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Positive reviews pave way for NFL's leap

LONDON -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Sunday that London would get serious consideration to host a franchise should the league ever decide to expand beyond its current 32 members. The AFC Far East, anyone?

Speaking to officials from the NFL's New York headquarters and from the Patriots and Buccaneers, the feedback on the Wembley experience was overwhelmingly positive.

"A fun experience for all of us," said Tom Brady.

"An enjoyable couple of days," said Bill Belichick, even if he opined that the proposed idea of moving four games per season to the United Kingdom would be a tough commute.

Perhaps the biggest indirect compliment Belichick paid was to point out that, at one point, the stadium was so noisy that New England was forced to execute a silent count.

"When you're hearing Wes Welker saying it reminded him of playing the Super Bowl in Arizona, that says a lot," NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood said Monday, prior to the departure of both participating teams. "We now have two more ownerships, two more head coaches, and two sets of players who can talk about this. That's more important than any of us in suits."

So that is where the likes of Belichick and Brady now have a role. To cement the proposed plan for an additional game in London next season, positive reviews are required from those involved. Regardless of the economic benefits or the prospect of internationalizing football, if Belichick gave a big thumbs-down to the idea of detouring to London, it could thwart the entire initiative.

Given what passed for an endorsement, the path looks clear to proceed as scheduled.

"Our biggest challenge is persuading and relying on the good faith and commitment of the teams involved to come over," Kirkwood said. "We're only at soft conversations at this stage, but a lot of things will be accelerated now that this game is out of the way."

Meetings, he confirmed, will take place in the next six weeks to determine which teams are willing to move one of their regular-season dates across the Atlantic in 2010.

Forecasting who might accept Kirkwood's invitation was a favorite post-game sport Sunday in the bars of London. Jacksonville, St. Louis, and Kansas City head the most-probable list. Then, as with New England, a marquee "road" opponent would be added to the bill to maximize the appeal. Officials are aiming to conclude arrangements by Christmas.

Several decisions have to be made, such as: Should they remain at one game or expand to two? Should they focus solely on London or test out the favored alternative venues of Edinburgh and Cardiff?

"You have to be ambitious," Kirkwood said. "We can look back at the International Series and almost forget that there is a lot of risk involved. But now that we've done three years in a row, and sold out, people think that if we don't do something different, it will just be more of the same. But as we reach for a second game, the thing is not to be complacent."

Mark Woods is a writer for Britball Media and filed updates from London this week for ESPNBoston.com.