Guest of the League
ANEZ LEAGUE Est. 2017
NFL Playoffs League - FFL: Preseason | NFL: Week 1

NFL opens football academy in London

Sun Jul 14 3:03am ET

Players: JuJu Smith-Schuster

NFL player Mario Addison of the Carolina Panthers complains to the referee as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Youngsters play on the pitch during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Tahir Whitehead from Oakland Raiders coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Cameron Brate of Tampa Bay Buccaneers leaves the pitch after coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Mario Addison of the Carolina Panthers coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Akiem Hicks of the Chicago Bears coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Tahir Whitehead gestures as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Tahir Whitehead reacts as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Samson Ebukam of the Los Angeles Rams coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Samson Ebukam of the Los Angeles Rams coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player DJ Chark speaks to young players during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Mario Addison of the Carolina Panthers complains to the referee as he coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player DJ Chark speaks to young players during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Samson Ebukam of the Los Angeles Rams coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals pauses before an interview during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Jonathan Joseph of the Houston Texans gives interviews during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


NFL player Josh Lambo of the Jacksonville Jaguars addresses the media during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


General view at the NFL pitch during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.(AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


Player Giovani Bernard of the Cincinnati Bengals coaches a young team during the final tournament for the UK's NFL Flag Championship, featuring qualifying teams from around the country, at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Wednesday, July 3, 2019. The new stadium will host its first two NFL London Games later this year when the Chicago Bears face the Oakland Raiders and the Carolina Panthers take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)


LONDON (AP) For the past three years, the only way Sergei Starodoubtsev experienced the NFL was by watching highlights of JuJu Smith-Schuster and other players on Instagram.

That the 17-year-old found himself sharing a field with the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver - he was the one in workout clothes, not Smith-Schuster - was a little more than even he could comprehend.

''He's a different athlete and such an amazing player,'' Starodoubtsev said, awe-struck and struggling to find his words as Smith-Schuster addressed a group of fellow teenagers nearby. ''I'm trying to succeed in this career and be on the big TV and play in the NFL and be in the same situation as JuJu.''

At 6-foot-3 and 238 pounds with eye-catching quickness, Starodoubtsev is, in many ways, exactly what football coaches and recruiters across the United States desire. His only disadvantage? He lives in East London, where opportunities to play the American game are difficult to find.

That's why Starodoubtsev was at soccer power Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium earlier this month, one of 150 hopefuls trying to land one of 80 spots in the inaugural class of the NFL Academy this fall. The league, which has been playing regular-season games in London since 2007, wants to maintain a more lasting presence in the city beyond those few weekends a year. It believes it can do that - and grow the sport - by identifying and cultivating young British talent.

''In the last two or three years, this has been about, whilst being quintessentially American, could we be more British (and) locally relevant?'' said NFL UK managing director Alistair Kirkwood. ''(Can we) have grassroots and a commitment to having British players who look like you and talk like you, and then at the same time have younger kids playing the game right down to flag football?''

Players in the United States have a well-developed path to playing professional sports, progressing from youth leagues to high school and college. The setup in Europe differs significantly. It's far more common for prospects to join a sports club's academy at a young age and receive coaching in a structured environment all the way through to a senior-team debut.

Kirkwood wants to follow that model - with a twist. By partnering with Barnet & Southgate College in north London, those who have been selected to enroll in the NFL Academy will begin classes in September with up to 12 hours of football practice added on each week.

The initial enrollment will include boys ages 16-18. Kirkwood speculated about plans to target other age groups, and even girls, at other locations over time.

''I'd be taking over the world by now if I had this opportunity,'' said Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada, who was raised in London, played in several local leagues and made his NFL debut last season. ''For it to now be real, and to be getting kids who are 15, 16, introduced to the sport and having them surrounded by some major role models and real NFL players ... it's crazy. It's amazing.''

More than 1,500 prospects applied for a spot in the academy, with 150 finalists drawn from that pool after two months of workouts and interviews. Those finalists, invited to join Obada, Smith-Schuster and other program ambassadors at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, were put through a final round of combine-style workouts, including the 40-yard dash, the broad jump, the vertical leap and the 20-yard shuttle run.

Nearly half the participants were from London, the rest from other parts of Britain - a few traveled from elsewhere in Europe, including Poland's Kacper Jaszewski, who completed the fastest shuttle run in 4.3 seconds.

Tony Allen, who will serve as the academy's head coach, believes applicants' backgrounds aren't important as long as they show some degree of athletic ability. Starodoubtsev, for example, plays rugby. David Ani, a 16-year-old from Manchester who is already 6-foot-2, has a basketball background. Some said they are sprinters, a few play handball and one even said he plays water polo.

''I just don't think it's fair to bring in a kid with a rugby, soccer or cricket background and run them through positional drills because they're going to look like Bambi the first time around and be falling over the bags,'' said Allen, who was formerly the NFL's director of international player development and a coach with the London Monarchs of NFL Europe.

''I don't know where we'll start from. It could be, `This is a center and this is a guard,' in all honesty, but we'll give them bespoke training, in class, film analysis, kind of fast-tracking them so that when they get on the field, they know what drills to do.''

