The NFL wants to expand its popularity internationally, and if that effort means upsetting the league’s regular season, so be it.
Some players must wonder what they’re doing in London or Mexico City during the middle of what is a relatively short season for them, but most don’t say anything presumably because NFL players are discouraged from saying anything interesting. But Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley didn’t sound too happy to have his routine thrown off.
The Rams stayed in Jacksonville for most of the week after playing at the Jaguars, then will play the Arizona Cardinals in London on Sunday.
“Terrible,” Gurley said when asked about getting into his routine this week, according to ESPN. “They need to stop this, all this stuff. This London, this Mexico City stuff, it needs to stop.”
He’s right. The first problem with the international series, which is designed to grow the game globally, is that it makes the schedule imbalanced for some teams. The Rams, a playoff contender, are the “home” team on Sunday, about 5,000 miles from Los Angeles. That means the Rams get seven true home games when the Seattle Seahawks, their main contender in the NFC West, gets eight. That’s unfair and a significant difference. It could end up changing who wins a division title.
There’s also the travel aspect. Eight teams will play in London this season. That means 24 won’t. It’s obviously more difficult for the teams who have to make that trip, especially for a team like the Rams that will have to spend a full week away from home. It’s unclear what the exact effect of that travel is, but it’s fair to say there is some. After playing each other in London earlier this season, the Jaguars and Baltimore Ravens played the next week and lost.
Gurley made sure to say he wasn’t against fans in London. There are good NFL fans in London. But the NFL still shouldn’t mess with the fairness of its regular season any more than the English Premier League should send an unbalanced and significant portion of its games to the United States every season.
“It’s cool playing over there, don’t get me wrong,” Gurley told ESPN. “Just more of the long week, messes up a bunch of people’s schedules. I’m pretty sure y’all [the media] wanna be in y’all bed right now, too. But naw, it’s all good. It’ll be love. The fans over there are great.”
This Rams-Cardinals game doesn’t even happen early on Sunday. It’s just mixed in with the rest of the games that start at 1 p.m. Eastern. So there’s absolutely no benefit for American fans. There’s really not a lot to love about the trip for players either.
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