NFL - NFL chief wants new teams in London and LA

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wants to see league teams established in both Los Angeles and London, as long as the process is conducted in "the right way".

Reuters
NFL - NFL chief wants new teams in London and LA
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The iconic Hollywood sign (Wikipedia Commons)

Speaking at a forum for European NFL fans in London ahead of Sunday's game in the English capital between the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers, Goodell was asked which city he would prefer gain a league franchise first.

"It doesn't matter," Goodell replied. "I'd love to be back in Los Angeles. But it has to be done the right way, we have to do it successfully...

"I want both (cities to have teams), but it doesn't matter which one is first."

The NFL has not had a team in Los Angeles, the second largest media market in the United States, since the Raiders returned to Oakland in 1995.

However, the league has been making a concerted push to grow its international fan base, and next year it will be staging three regular-season games in London.

Once Sunday's game between the Jaguars and 49ers is over, London will have hosted two games in a single season for the first time. Last month the Minnesota Vikings beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 34-27 at Wembley Stadium.

The NFL first played a regular season game at Wembley in 2007 and the annual fixture has attracted near-sellout crowds with an average attendance of more than 80,000.

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Goodell said the decision San Francisco 49ers pass rusher Aldon Smith made to enter a treatment program for substance abuse could affect any punishment he receives from the NFL for his off-the-field problems.

"Certainly, the issue here isn't to discipline players. It's to stop the behavior," Goodell said. "Aldon has voluntarily said, 'I need help.'

"We're obviously there to support him, and the 49ers did a great job getting him into a facility to try to get help. We support that."

Smith will miss his fifth straight game since entering a treatment program on Sept. 23, three days after his second drunk-driving-related arrest since entering the league in 2011.

The 49ers plan to meet with Smith and have not ruled out his return to the team this season. Coach Jim Harbaugh and general manager Trent Baalke said they are encouraged by reports of Smith's progress.

Smith could receive a reduced game suspension, a fine or the league may take no action, depending on Smith's progress and the time spent away from the team.

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Former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana said the city's leaders did not do enough to keep the team there.

The 49ers are in their final season at Candlestick Park in San Francisco before moving to nearby Santa Clara next season. The team will still be named the San Francisco 49ers.

Montana, who won four Super Bowls for the 49ers, said at a forum for European NFL fans in London on Saturday that San Francisco's leaders "made a terrible effort" to keep the team in the city.

He said the city wasted an opportunity to build a new stadium downtown for the 49ers. The San Francisco Giants built AT&T Park in 2000 and the Golden State Warriors plans to move from Oakland and into a new downtown San Francisco arena.

Despite that, Montana said he is thrilled that the 49ers have a new stadium in Santa Clara.

"It's not like they went to Oakland," he said.

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Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Saturday that wide receiver Percy Harvin will not play Monday night against the St. Louis Rams.

Harvin, who has been on the physically unable to perform list all season with a torn labrum in his hip, returned to practice this week. He is still considered day-to-day.

Carroll said Harvin did fine in practice this week, but has maintained that the team will not rush him back.

"He looked great when we were working him, and then we needed to rest him and make sure that he could handle the workload," Carroll said. "He's a hard charger, he's not going to sit back, and when he goes, he goes. We have to make sure that we manage that really well. We're totally pleased with how he's worked to get back, and as soon as we could do it we will, but when it's right."

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