NFL Beat: China Could Host a Preseason Game As Soon As 2007

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  1. Gryphon

    Gryphon Merge Ahead

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    By Jim Jenkins, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
    Sep. 3--That the NFL hopes to be in China for an exhibition game next summer comes as no big surprise to the Raiders, who have certainly done their part to expand international interest in their sport.

    For the third consecutive year, the Raiders invited three international coaches to their Napa training camp:patrick Esume of Germany, Radames Carrillo of Mexico and Tang Hai-yan of China.

    The NFL has played preseason games in Germany, Mexico, England, Japan and Spain. A trip to China would be a first.

    During his Raiders visit, Tang said he expected his country would host a pro game soon even though the only football played there is youth flag, which he coaches. It is somewhat surprising for Tang, though, to hear an NFL announcement Monday that China is targeted for a game as early as next year.

    The probable site is Beijing, the host of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Six teams, including the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, have shown a willingness to make the trip.

    "Because of Super Bowls televised in China, (Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady is already a favorite among young players in our (youth) leagues," Tang said.

    Pete Abitante, the league's director of international affairs, would not identify four other teams under consideration for the game and said negotiations won't be completed until later this month. Paul Tagliabue, who left office as commissioner Friday, visited China last year and met with Beijing officials, including those involved with the Olympics.

    Abitante said NBC's return to NFL telecasts would be an added reason for a China exhibition game since the network has the telecast rights to the Beijing Olympics.

    The NFL has played exhibition games outside the United States since 1986, although there were none this year.

    Several NFL owners view China as a new frontier the league needs to explore in expanding its marketing sales, as has the NBA.

    Last October, the Arizona Cardinals gave up a home game to become the host team in Mexico City. An Azteca Stadium crowd of 103,467 watched the Cardinals beat the 49ers in the first regular-season game played abroad.

    The Raiders and Dallas Cowboys played before 88,309 in a 2001 Mexico City game. The Raiders also have made preseason trips to London, Japan and Spain.

    "I predict that within four or five years, Mexico will have an NFL franchise," said Carrillo, who coaches high-school-level tackle football there. "We only need the right sponsors because the fan interest is certainly there."

    Carrillo said he is always sought out for his impressions of the NFL.

    "What we (three) coaches in the Raiders' training camp learned, by being in meetings with the coaches and assisting them in practice and in preseason games, is information we can take back to our country," he said. "The first thing I am continually asked by players I coach is: 'What did they show you?' "

    Before returning to the Raiders for a second stint as their coach, Art Shell worked in the league office, and one of his duties was involvement in the NFL's international affairs.

    "Watching games in NFL Europe, I saw several outstanding young coaches from other countries," Shell said. "Patrick (Esume) ... definitely has the potential to become a coach in the NFL someday."

    Bye bye, Bayou Receiver Donte' Stallworth is looking for a fresh start and a chance for a championship following his trade Monday from New Orleans to the Philadelphia Eagles.

    "I wasn't surprised but ecstatic at having a new opportunity," the former Grant High School and University of Tennessee standout told reporters at the Eagles' training complex.

    In clearing the way for Stallworth, the Eagles released veteran receiver Todd Pinkston, slowed by a leg injury. Pinkston's departure leaves Greg Lewis as the only wide receiver from the Super Bowl team of two seasons ago.

    Quotable Seahawks defensive end and former 49er Chike Okeafor, waxing philosophically on complaints the preseason is too long: "I've heard that stuff: Shorten camp, shorten preseason. But the body grows to the stresses put on it. You put less stress on it, it will be that much weaker.

    "Hurts happen. That's football. It's gladiator (stuff), why we get paid what we get paid, and we deserve to get more."

    Go figure During Thursday's telecast of the Seattle-Raiders game, Jim Plunkett, working as an analyst, mused that as a prep he was beaten out for the starting quarterback spot in a San Francisco all-star game by Mike Holmgren, the Seahawks' coach. Plunkett was switched to defensive end.

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