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NFL Europe copes with possible war

Players put their faith in security measures while competing abroad.

By LAURA LEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2003


One of Nick Murphy's biggest worries about going to Spain at the end of the month is the plane fight.

"I'm scared to death of airplanes," the 23-year-old punter for the NFL Europe League's Barcelona Dragons said.

As to the possibility of moving nearly 5,000 miles closer to a war in Iraq, well, he isn't dwelling on it.

"We've got a job to do, and we have to have faith in the NFL that their security team will do the job," Murphy said at his team's training camp at Clearwater High.

Like Murphy, many players and coaches on the six teams in NFL Europe say they trust in the league. For most this is an opportunity to fulfill dreams of playing and working in the NFL.

"As long as the league says it's okay, it's okay with me," said J.R. Jenkins, a 24-year-old kicker playing with the Berlin Thunder, at the team's training facilities at Boca Ciega High.

It wouldn't be the first time the league has played during a war. In 1991, the circuit's first season, the Gulf War was in progress and ended during the season.

While the league addressed security measures with the players at the beginning of camp, no specifics have been released on what happens if there is a war. Players have speculated on scenarios such as not going, coming back early or playing out the season in the United States. The season begins April 5 and ends with the title game June 14 in Scotland.

"It's the kind of thing where people want to know, because it's going to be three months of our lives. Are we going? Are we not going?" said Bob Hogg, a public relations assistant with Berlin who worked as an intern with the San Diego Chargers last season.

League spokesperson David Tossell said the league isn't responding to speculation.

"The situation isn't that much different than it was last year," Tossell said. "Last year we were operating in the wake of 9/11."

The league boosted security last season, assigning security representatives to live with players and be with teams at all times. Between 60-70 people, including players and staff, are expected to travel with each of the six teams, which leave for Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Britain on March 25-26. U.S. game officials will spend two-week periods in Europe as well.

"Last year I felt safe," Berlin center Josh Warner said. "It seemed like it was safer over there than here."

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