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

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

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."

First impressions: Bradley Jr.'s hit streak comes to an end

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First impressions: Bradley Jr.'s hit streak comes to an end

BOSTON - First impressions from the Red Sox' 8-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies:

 

Just when you think Clay Buchholz may be close to figuring some things out, you realize he hasn't.

The night began well for Buchholz, who retired the first nine hitters he faced, marking the first time since April 18 that he had the opposition scoreless through the first three innings.

But then Buchholz allowed a single and a two-run homers in the fourth. And then did it again in the fifth. And then again in that same inning. That's been the big tease all season -- a few innings of dominance, more than wiped out by big hits with men on base.

He's got a 6.35 ERA. It's hard to find a reason why he should make his next start.

 

You can't say that Jackie Bradley Jr. didn't go down swinging.

He swung at the second pitch of the first inning and hit to the warning track in right, where it was caught.

After a weak comebacker in the third, Bradley crushed a pitch to the center field wall, close to 400 feet. That, too, was caught.

In his final at-bat, with the crowd on its feet in anticipation, Bradley swung at the first pitch and rolled out to second base.

It was nice -- and plenty of fun -- while it lasted.

Now, the attention focuses on Xander Bogaerts, who has his own streak going at 19 games.

 

David Ortiz has had a nice month this week.

Ortiz was at it again Thursday, slamming a two-run homer into the home bullpen in the first, then doubling off The Wall in the fourth.

He finished the night 2-for-5, but for the homestand was 10-for-23. Of those 10 hits, eight were for extra bases -- six doubles and two homers -- and he knocked in 11 runs in six games.

Also, for the first time in his career, Ortiz has knocked in multiple runs in four straight games.

 

Heath Hembree continues to be an important part of the bullpen.

The Red Sox don't necessarily have a designated long man, but Hembree is the closest thing they have to one.

He came in in the sixth and turned in three innings in which he allowed just one run -- and that one was unearned.

This marked the ninth time in 12 appearances this season that Hembree has pitched more than an inning.