The finalists will be put through another round of character assessments before the initial class is decided in late July. Although Kirkwood and Allen both said they'd be pleased for the program's graduates to obtain Division I scholarship offers, the goal, for now, is personal development.

Still, nearly all who tried out harbor that NFL dream. Starodoubtsev, who thinks he'll be a defensive end, was reassured he'll have a place in the initial class once a coach saw him run the 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds. Ani, who plays in a league in Manchester as a tight end, wants to be back at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which begins hosting NFL games in October.

''Hopefully, when I'm older, I'll be here,'' Ani said, gesturing toward the field. ''I'll be here balling out for everybody.''

Player Notes
James Washington Aug 7 2:20pm ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers activated wide receiver James Washington from the COVID-19 reserve list on Friday. Washington was placed on the list on August 2. The third-year wide receiver has 60 receptions for 952 yards and four touchdowns across his two NFL seasons. The team released linebacker John Houston, an undrafted rookie free-agent, in a corresponding move to create room on the roster for Washington. Washington will compete to be the No. 3 receiver in Pittsburgh behind JuJu Smith-Schuster and Diontae Johnson this season.

From RotoBaller

Vinny Curry Aug 7 2:10pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to re-sign defensive end Vinny Curry to a one-year deal worth up to $2 million. $1.3 million is guaranteed, making Curry basically a lock for the final roster. Curry spent the first six years of his NFL career in Philly, and returned last season, recording five sacks while playing 415 snaps. He's a rotational edge rusher and should return to a similar role.

From RotoBaller

Vic Beasley Aug 7 11:53am ET

Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley reported for COVID-19 testing Friday, Aug. 7.

From TheHuddle

James Washington Aug 7 11:13am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Aug. 7.

Fantasy Spin: Washington could start opposite of Juju Smith-Schuster, but he'll need to step it up to stave off Chase Claypool. Washington figures to be a WR4 or WR5 in fantasy.

From TheHuddle

Corey Davis Aug 6 7:03pm ET

Updating a previous story, Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis (toe) is on the Physically Unable to Perform list as a result of offseason toe surgery. He's not expected to miss any games.

Fantasy Spin: This would be a greater concern if Davis was actually missing meaningful practices while on the PUP list. There shouldn't be any major concern, and he'll still enter the season as the No. 2 option behind A.J. Brown.

From TheHuddle

M.J. Stewart Aug 6 5:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB M.J. Stewart was released Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rod Smith Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders RB Rod Smith was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Josh Doctson Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Updating a previous story, New York Jets WR Josh Doctson was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rashaan Melvin Aug 6 5:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, Jacksonville Jaguars DB Rashaan Melvin was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Ricardo Louis Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent WRs Ricardo Louis (Dolphins) and Chester Rogers (Colts) have been contacted and put through physicals by the Miami Dolphins, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

J.J. Wilcox Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent S J.J. Wilcox (Falcons) is expected to re-sign with the Atlanta Falcons pending COVID-19 testing and a physical, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Shaq Lawson Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon Davis, DT Benito Jones, S Brandon Jones, OG Solomon Kindley, DE Shaq Lawson and WR Kirk Merritt were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Zach Sieler Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins RB Malcolm Perry and DT Zach Sieler were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Robert Woods Aug 6 4:03pm ET

Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods said he has had preliminary contract extension talks with the Rams and wants to finish his career with Los Angeles.

Fantasy Spin: Woods has played very well since joining the Rams and has posted at least 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons. He will be one of the main options in the passing game this season and should be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Leighton Vander Esch Aug 6 1:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch said he will be playing middle linebacker this season with LB Jaylon Smith moving to weakside linebacker.

From TheHuddle

Clay Matthews Aug 6 12:43pm ET

Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) and LB Everson Griffen (Vikings) have received interest from the Seattle Seahawks.

From TheHuddle

Tee Higgins Aug 5 8:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft and has a high ceiling without a doubt, especially since he will be catching passes from No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow. Both rookies have built a rapport already as the duo conducted workouts together during the offseason. Higgins finished his final season at Clemson with 59 catches and 13 touchdowns off of 1,167 yards. While he is a risky selection in redraft leagues this season due to his potential limited playing time, he is surely worth a first-round pick in dynasty formats as he will likely rack up plenty of receptions from Burrow for years to come.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Aug 5 8:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has begun catching passes from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow as the team kicks off training camp. The 25-year-old has plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season after racking up over 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. With A.J. Green seemingly healthy along with the addition of Clemson wideout Tee Higgins, Boyd could see things open up more on the offensive end, while also remaining the team's top pass-catcher.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Aug 5 8:00pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through his first walkthrough under second-year head coach Zac Taylor on Tuesday. The veteran, who recently signed a one-year tender a few weeks ago, missed all of 2019 after injuring his ankle during training camp. While consistent ailments have been the theme for the 32-year-old over the past seasons, there is no denying his ability when healthy. He is no longer considered an elite wideout, however, he is worth a mid-round pick for those looking for an option with an enormous upside.

From RotoBaller