Umenyiora backs London bid

  • Last Updated: July 17 2014, 8:54 BST

Osi Umenyiora still has unfinished business in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons, but would one day relish the opportunity to be at the forefront of any permanent expansion into London.

Osi Umenyiora: Would relish playing in London
Osi Umenyiora: Would relish playing in London

Umenyiora, brought up in Golders Green before moving with his parents back to Nigeria, is hoping to again be involved when the Falcons take part in NFL International Series, which for the first time will see three regular-season matches played at Wembley.

Oakland will 'host' the Miami Dolphins on September 28, before the Detroit Lions against the Atlanta Falcons in October followed by the Dallas Cowboys facing the Jacksonville Jaguars at the start of November.

It has been suggested the NFL is considering the viability of a franchise in Europe, with London the most likely hub city given the huge success of the sell-out games at Wembley, where the Jaguars have signed up for one 'home' fixture through to 2016.

However, the logistics of getting players across the Atlantic on a regular basis and the physical toll that would take remains a subject for debate, but it is a future scenario Umenyiora, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the New York Giants, would welcome.

"There would be some complaints at first, but they (players) would get over that. They (NFL) would make it work - this is what we love to do, play football and we are getting paid extremely well to do it," said Umenyiora.

"I see what the NFL is doing, and they are not going to leave me behind, I am going to be on the forefront of coming out here, broadcasting and bringing the game to the audience out here, with the fact I was born here in London and have been doing some of the things I have been able to do in the NFL."

Umenyiora may turn 33 later this year and have also played in the Pro Bowl twice, but for now at least, his only focus is on more game time as the Falcons look to mount a push for the play-offs in 2014 after a hugely disappointing 4-12 record last season.

"Sometimes you do think about that (why continue on), but then there are still some things you need to accomplish," said Umenyiora, who played at Wembley for the Giants against the Dolphins in 2007.

"That is the only thing which keeps me going, because I feel I can get better, so that is what I am going to try to do.

"I think we have a good chance this year.

"In the NFL, the difference can be just 10 seconds worth of plays, that is all it is, one missed step here or a catch there, the games are so close.

"Any team can go from being bad one season to good, and from being good to bad - and that is something which makes the NFL so dramatic."

Umenyiora intends to make the most of a welcome break from the rigours of pre-season training.

"I left London when I was really young, so I don't have too many concrete memories here, but coming back has been great," said Umenyiora, now in his second season at the Falcons.

"My sister is going to school out here, so I will be seeing her, along with some friends I grew up with in London and Nigeria.

"Nobody knows anything about you here, which in a way is great, so you can just show up and enjoy yourself."


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