NFL International Series

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The NFL International Series logo used between 2009 and 2016; the year was updated annually.
Opening ceremony at Wembley before the Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers game in 2010

Starting in the 2007 season, the National Football League (NFL) has hosted regular season American football games outside the United States every year. Collectively officially known through 2016 as the NFL International Series, since 2017 the series has two sub-series: the NFL London Games in London, which has been in place since 2007, and the NFL Mexico Game in Mexico City, which began in 2016 with a predecessor game in 2005.

Initially, all games in the International Series were held in London. Wembley Stadium was the exclusive home stadium for International Series games from 2007 to 2015 and will continue to host at least two NFL games through at least 2020; beginning in 2016, the series began expanding to more stadiums, first to Twickenham Stadium in London (2016–2017) and to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City (2016–2021) and eventually to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London (2019–2027), with possible future plans to expand the series to Germany and/or Canada.[1][2]

Background[edit]

Prior to 2005, the NFL's primary method of promoting its game abroad was through the American Bowl, a series of preseason games played around the world, and NFL Europe, a developmental league based in Europe. The American Bowls ended in 2005 (though a similar China Bowl was planned for 2007 before being canceled), while NFL Europa (as it was known for its final season) folded in 2007. On October 2, 2005, the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers by a score of 31–14 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico under the name "NFL Fútbol Americano". It was the first regular season NFL game held outside the United States.[3] The game drew the NFL's highest game attendance at the time with 103,467 spectators.[3][4]

Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, has considered expanding the league's appeal overseas ever since the end of NFL Europa. Goodell has openly discussed the idea of holding a future Super Bowl game in London.[3] The NFL also investigated the possibility of adding a 17th regular season game to all teams, taking the place of the fourth pre-season game.[5] Waller notes that there will not be 16 different venues for the 17th games. More likely would be a "mini-season ticket" of perhaps four games in one city or country.[5] There was discussion that this "17th game" could take effect as early as the 2009 NFL season; however, 2010 would be the earliest this could be implemented because of concerns about playing on Labor Day or over the 2010 Winter Olympics, the league's rigid scheduling formula, and the league's collective bargaining agreement (CBA).[5] League officials were pondering moving a second existing game abroad for the 2010 season, but eventually abandoned it due to the ongoing CBA negotiations.[6] The league eventually abandoned its attempt to expand the NFL season via CBA negotiations, and the new CBA enacted in 2011 has kept the NFL schedule at 16 games as of 2017.

Games in the United Kingdom are broadcast by the BBC and Sky Sports either live on BBC2 or online via the BBC Sports website and interactive TV and on Sky Sports Action. On radio the games are broadcast by BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra, with Arlo White commentating.

The games have been popular, with tickets for the two games per season selling out in two days, nine months in advance. According to the NFL, only 3% of those attending the London games are Americans or American expatriates, while 22% are from London and 60% from elsewhere in Britain. Ticket prices are from £35 for end zone seats to £100 for lower sideline seats.[7] A team that plays a home game in London sells a cheaper season ticket package for its own stadium with seven regular season games rather than the usual eight. Each designated home team receives US$1 million for giving up the home game.[8]

On October 11, 2011, the NFL owners approved playing NFL games in Great Britain through the year 2016. This stated that a home team could visit every year for up to five years but visitors could only visit once every five years.[9] However, in 2015 the Detroit Lions returned to London as visitors in an apparent disregard for this rule. Subsequently, an agreement has been reached to play internationally through 2025.[10]

The Buffalo Bills received a unanimous vote of approval to play a series of regular and preseason games at Rogers Centre in Toronto from 2008 to 2017.[11][12] This was separate from the regular International Series as arrangements are made by the team as opposed to the league as with the International Series. The Bills' Toronto Series was mutually terminated after the 2013 contest.

Due to significant time zone differences, from 2007–2015 teams playing in London would have their bye week in the following week after their game in London. For 2016, the Indianapolis Colts volunteered to play a game the week after their London game, preferring to have their bye week later in the season. The Colts playing the week after London was also done by the NFL as a test to see team fatigue for evaluation of an eventual London franchise.[13] As Mexico City is within the Central Time Zone—eight NFL teams play home games in Central Time and the rest are within two hours of it—no bye week would be needed for those teams, though they may still by chance be scheduled their regular bye week anyway. For 2017, three teams playing in London (Baltimore, Jacksonville, and Miami), would have games immediately following their International Series game.[14] In all three cases, the teams playing after their International Series game are based on the East Coast of the United States and will either be home or (in the Jaguars case) playing in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In 2018 all teams once again received their bye immediately following their international game.

