P Andrew Bayes (above, being tackled) is one of three Frankfurt Galaxy players who were allocated to the NFLEL by Tampa Bay
If 94 days seems a bit too long to wait, you can catch five Tampa Bay Buccaneers in live action on the gridiron this Saturday.
The Buccaneers' preseason schedule opens on August 13, 94 days from Friday, but the NFL Europe League is already in the heart of its schedule. That means seven Tampa Bay players, all allocated to the NFLEL this winter, are strapping on the pads and getting some live action this weekend.
And by 'live', we do mean 'live on network television', at least for the five Buccaneers involved in the clash between the Scottish Claymores and the Frankfurt Galaxy this Saturday. That game will be televised live in the United States on FOX Sports Net at 1:00 p.m. EDT.
Three Bucs – punter Andrew Bayes, guard Wilbert Brown and CB Terrance Parrish – play for the Galaxy, which has struggled to an 0-3 start. Brown and Parrish each start and Bayes is Frankfurt's primary punter.
They will face off against their once and future teammates, tight end Randy Palmer and tackle/guard Kendell Mack of the Claymores, who are tied for second place in the NFLEL standings with a 2-1 record.
The other two Buccaneers currently competing overseas – defensive tackle Matt Sweeney of the Amsterdam Admirals and wide receiver Eddie Hardaway of the Rhein Fire – will also be in action on Saturday, as Amsterdam (2-1) visits the first-place Barcelona Dragons (3-0) and Rhein (1-2) heads to Berlin to take on the 1-2 Thunder.
The latter two games can be seen in the U.S. on DirecTV, with the Admirals-Dragons meeting broadcast at 11:00 a.m. EDT and the elemental Fire-Thunder matchup showing at noon EDT.
An eighth Buccaneer, WR Chris Daniels, was allocated to the Dragons but is not playing due to a neck injury.
A short primer on each game follows.
AMSTERDAM ADMIRALS (2-1) at BARCELONA DRAGONS (3-0) Estadi Olimpic, Saturday May 12, 5:00 p.m.
SERIES NOTES Overall: Tied 6-6 At Barcelona: Barcelona leads 4-2 At Amsterdam: Amsterdam leads 4-2 Streak: Barcelona 4 Last season: Barcelona 27 at Amsterdam 20; Amsterdam 16 at Barcelona 22
The Dragons are bidding for their first 4-0 start since their inaugural season of 1991. A victory would tie that team for the longest winning streak to start a season in team history. No team starting a season at 3-0 has ever failed to reach the World Bowl (championship game).
The Admirals are on a two-game winning streak but have not won three straight games in a season since winning the first seven games of the 1995 season. The Dragons have just completed their first ever back-to-back series in team history, sweeping the Fire, and now begin two straight games against the Admirals.
The series is tied 6-6, with both teams having more success at home (4-2 records). The Dragons have won four straight against the Admirals, sweeping the series in each of the last two years. Last year's games followed similar patterns with the Dragons opening up big leads and holding on to win.
The Dragons won 27-20 in Amsterdam behind a pair of TD passes by Tony Graziani, with the Admirals' Ron Powlus passing for two fourth-quarter TDs. In Barcelona, the Dragons led 19-0 but had to withstand a 16-point fourth quarter from Amsterdam to clinch a 22-16 victory.
The game also features a matchup between Cleveland Browns allocated players who were Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week in Week 2, as Amsterdam QB Spergon Wynn attempts to complete his passes against Barcelona cornerback Anthony Malbrough. The Admirals' top-ranked defense goes up against a Dragons team that boasts the top-rated quarterback (Jarious Jackson), leading rusher (Mike Green) and leading receiver (Trevor Insley).
RHEIN FIRE (1-2) at BERLIN THUNDER (1-2) Jahnstadion, Saturday May 12, 6:00 p.m.
SERIES NOTES Overall: Rhein leads 3-1 At Berlin: Tied 1-1 At Rhein: Rhein leads 2-0 Streak: Rhein 2 Last season: Rhein 21 at Berlin 25 (OT); Berlin 27 at Rhein 28
History is repeating itself as Rhein made a losing start to the 1999 season when they were the defending World Bowl champions. That year they began 0-2, while last week's overtime loss against Barcelona took them to 1-2 this season. The Fire is on a two-game losing streak but has not lost three straight in the same season since losing the first three of 1997 (they did post a four-game losing streak over the final two games of 1998 and the first two of 1999).
Last year's series produced two thrilling games, with Thunder kicker Jaret Holmes winning the game in Berlin 25-21 with a 52-yard FG in overtime. Earlier, Fire QB Danny Wuerffel had helped tie the game with a three-yard TD run with 0:10 remaining. One week later, Wuerffel threw four second-half TD passes to rally Rhein from a 20-0 deficit to a 28-27 win. The Fire holds a 3-1 lead in the series.
Rhein is already the only franchise in league history to post four straight winning seasons, no one else has three.
The kicking matchup features two former German soccer stars. Berlin's Axel Kruse is the former captain of HSC Hertha Berlin, while Rhein's Manfred Burgsmuller is the fourth-leading scorer of all-time in Germany's Bundesliga, as well as being the NFLEL's second-leading all-time points leader with 234. Kruse is the leading scorer in Thunder history with 56 points.
The Thunder has the league's sixth-ranked rushing game (53.3 yards per game) but is the only team to average more than 200 passing yards per game.
SCOTTISH CLAYMORES (2-1) at FRANKFURT GALAXY (0-3) Waldstadion, Saturday May 12, 7:00 p.m.
SERIES NOTES Overall: Scotland leads 8-5 (plus 1-0 postseason) At Frankfurt: Scotland leads 4-2 At Scotland: Scotland 4-3 Streak: Scotland 1 This season: Frankfurt 21 at Scotland 24 (Week 1)
Galaxy had never started a season 0-2 before this year, but now finds itself 0-3 after a loss in Amsterdam last week. Frankfurt is still a long way from the team record losing streak of 7 games in 1992. The Galaxy, coming off a 4-6 mark in 2001, has never suffered two straight losing seasons.
These two teams meet for the second time this season, following the Claymores' opening day 24-21 win in Glasgow, where Scotland QB Clint Stoerner threw a pair of TD passes and the home team held off a fourth-quarter rally by Frankfurt. The Galaxy outgained Scotland by 383 yards to 165 yards.
Scotland gained 290 yards of total offense in the season's first two weeks but racked up 375 yards last week.
The Galaxy returns home to Waldstadion, where they have led the league in attendance in six of the last seven years, but have only posted an all-time 20-21 record. A loss to Berlin in the home opener in Week 2 was the team's sixth loss in its last seven home games.
This series is known for exciting games. Last season, the Claymores beat the Galaxy 17-14 in Waldstadion in Week 2, with Rob Hart kicking the game-winning 42-yard FG. The last six games between the teams have been decided by seven points or less, including 2 overtime contests. The two teams have also met once in the postseason, a 32-27 Claymores victory in World Bowl '96 in Scotland.
In 1999, these two teams became the first to combine for more than 1,000 offensive yards in an NFLEL game, totaling 1,073 yards in a 42-35 Claymores win.