NFL Europa's international minicamp gets rolling

Discussion in 'NFL General Discussion' started by ollysj, Mar 5, 2007.

  1. ollysj

    ollysj iKraut

    By Neil Reynolds, March 5, 2007

    Preparations for the NFL Europa Leagues 15th season have begun on the playing fields of Tampa, Fla., with leading athletes from around the world participating in a week-long international player minicamp.

    More than 80 home-grown prospects from Europe, Mexico and Japan will work out at the Ed Radice Sports Complex in a bid to secure a training-camp roster spot with one of the six NFL Europa teams. Later this week (Thursday and Saturday), two groups of American players will arrive in Florida.

    First full-team practices, featuring 150 NFL allocated players, begin on Wednesday March 14. Teams will practice and scrimmage in Tampa throughout the month of March, before leaving for Europe for the new NFLEL season, which kicks off on Saturday, April 14.

    Among the big names at training camp will be Baltimore Ravens quarterback Drew Olson, who will suit up for the Amsterdam Admirals, former San Francisco 49ers starting quarterback Cody Pickett, who will be under center for the Rhein Fire, and fifth-round draft choice (Pittsburgh, 2006) Omar Jacobs, who will quarterback the Berlin Thunder. The Hamburg Sea Devils will feature former Denver Broncos starting running back Quentin Griffin and former San Francisco first-round draft choice (2004) wide receiver Rashaun Woods.

    All NFLEL teams will stage back-to-back practices in the mornings at the following sites. All NFLEL team workouts are open to the public and media:

    Amsterdam Admirals -- University of South Florida, East Fowler Ave, Tampa
    Berlin Thunder -- Ed Radice Sports Complex, Ed Radice Drive, Tampa
    Cologne Centurions -- Admiral Farragut Academy, Park St. North, St. Petersburg
    Frankfurt Galaxy -- University of Tampa, West Kennedy Blvd, Tampa
    Hamburg Sea Devils -- Skyway Park, George Road, Tampa
    Rhein Fire Tampa -- Catholic High School, North Rome Ave, Tampa

    Combined workouts and scrimmages featuring all six teams will be held at the Ed Radice Sports Complex on March 20 and 28, and at Jefferson High School on March 24 and 31.

    Scott McCready (87) is one of several international players with NFL experience

    Among the 86 international athletes competing in this weeks minicamp are several who have been involved in the game at the highest level, including Super Bowl-winning English wide receiver Scott McCready, who returns for his sixth season in NFL Europa and third with the Hamburg Sea Devils.

    McCready, who won a Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots in 2001 after attending the University of South Florida, will not be the only British wide receiver in action this week as Marvin Allen, who was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad in 2006, enters his third season in NFL Europa. Also sure to attract the attention of NFL Europa head coaches is British sprint champion Dwain Chambers, who is pursuing a high profile switch to football.

    Offensive linemen with NFL experience also will be on display during the international player minicamp, including Englishman Emmanuel Akah and the German pairing of Peter Heyer and Samuel Gutekunst. Akah attended Winston Salem State University before spending the 2006 preseason with the Miami Dolphins, while Heyer, of the Rhein Fire, boasts experience with the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs. The 22-year-old Gutekunst spent the 2006 season on the practice squad of the Baltimore Ravens.

    The defensive unit will be led by Cologne Centurions French linebacker Philippe Gardent. The 27-year-old earned NFL Europa Defensive MVP honors in 2006 when he recorded a league-best 70 tackles before heading to the United States to spend a year on the Washington Redskins practice squad.

    The German defensive line trio of Ulrich Winkler (Cleveland Browns), Constantin Ritzmann (Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons) and Christian Mohr (Seattle Seahawks, Philadelphia Eagles) will also be expected to shine in 2007. Big things are also expected of English defensive end Daniel Watts, who goes into a third NFL Europa season full of confidence after impressing NFL coaches during his season on the practice squad of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    Linebackers with NFL experience include Hamburg Sea Devils' Englishman Aden Durde (Carolina Panthers) and Swedens Carl-Johan Bjrk (Dallas Cowboys). In the secondary, the German safety pairing of Rheins Richard Yancy (San Francisco 49ers, San Diego Chargers) and Claudius Osei (Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants) will be seeking to make a big impact for their respective NFLEL teams.

    It is exciting to work with this group of players, says NFL Europa Director of International Player and Football Development Tony Allen, who oversees the international player camp. We have some experienced faces with genuine NFL experience who are returning, but also some first- and second-year players who we think have a big future in this league and possibly in the NFL.

    We are getting closer to producing quality international athletes who can step up and contribute in the NFL, continues Allen. The strides made by players who have been part of the International Player Development Program over the past two seasons has been clear for all to see. These players in camp this week know that if they put in the hard work, they could be taking that step to the next level and gaining similar NFL experience.

    The leading 48 international players from the week-long camp will be assigned to the preseason rosters of the six NFL Europa League teams. They will then continue to work with their respective teams in Florida and Europe until the 2007 campaign kicks off.