Due to NFL rules, teams that are playing in temporary homes or that have recently been awarded the Super Bowl are required to play a home game internationally. The Los Angeles Rams, upon relocating from St. Louis, agreed to host an international game from 2016–2019, while their new stadium is being built. The Los Angeles Chargers, who will be sharing the stadium with the Rams once it is completed, will also host an international game in 2018 and 2019, only getting out of the 2017 game because the team had executed its out clause to move from San Diego after the 2017 International Series games had been announced.[15] The rule was not in effect when the Minnesota Vikings were playing at TCF Bank Stadium while U.S. Bank Stadium was being built, although the team did give up a home game while they were still playing in the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome. It is also likely that the Oakland Raiders will host another game in 2019 due to their pending move to Las Vegas in 2020, but it is unknown whether the "temporary stadium" rule applies to a team with an announced future relocation.

NFL rules also require the designated home team for each international game to have their home stadium reserved for use in the event that a game cannot be played at the international site.[16][17][18]

Early years (2007–2011)[edit]

2007 NFL International Series.svg

The Miami Dolphins hosted the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium in London, England on October 28, 2007. The Giants defeated the Dolphins 13–10 in the first regular season NFL game held outside North America. The first 40,000 tickets sold out for the game in the first 90 minutes of sales.[3][19] The game was aired regionally on Fox.

A single game was held in London each year through 2011. Like the 2007 game, each was televised nationally in England, but only regionally in the United States.

Multi-year deals and multi-game years (2012–2015)[edit]

NFL International Series game between Dallas Cowboys and Jacksonville Jaguars in London

On January 20, 2012, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that from 2012 to 2014, the St. Louis Rams would play one of their eight home games each year at Wembley Stadium.[20] However, on August 13, 2012, the team announced that they would not play the proposed games in London in 2013 and 2014, only the 2012 game against the New England Patriots that had already been scheduled.[21] Goodell had previously proposed the use of certain regular teams in the International Series in an effort to build a fan base for those teams, raising the prospect of a permanent NFL team on the British Isles.

An NFL bid to become anchor tenants of London's Olympic Stadium failed.[22]

The Jacksonville Jaguars took the Rams' place and agreed to play a home game in London for four seasons from 2013 through 2016. With this announcement also came news that the NFL were working to schedule a second UK game from 2013 onwards.[23] (The Jaguars later extended their agreement with Wembley Stadium through 2020 in an agreement announced in October 2015.)[2] In October 2012, it was announced that the Jaguars would host the San Francisco 49ers and the Minnesota Vikings would host the Pittsburgh Steelers, marking the first season with multiple games in London.

The NFL played three international games for the 2014 season, including one game with an earlier 9:30 am ET start, which allowed for an afternoon game, rather than an evening game, in London. This timeslot proved to be successful as all London games in 2015 and 2016 were also scheduled at 9:30 am ET. Three games were again scheduled in 2015 – including the series' first division game between the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins.

Long-term deals and new stadiums (2016–present)[edit]

NFL London and Mexico Games logos, first used in 2016 in Mexico and 2017 in London

On July 8, 2015, the NFL and Tottenham Hotspur F.C. announced they had reached a 10-year deal to host at least two London Games a year at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium from its opening season in 2018.[24] Additionally, on October 7, 2015, the league announced that a resolution had been passed to schedule international games at additional locations to London until 2025.[10] Subsequently, on October 22, 2015 it was confirmed that at least two games per season would remain at Wembley through at least 2020 and that the Jacksonville Jaguars will continue to play a home game there annually throughout the agreement.[25] Another stadium deal was confirmed on November 3, 2015, when the league announced they had reached an agreement with England's Rugby Football Union to host regular season games at Twickenham Stadium from 2016 onwards, with a minimum of three, and as many as five games to be held over the initial agreement period of three years.[26]

In 2016, the Oakland Raiders hosted the Houston Texans on November 21 at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, at the first International Series game played in Mexico. Previously, the Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers had expressed interest in playing a game at Estadio Azteca (or possibly Estadio Olímpico Universitario) in Mexico City, although Houston was not prepared to give up a home date.[27][28] It was televised as part of ESPN's Monday Night Football, marking the first MNF game broadcast from outside the United States, and ESPN's second broadcast from Mexico City since the 2005 Fútbol Americano game (which was televised as part of ESPN's former incarnation of Sunday Night Football).[29][30]

The 2016 game between the Redskins and Bengals was the first International Series game to go into overtime, the first to end as a tie, and had at the time the highest attendance of all International Series games (later surpassed by the 2017 game between the Ravens and Jaguars, which drew an attendance of 84,592).

