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A WEEK away from home, in another country, in any job can be hard.
While it is easier when you are surrounded by people going through the same thing, resistance will always be there and the NFL’s London “experiment” is still a hard sell to its franchises — even if your team walks away with the all-important win.
On Sunday the Oakland Raiders “welcomed” the Chicago Bears to the first-ever NFL game at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The Raiders halted the Bears’ third-quarter comeback to seal a 24-21 victory and though there was reason to celebrate, Raiders quarterback Derek Carr — who played in London last year against the Seattle Seahawks — admitted there are still some problems with the NFL’s International Series, not least for the players.
“Yeah, I think when you’re the home team I think you resist it more,” said Carr. “Because home team advantage in the NFL is so crucial, if I’m being honest. Losing a home game, that’s always hard because it really is an advantage.
“We came out in the stadium and got booed. Because it was 50 per cent Bears fans. That doesn’t feel like a home game.
“Now, I love the London trip, if I’m being honest with you. I love playing here. I’m a soccer fan, it’s cool to me.
“I got to talk to Harry Kane for a little while. I’m a real fan. ‘Oh, my gosh, so nice to meet you. I’m a big fan of yours. How do you even know who we are?’ But I got to meet him. That’s cool to me.
“And I think that more players will understand that this is where the game is going. And definitely — being the home team is nice you get all the home games. The only thing when you have to come on the road for an 11-hour plus trip to play a home game, that always feels weird.
“I don’t get to sleep in my bed, see my kids, kiss my wife. That part is a little different.”
It’s becoming harder for franchises to avoid the London game. It’s financially rewarding to the league, it expands their reach in Britain and it adds more points in the plus column when a London franchise is raised in meetings between the powers that be.
60,453 fans packed Tottenham’s stadium at the weekend, captivated by the product on the field.
The facilities are first-class. It’s arguably the best NFL stadium in the league and it isn’t even a full-time American Football stadium.
The thinking and planning behind its construction left even the players impressed when visiting. Having picked up the victory Carr didn’t hold back in his praise for the venue.
“It is first class, I will say that. We had the opportunity to sit up in the chairman’s box for the soccer match [against Bayern Munich in the Champions League] …
“We walked in, there was a fireplace like I’ve never seen before in my life. It looked fake. And just everything was just so first class, every little detail.
“And every single room you go in is unbelievable. And this is definitely one of the best stadiums I’ve ever been to in my life.
“Playing at Wembley was really cool with the memories and all the different games that have been played here. But being able to play here and being able to see what could be done, it’s amazing that they could do all this.
“First class. Obviously to win here feels better than the opposite.”
Given the turmoil the Raiders have been through since head coach Jon Gruden stepped into the building — trading blue-chip talent like defensive end Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper last season, releasing troubled-superstar Antonio Brown before a ball is snapped and he had a chance to contribute in the black and silver — has meant that this team has been through a lot.
The week in London seems to have done the trick, getting the locker room back on track and pulling in the right direction. Carr was fine admitting that the game played in England has brought this team closer than ever.
“Yeah, this is the closest team I’ve ever been on, to be honest with you. I could have told you that in training camp.
“We spend — every second that we spent not in the media room this week we were at a card table all together.
“We were at the soccer game altogether. I’ve never seen a whole collection, a whole group chat together on our phone.
“The relationships that this team has, it really shows me what kind of team that Mr [Mike] Mayock and Jon Gruden have tried to build. Because super close, super results, super tough.
“I knew we had a close team, but we have been a close team because of our 700 day road trip.”
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