NFL team to play 4 home games in London

NFL team to play 4 home games in London

From Comcast SportsNet
JACKSONVILLE, Florida (AP) -- The NFL and the Jacksonville Jaguars announced Tuesday that the small-market franchise will play one home game in London for four consecutive seasons beginning in 2013 -- a step the team believes will broaden its fan base and take some pressure off locals who have mostly failed to fill the stands in recent years. "I passionately believe the big growth now is going to come from overseas," owner Shad Khan said. "We've got to go where we can leverage and take advantage of some of those things. You've got to fish in ponds where you've got fish in there. We're going to a pond where there are no fishermen." The Jaguars will play at Wembley Stadium, which has hosted one NFL game annually since 2007. "We want to create an identity, a bold, ambitious franchise that is aggressive and forward-thinking on the field and away from the field," Khan said. "We want to be the kind of franchise players want to belong to, sponsors want to be part of, and Jacksonville is proud of. ... The key point is to sell Jacksonville to the world. We are a well-kept secret, but after today, that's not going to be the case." By all accounts, the Jaguars are the NFL's least popular team. They rank at or near the bottom of the league in website hits as well as Twitter and Facebook interactions. Although Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental United States in terms of land mass, it is home to just 1.3 million people -- and that includes several surrounding areas; London alone has 8 million people. Missing the playoffs in 10 of 12 seasons has made attracting fans a problem in Jacksonville. The team used to pack the stands regularly, even though it plays in a stadium built to house large crowds for the annual Florida-Georgia college football game. But in 2005, the Jaguars decided to cover up nearly 10,000 seats with tarps to reduce capacity and limit television blackouts. Even though the Jaguars haven't blacked out a home game since 2009, they still have struggled to fill EverBank Field. Playing an annual game in London will reduce season-ticket prices by 10 percent, possibly making the remaining package a more affordable and enticing option. Reaction, though, was mixed among the fan base. Some supported the decision and others questioned the team's motives. After all, if the Jaguars become England's team and continue to have issues back home, what's to stop the NFL from moving them across the pond for good? "You can't fault them if anyone is mad about this," kicker Josh Scobee said. "We can only ask for their support in going over there and ask them to watch it on TV." The St. Louis Rams had been scheduled to play in London in 2013 and 2014, but they pulled out last week, citing a need to focus on lease negotiations and ease fan discontent. The Jaguars scooped up the available games -- plus some. "It's just good for the Jaguar brand," tight end Marcedes Lewis said. "It's exciting to go over there and put ourselves on the map worldwide. When I got drafted in 2006, there were some of my family members who didn't even know who the Jaguars were." Players recognized the major pitfalls -- traveling overseas and giving up home games -- but no one knocked the decision publicly. "We know football is the greatest sport in the states, so for fans in other areas who don't get to watch it first hand, it's good for them to experience and see what we all brag about," cornerback Rashean Mathis said. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined Khan for the announcement, which fittingly came on a gray, rain-soaked day in Jacksonville -- typical London weather. Goodell reaffirmed his commitment to expanding to multiple games in England and eventually establishing a franchise there. "The big issue for us was finding a community that understood that this could be great for the community, wrap their arms around it and say this is a win-win situation," Goodell said. Khan said the Jaguars are committed to playing all four years at Wembley, even if the team becomes a Super Bowl contender and a hot ticket in Jacksonville. "I think if you make a commitment, you stick with it," said Khan, who bought the team in November for 770 million. "To me, we're all in." Khan added that he would consider playing more games overseas after the deal expires in 2016. He also acknowledged that the payoff probably won't be seen immediately. He suggested that Londoners could fall in love with the Jaguars and decide to visit Jacksonville regularly. The ultimate goal, though, would be to have European companies spend millions in Jacksonville. "If somebody builds a container port, if somebody makes an investment out of Germany or England or Netherlands and they chose Jacksonville, that would be a huge return from my viewpoint," Khan said. "You could have people come here -- we've got beautiful golf, weather -- instead of vacationing in Miami or some place and they come up here and watch a game or two. That would be a huge return for me." Coach Mike Mularkey and cornerback Aaron Ross have made the trip before -- Ross with the New York Giants in 2007, and Mularkey with the Dolphins that year -- and both praised the fans and the experience they gained from making the trip. "I know Shad's been trying to have people recognize what's going on here in this town," Mularkey said. "I think this is a great opportunity to get it. Obviously going overseas, that's making a statement."