For 2017 the series underwent a partial rebrand with four games in London branded as NFL London Games[31] and one game in Mexico City branded as the NFL Mexico Game.[32][not in citation given]

In January 2018, it was announced that three games would be played in London that year, with two at Wembley and the other the first game at Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium. However, it was later confirmed that the opening of the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would be delayed and therefore all three games would be held at Wembley.[33] Having already fulfilled the minimum three-game requirement for Twickenham Stadium in 2017, it will no longer host games.[34] The Mexico City date and opponents were not announced at that time, but were later confirmed as the Los Angeles Rams playing as designated home team against the Kansas City Chiefs. This game was subsequently moved back to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions at Estadio Azteca.[35]

In October 2018, the league confirmed four London Games would take place in 2019. Wembley Stadium would host two and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium would host the remaining two. The Jacksonville Jaguars would return to Wembley Stadium for the seventh consecutive year in line with their annual commitment.[36].

Game history[edit]

Following the 2018 International Series games, only two of the 32 teams will have not played in the International Series: the Carolina Panthers and Green Bay Packers. The Houston Texans have never played in London, but played an International Series game in Mexico City.

Year Date Designated
visitor
Score Designated
home team
Score City Stadium Attn. Pre-game show
2007 October 28 New York Giants 13 Miami Dolphins 10 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 81,176 The Feeling[37]
2008 October 26 San Diego Chargers 32 New Orleans Saints 37 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,226 Stereophonics[37]
2009 October 25 New England Patriots 35 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,254 Calvin Harris[37]
2010 October 31 Denver Broncos 16 San Francisco 49ers 24 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,941 My Chemical Romance[37]
2011 October 23 Chicago Bears 24 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 18 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 76,981 Goo Goo Dolls[37]
2012 October 28 New England Patriots 45 St. Louis Rams 7 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,004 Train[38]
2013 September 29 Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Minnesota Vikings 34 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,518 Tinie Tempah[39]
October 27 San Francisco 49ers 42 Jacksonville Jaguars 10 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,559 Ne-Yo[40]
2014 September 28 Miami Dolphins 38 Oakland Raiders 14 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,436 Def Leppard[41]
October 26 Detroit Lions 22 Atlanta Falcons 21 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,532 Little Mix[42]
November 9 Dallas Cowboys 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 17 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,603 Joss Stone[43]
2015 October 4 New York Jets 27 Miami Dolphins 14 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,986 None
October 25 Buffalo Bills 31 Jacksonville Jaguars 34 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,021 The Ohio State University Marching Band[44]
November 1 Detroit Lions 10 Kansas City Chiefs 45 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,624 Madness[45]
2016 October 2 Indianapolis Colts 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 30 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 83,798 Robin Thicke
October 23 New York Giants 17 Los Angeles Rams 10 United Kingdom London Twickenham Stadium 74,121 Craig David[46]
October 30 Washington Redskins 27 Cincinnati Bengals 27 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,448 Wessex Male Choir & US Army Europe band
November 21 Houston Texans 20 Oakland Raiders 27 Mexico Mexico City Estadio Azteca 76,473 None
2017 September 24 Baltimore Ravens 7 Jacksonville Jaguars 44 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,592 None
October 1 New Orleans Saints 20 Miami Dolphins 0 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,423 None
October 22 Arizona Cardinals 0 Los Angeles Rams 33 United Kingdom London Twickenham Stadium 73,736 None
October 29 Minnesota Vikings 33 Cleveland Browns 16 United Kingdom London Twickenham Stadium 74,237 None
November 19 New England Patriots 33 Oakland Raiders 8 Mexico Mexico City Estadio Azteca 77,357 None
2018[47][48] October 14 Seattle Seahawks 27 Oakland Raiders 3 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,922 Jess Glynne[49]
October 21 Tennessee Titans 19 Los Angeles Chargers 20 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 84,301 None
October 28 Philadelphia Eagles 24 Jacksonville Jaguars 18 United Kingdom London Wembley Stadium 85,870 None

Standings[edit]

