Cassel back for Wembley date
Minnesota Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel will replace injured Christian Ponder against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Wembley Stadium on Sunday.
Ponder, who sustained a rib injury last week in a 31-27 defeat to the Cleveland Browns, travelled to London in hope of recovering in time to face the Steelers but has had to admit defeat.
The Vikings and Steelers have both endured a winless 0-3 start to the NFL season and opposing Cassel will be Pittsburgh QB "Big Ben" Ben Roethlisberger.
Roethlisberger will finally be able to see the prestigious landmark that inspired his nickname even though the Steelers only arrived in England on Friday for the contest, leaving little time to adjust to the time zone.
"I think it's good to get away," said Steelers safety Ryan Clark ahead of the Vikings fixture and facing Minnesota's star running back Adrian Peterson.
"I don't think it will be a distraction in a bad way. I think it will be a distraction in a good way because it gets us away from every day hearing what's going on with us," said Clark.
"We can get away, spend time together as a team, get some of the chemistry and fellowship that you lose once the offense and defense go into meetings. It gives us the opportunity to just play. That's become our focus this week."
Games in London have been so successful in the past six years that the NFL began a plan this year to play twice a year in England and is considering a possible third game in Britain starting next season.
The Steelers have not started 0-4 since 1968 and only once in the current format has a team started with four defeats and rallied to reach the play-offs.
Pittsburgh players had an expert on the Wembley experience in Zoltan Mesko, the Steelers' punter.
Mesko was with New England when the Patriots routed St Louis Rams 45-7 in last year's game at Wembley.
"I don't think there is a secret to it," Mesko said. "The same dimensions are there as we have here. It's just that it's in the 80,000 people range and I'm sure it's going to be a full house. It's going to be a nice environment for us to play in. There's a lot of excitement.
"There are a lot of jerseys besides the two teams that will be playing on Sunday. It's an international love for the sport of (American) football. I think both teams will be getting equal cheers."
Steelers President Art Rooney II was among those at a welcoming dinner at the Houses of Parliament and he spoke about the NFL looking at London for a franchise one day.
"We've been doing a lot of work as to whether London can be a city that hosts a franchise some day so this will be an interesting experience in terms of thinking about how that might work," said Rooney.
"I think there is still ground work to be done. This year we are playing two games over there. I think the idea is that will increase over the next couple of years to three or four games. That will start to give us a better idea of whether a franchise can be supported on a regular basis."
Peterson has 281 yards and three touchdowns on 69 carries this season for Minnesota while Roethlisberger has completed 67 of 111 passes for 848 yards and four touchdowns.
Peterson says his numbers are down from last season, when he narrowly missed an NFL single-season rushing record, because more defenders are targeting him.
"Teams are adding an extra guy in the box," Peterson said of alignments with extra run protection.
"They have just been doing a good job of containing the run and now allowing big runs to take place."