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BRIT EXPANSION ADDS FANS

NFL expansion outside the United States is an idea that's been espoused by commissioner Roger Goodell for some time.

Now Goodell appears to have an important ally.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft agrees with the push to expand to Britain, saying during Friday's Patriots workout at a cricket grounds, "I think it could (happen). I really believe it's the right thing to do in the next decade. We have great support here and in Germany."

Goodell said there's a growing appetite for football in Britain.

"The interest and the enthusiasm for our game continues to grow, and we want to feed that," he said. "We want to respond to that by hopefully bringing more to the U.K.

"I expect that sometime in the next couple of years, we could be playing multiple games here. If we brought more than one game (a season) here and it continues to have the same kind of growth of interest, I think that is about as good of an indicator you can get that it could successfully support a franchise. And that's what we're looking at."

Minutes after arriving in London on Friday, Bucs coach Raheem Morris had similar sentiments: "That's where we're trying to go. The flight really wasn't that bad. It's (like) a West Coast trip, but you're going to London. That's where the league wants to go; that's where we want to go. We want to make our game international, and that's a lot of fun."

This is the third consecutive year the NFL has staged a regular-season game in London.

Goodell and Kraft differ on one point about British expansion. Bringing more regular-season games to the country without having a franchise in it would require more teams to give up home games, something the Bucs are doing by appearing in this game. The Patriots are considered the visiting team and still have a full slate of eight home games.

Kraft has mixed feelings about potentially losing home dates: "I'm not sure our fans would appreciate us giving up a regular-season game. I know I wouldn't. But eventually I think there's a chance of that if we expand the schedule."

At least one prominent person cast doubt on the feasibility of making Britain a permanent part of the NFL.

Adding a European franchise, "would be challenging," Patriots QB Tom Brady said. "But I don't see that happening any time soon."

INJURY UPDATE: WR Michael Clayton (hamstring) was listed as questionable on the final injury report. RB Clifton Smith, who got a concussion from an illegal hit by Carolina's Dante Wesley on Sunday, made the trip and is also listed as questionable. He had limited practice Thursday, and it remains unclear whether he will play.

NO FINES: The league said neither CB Aqib Talib nor LB Adam Hayward would be fined for their parts in the fracas that followed Wesley's hit.

Stephen F. Holder can be reachedat sholder@sptimes.com

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