier sport in the world," Kraft told the crowd. "I think London has shown, with the way they've handled the Olympics and every other major sporting event, that it's time for you to have your own NFL franchise, based in London."

In a brief Q&A with one of the emcees, former Patriot Ross Tucker, Bill Belichick said he was excited to be in London.

Gronkowski remained in character by spiking a microphone on demand.

Asked about that moment during a brief huddle with media, Kraft said,
"(Gronkowski) actually seemed very calm while he was speaking so I asked Bill if he fed him something, a calming influence. But then Gronk showed his true colors. Let's hope he does that during the game tomorrow."

Not surprisingly, everything was a plus according to Kraft. 

Playing in London? "It's great. We played before the largest crowd we ever played...actually, I think about playing here and Gillette Stadium is the best home record of any stadium in America but our record here is the best, we're undefeated when we play in London so hopefully it stays that way tomorrow."

Has the team adjusted?

"Having been here three years ago I think was a good learning curve experience. They practiced Thursday and then came on the plane and adjusted here in a way that hopefully we get a victory Sunday."

What did he think of the Patriots holding a Friday walkthrough in London's Hyde Park?

"It's good. Ya know, once again, it's something that we did before and I think it turned out to be very productive so we'll see what happens Sunday."

While it's hard to swallow that playing in Europe is good for the actually product on the football field, there is no arguing the people in London at the rally were (not surprisingly) thrilled the Patriots were in town.

Carl and Mary Kernander of Northwood, New Hampshire (by way of Woburn, Mass.) were among the fans in Trafalgar.

Mary is such a rabid Patriots fan that there is a Patriots logo on her husband's wedding band.

"She went kind of wacko in the early 90s, a little before they went to their first Super Bowl," Carl said of his wife.

What caused the fanaticism?

"I've always watched sports with my dad growing up and it used to be the Bruins and then I switched over," Mary explained. "I just love football. I just love football. This (experience) has been awesome."