- Mike Sando, NFL Insider
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The timing was wrong for the St. Louis Rams to make a three-year commitment for games in London.
The team acknowledged it Monday by canceling games scheduled there in 2013 and 2014.
This was a good move for the team on the field, in my view. It was also helpful in countering perceptions that the Rams, currently mired in a stadium arbitration process, had one eye on the horizon and a foot out the door.
Saying the team was committed to St. Louis was tougher when the team was agreeing to play games on another continent for the next three years, a period matching up nicely with the potential expiration of the Rams' current stadium lease.
As Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff told reporters in St. Louis on Monday:
"We certainly understood there would be backlash (in scheduling London games). That has never been something we've shied away from and our job is to do what’s best for the organization moving forward, even if it’s not always perfectly understood by fans.
"The message we want to send, since January, we have hired Jeff Fisher, we have gone out and gotten a very experienced coaching staff, we spent $100 million in free agency, we made a bold draft trade to help set along the future of this franchise, we've grown our television network 12 affiliates, nine states -- the largest span of affiliates in the NFL.
"Everything we’ve done is to demonstrate that we’re committed to getting this right on and off the field in St. Louis. Continuing to work in the community, building another playground, going to Joplin, the focus has been on St. Louis. I think this confused the message, it confused the brand, and because of that we took a step back now and said, 'The timing’s not right.' It may be right in the future; it’s not right right now."
Demoff said he expects the stadium arbitration process to begin during the 2012 season. The process will include an arbiter making a proposal for upgrades to the Edward Jones Dome. The proposal would become binding for the Rams if the local stadium authority accepted it. Otherwise, the Rams' lease, currently scheduled to run to 2025, would become year-to-year in March 2015.
According to Demoff, the Rams might have stayed the course on their London plans if they had made more headway in trying to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome. Arbitration is extending the process.
The team's 2012 game against New England, set for Oct. 28, will proceed in London as planned.