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks has little sympathy for NBA players who rest just to rest

Wizards coach Scott Brooks has little sympathy for NBA players who rest just to rest

With the playoffs right around the corner and the regular season winding down, the NBA has lately been dominated by the debate around resting superstar players. The Warriors did it recently in a nationally televised game against the Spurs. Then, the Cavs rested Lebron James and then Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love on other occasions.

Former players like Karl Malone and Charles Barkley have weighed in. John Wall even said the league has gotten softer. And since league commissioner Adam Silver has vowed to fix what he sees as a major problem for the sport.

Wizards head coach Scott Brooks comes from Malone and Barkley's era, as a 10-year NBA player who entered the league in 1988. Now he is a coach, so he can relate to both generations.

On Wednesday he shared his thoughts in depth on the issue and, though he understands the practice, has little sympathy for players who want to rest just to rest.

"There's certain cases and certain examples and certain players that probably need it. But that's very rare in my opinion," he said. "You're talking basketball. It's 32 minutes a night. This is not hard work. This is fun. Rest, to me rest is a good night sleep. I've seen coaches and players do it in the beginning of the season or after the All-Star break. To me, rest is a good night's rest and taking care of your body and being prepared to play. Hard work is a lot of things that a lot of other people do that are not athletes and coaches. It's hard to do and we're all blessed and privileged. But the rest thing is blown out of proportion, in my opinion. You're talking about a game that we love."

For Brooks, it is simple. He wants players to do their job.

"I think we're all obligated to earn our keep. We all sign contracts to play games and play as many minutes as the coach wants you to play. I think it's important. I don't know what has changed. Obviously, when I played you didn't sit out games. You didn't even sit out practices. There was a lot of trash talking if you sat out a practice. You didn't want to be called those names. So, you took pride. You can imagine some of the names: soft and Charmin, there's all kinds of [names]. I'm going to keep it PG. I've read comments on how much [technology and training methods] have these days and you want rest on top of that? Some players need it. There's no question."

All of this even inspired Brooks to bring up a 'back in my day' story from his playing career. And it's a good one.

"I wouldn't say that players were tougher. They weren't given options. We weren't given options. We weren't given the option to take practice off. Our practices were long," he said. "I'm pretty good [these days]. My knees are hurting, my back is aching and my elbows hurt, my ankles hurt. But I wouldn't change anything. I loved what I did. I loved to compete. I had toothaches twice and I wanted to play the game, so I told the dentist to take them out. He said 'you're going to have trouble when you're 75 and trying to chew.' I said 'I'll worry about that then. I did do that. But that was nothing."

[RELATED: BTR: To rest or not to rest? NBA's issue is bigger than that]

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

Virginia guard Marial Shayok transferring from program

By Ben Brown

Following a disappointing end to a once-promising season, Virginia guard Marial Shayok and forward Jarred Reuter will transfer to another school, head coach Tony Bennett announced Wednesday. 

"Marial and Jarred informed me today that they are leaving the Virginia basketball program and are looking to transfer to other schools," Bennett said. "I thank Marial and Jarred for their hard work and contributions to our program, and wish them success in the future."

Shayok was the Cavaliers' second-leading scorer at 8.9 points per game, despite playing only the fifth-most minutes and regularly coming off the bench. The Ontario product scored a career-high 23 points in Virginia's win over UNC-Wilmington in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. 

Reuter averaged 10 minutes a game and averaged 3.8 points per game. 

Shayok and Reuter transferring comes at the end of a very disappointing season for Virginia. The Cavaliers began the season in the top 10 of the AP poll, and halfway through conference play they were near the top of the standings in the ACC. But that was before the team went into a major funk as they lost four of their last seven games, which dropped them to sixth in the conference standings. 

Virginia lost in the second round of the ACC Tournament to Notre Dame, and then got blasted by Florida by 26 points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. 

In addition to the losses of Shayok and Reuter, London Perrantes, the team's best player and leader, is graduating. 

After a rough regular season, Virginia's offseason is off to a rocky start as well. 

Related: 2017 NBA Draft early entry list: Who is going and who is staying?