Team Games W–L–T Pct Most recent
New England Patriots 3 3–0–0 1.000 2017
Minnesota Vikings 2 2–0–0 1.000 2017
New Orleans Saints 2 2–0–0 1.000 2017
New York Giants 2 2–0–0 1.000 2016
San Francisco 49ers 2 2–0–0 1.000 2013
Chicago Bears 1 1–0–0 1.000 2011
Dallas Cowboys 1 1–0–0 1.000 2014
Kansas City Chiefs 1 1–0–0 1.000 2015
New York Jets 1 1–0–0 1.000 2015
Philadelphia Eagles 1 1–0–0 1.000 2018
Seattle Seahawks 1 1–0–0 1.000 2018
Jacksonville Jaguars 6 3–3–0 .500 2018
Detroit Lions 2 1–1–0 .500 2015
San Diego/Los Angeles Chargers 2 1–1–0 .500 2018
Cincinnati Bengals 1 0–0–1 .500 2016
Washington Redskins 1 0–0–1 .500 2016
St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams 3 1–2–0 .333 2017
Miami Dolphins 4 1–3–0 .250 2017
Oakland Raiders 4 1–3–0 .250 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 0–2–0 .000 2011
Arizona Cardinals 1 0–1–0 .000 2017
Atlanta Falcons 1 0–1–0 .000 2014
Baltimore Ravens 1 0–1–0 .000 2017
Buffalo Bills 1 0–1–0 .000 2015
Cleveland Browns 1 0–1–0 .000 2017
Denver Broncos 1 0–1–0 .000 2010
Houston Texans 1 0–1–0 .000 2016
Indianapolis Colts 1 0–1–0 .000 2016
Pittsburgh Steelers 1 0–1–0 .000 2013
Tennessee Titans 1 0–1–0 .000 2018

Future[edit]

Future markets[edit]

Within the United Kingdom, aside from London, potential candidates for hosting NFL games include Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales;[50] and Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland.[51] Other prime locations to get games would be Croke Park in the Republic of Ireland (Ireland has already hosted the NCAA Emerald Isle Classic, a college football game similar to the International Series, and Steelers owner Dan Rooney was once an ambassador to the country), Germany (which hosted five teams in NFL Europa at the time of its dissolution in 2007 and whose national American Football team won both the 2010 and 2014 European Championship), China;[52] Brazil,[53][52] Australia[54] and Canada (Canada hosted the Bills Toronto Series from 2008 to 2013). In 2007, NFL senior Vice President Mark Waller doubted Asia or Australia would be targeted because of travel concerns, but did not dismiss the possibility.[5] The league had planned to host a game in China in 2018 with the Los Angeles Rams as the home team against the San Francisco 49ers.[55] However, the game in Germany was scrapped in favor of adding a 4th game in London in 2017. The potential game in China was postponed (the third time the league has postponed playing in China, following failed attempts in 2007 and 2009) to being aimed for the 2019 season to coincide with the league's 100th anniversary.[56][57] The league has indicated that a China game is still not certain because of the lack of a fan base in the country (NFL games are played in the middle of the night in China).[58]

In regard to future games outside London or Mexico, Mark Waller stated in 2017 that the only holdup with games in Germany was what he dubbed "an inventory management thing. How many games do we actually have?"[58]

Potential London team[edit]

The success of the International Series has led the NFL to focus its global expansion aims on the possibility of having a full franchise located in London. While no set timetable has been set, the league is working on a goal of establishing a franchise by around 2021, assuming they have all the necessary arrangements in place. It is believed this would be most likely achieved through relocation of an existing franchise, with the Jaguars most often linked due to their association with the International Series, even though their owner is said to be content with the current arrangement and other franchises have more reason to move (the most often cited being poor on-field performance, lack of fans and uncertainty over stadium leases). The NFL has used some of the specific arrangements for the International Series games as a test bed for predicting how a London franchise could be made effective from a logistical and competitiveness standpoint.[59][60]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Explanatory notes

