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Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be candidate for annual game in England

BAGSHOT, England — The Bucs aren't pulling up anchor and relocating to London. General manager Mark Dominik was emphatic Friday that the franchise will always call Tampa Bay home.

But Dominik was less emphatic when addressing speculation that the Bucs could play an annual game at Wembley Stadium. The NFL has expressed an interest in playing two games per year in London and at least one team might be asked to commit to playing a "home' game there each season.

The Bucs, owned by the Glazer family, which also owns the Manchester United soccer team, have volunteered to move a game from Raymond James Stadium to London twice in the past three years.

"I can't sit here and say honestly that I've had those discussions with anybody," Dominik said. "What I can do is say this team is not going to relocate from Tampa and move to London, emphatically. We're the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and I do know that for a fact. I know there's been some rumbling on (website or anywhere else saying some day we may relocate. We're very happy being the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and we will be going forward.

"I think as an organization, if it gets to the point where they talk about putting a team here one game each season on a consistent basis, certainly at that point it will be (a discussion). But right now I've never heard and certainly have never had a conversation about that being us, so I think right now it's speculation. But we've obviously been (the subject of speculation) because we've been here two of the last three years."

NFL teams have been reluctant to sacrifice one of their eight regular-season home games for the chance to promote the league overseas. While television ratings for the American Bowl series are up in London, the Bucs-Chicago Bears game at Wembley Stadium Sunday is not a sellout.

The Bucs (4-2) are tied atop the NFC South with New Orleans, but 15 of their past 16 games at Raymond James Stadium have not sold out and been subjected to a local television blackout.

By the time the Bucs play Nov. 6 at New Orleans, the team will have traveled more than 14,000 miles in the second quarter of the season alone. It's one reason the team opted to arrive in London on Monday, giving them a week to adjust to the time difference.

Would an annual game in London create a competitive disadvantage for the Bucs?

"I think once we get to that bridge, we'll cross it," Dominik said. "But I would say it's an hour and a half difference than a West Coast trip, and I do like the way we've actually approached it this year versus two seasons ago (when they flew to London just for the weekend). I think it helped our team prepare to play, not only Chicago but in Wembley, and so I do think this is actually a good experience for our football team."

Dominik said West Coast teams such as Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco and San Diego deal with extensive travel every season.

"I would look at the Seattle Seahawks and how much they have to fly each year," Dominik said. "It is what it is. No matter where they're located, they're going to have to fly a lot of hours. They have to. And when they do East Coast games, that's as long as it gets. So I think there's a little misnomer there in terms of miles."

While Dominik says he has had no discussions with Bucs owners about playing an annual game in London, he knows it might not be popular with the team's fan base if it meant sacrificing a home game.

"I can understand the fans reaction to possibly losing a home game," Dominik said. "I haven't spoken to the ownership about it once."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers could be candidate for annual game in England 10/21/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 21, 2011 11:35pm]
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