Citations

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  2. ^ a b "NFL extends deal to play games at Wembley through 2020". Associated Press. October 22, 2015. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d Associated Press. NFL commissioner says Super Bowl may someday be held in London ESPN.com, October 15, 2007.
  4. ^ Associated Press. 3 AFC, 3 NFC teams named possible 'hosts' in Europe ESPN.com, January 8, 2007.
  5. ^ a b c d Associated Press. NFL looking closely at expanding to 17 games with international flavor ESPN.com, May 10, 2007.
  6. ^ NFL opts not to hold second game in UK in 2010.
  7. ^ Zimmerman, Brandon (August 28, 2013). "NFL Banking On 'Passion' Of U.K. Fans To Make London Expansion A Success". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved August 28, 2013.
  8. ^ Kelly, Omar (November 6, 2014). Dolphins will host New York Jets in London in 2015. South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  9. ^ "NFL owners OK games in Britain through 2016". Espn.go.com. October 11, 2011. Retrieved August 13, 2012.
  10. ^ a b "NFL clubs expand commitment to playing international regular season games". NFL UK. National Football League. Retrieved October 7, 2015.
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  12. ^ Associated Press. Bills to play annual regular-season game in Toronto starting next season ESPN.com, February 1, 2008.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 21, 2016. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "Fantasy Football 2017: NFL Bye Week Cheat Sheet". Athlonsports.com. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  15. ^ "Chargers, Rams both lose over stadium delay". Profootballtalk.nbcsports.com. May 19, 2017. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  16. ^ "League monitoring playing surface at Estadio Azteca". NFL.com. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  17. ^ "Azteca Stadium field conditions a 'significant concern,' NFL could postpone Chiefs-Rams, move it to L.A." CBSSports.com. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  18. ^ "Estadio Azteca Field Conditions Could Be Issue For Chiefs-Rams". Sports Business Daily. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  19. ^ Associated Press. Despite poor weather and a sluggish game, the stadium remained packed and in good cheer for the entire match. Dolphins will play Giants in London on Oct. 28 ESPN.com, February 2, 2007.
  20. ^ NFL UK. ST. LOUIS RAMS TO HOST REGULAR-SEASON GAME IN UNITED KINGDOM IN EACH OF NEXT THREE YEARS Archived January 23, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. NFLUK.com, January 20, 2012.
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  29. ^ "Back to Mexico: Texans-Raiders to play Nov. 21 in Mexico City". NFL.com. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  30. ^ "History to be made in Mexico City". NFL.com. September 28, 2005. Archived from the original on June 25, 2006. Retrieved August 7, 2006.
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  33. ^ "Urgent Stadium Update". Tottenham Hotspur. Tottenham Hotspur. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  34. ^ "NFL announces three enticing London 2018 matchups". National Football League. National Football League. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  35. ^ "NFL moves Chiefs-Rams from Mexico City to L.A." ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-11-13.
  36. ^ "NFL adds fourth game to London slate in 2019". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  37. ^ a b c d e "Goo Goo Dolls to perform at NFL Wembley game". NFL UK. October 12, 2011. Archived from the original on November 4, 2014. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  38. ^ "NLF London 2012 Pre Game Show "Train" Wembley Stadium". Luke Dudley. October 29, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  39. ^ "Tinie Tempah, Gene Simmons perform at NFL match". ITV News. September 29, 2013. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
  40. ^ Garnier, Jesse (September 29, 2013). "NFL gameday splashes across the pond". SF Bay. Retrieved November 4, 2014.
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  43. ^ "Joss Stone to perform pre-game at Wembley". NFL UK. National Football League. Retrieved November 6, 2014.
  44. ^ "Ohio State University Marching Band to perform at Bills v Jags Wembley game". NFL UK. National Football League. Retrieved July 3, 2015.
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  48. ^ "Los Angeles Rams to host Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City in 2018". NFL Communications. January 31, 2018. Retrieved January 31, 2018.
  49. ^ "Jess Glynne to perform London Games Kickoff concert". NFL.com. Retrieved October 6, 2018.
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  51. ^ "Murrayfield is game for NFL". Edinburgh Evening News. April 3, 2008.
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  53. ^ Marvez, Alex (March 23, 2015). "NFL considering Brazil to host 2017 Pro Bowl". Fox Sports. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
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  55. ^ "Report: Los Angeles Rams' 2018 Home Game In China To Be Season Home Opener Against San Francisco 49ers". Turfshowtimes.com. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
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  58. ^ a b Breer, Albert (September 21, 2017). Game Plan: NFL Believes London is Ready for Team; 2022 Target is Doable. SI.com. Retrieved October 1, 2017.
  59. ^ La Canfora, Jason (October 28, 2012). "NFL's move to London could come soon; Jags a target". CBS Sports. Retrieved February 20, 2013.
  60. ^ Campbell, Dave and John Krawczynski (May 7, 2012). Vikings in limbo and expansion not on NFL's radar. Associated Press. Retrieved May 7, 2012.

External links[edit]