Same old song from Goodell

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:00 PM ET

With the 49ers and Denver in London, England, this weekend, Roger Goodell hinted that a European franchise may happen during his tenure as NFL commissioner.

This is the league’s fourth regular-season game at Wembley and Goodell said the NFL’s popularity among fans outside the U.S., is growing and that London may soon be able to sustain a team.

Of course, Goodell says much the same thing when the league plays in Mexico. Next month, the Bills play in Toronto and he’ll trot out a similar line. Some day, it might actually happen. In the meantime, it makes a nice story and the locals get to feel loved.

“I think the next step will be multiple games (in a season) and, if that’s successful, then I think the idea of a franchise here is realistic,” Goodell said. But he hasn’t set a timetable. That figures, because if it’s the same one the NFL has been selling Toronto on for decades, that timetable stretches from here to half-past infinity.

RALLY HO!

If Mike Singletary’s speech to his troops has the same type of ending as the one Winston Churchill delivered to his in 1940, maybe the 49ers aren’t facing a lost cause.

With San Francisco meeting the Broncos in London, Singletary compared his 1-6 team’s plight with the one England faced when Churchill delivered his “Finest Hour’ speech.

With the Nazis set to invade, Churchill said: “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, this was their finest hour.”

On Friday, Singletary delivered his own version.

“I talked to the team this morning and one of the things that I told them, and that I will tell you, is this is our finest hour as a team, and as a staff. When things are going very well, it’s very easy to be a great coach, very easy to be a great player. But when things are not going the way you want them to go, it’s tougher.”

Nothing goes better with football than a good war analogy. Anyway, Singletary insists that, despite the darkness of the hour, there are hopes of a playoff spot.

Of course, after Churchill won his war, he still got fired. So, Singletary may end up having more in common than he knows.

PIX PLAY

Brett and Jenn

Sitting in a tree

T-E-X-T-I-N-G

Brett Favre and Jenn Sterger may have more in common than just listing photography as their favourite hobbies.

The two could both be without a gig by this weekend.

On Friday, Sterger’s autumn in the sun turned dark when the Versus network cancelled the sports talk show she co-hosted. Meantime, Vikings coach Brad Childress, as reported in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, is leaning toward starting backup Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback Sunday.

Favre has been linked to Sterger in an NFL investigation that he sent lewd photos of himself in e-mails to the former New York Jets sideline hostess. Sterger has refused to co-operate with the investigation and has hired attorneys.

Meantime, Favre worked out Friday, but he has two fractures in his left foot. Plus, he has been largely ineffective when he has played, putting his league-record 291 straight starts streak in jeopardy. Asked if he could play at New England, Favre who returned to practice Friday said: “I wouldn’t put anything past me.” Favre has also told acquaintances he’s uncertain if Childress will give him the chance to play.

As for the games he was playing with Sterger, there seems to be some indication that Favre’s interest wasn’t entirely unrequited. One of Sterger’s former friends, Allison Torres, told the New York Post that Sterger “regularly texted” with Favre “for some time.”

Torres also said she saw the photos Favre is alleged to have sent.

“We just laughed when he did it,” said Torres, who indicated Sterger had a collection of naked photos of celebrities. “She could make millions if she ever cashed in on all the naked photos she gets from friends.”

Now that’s she’s unemployed, maybe a girl could use a million or so to tide her over. Not that anyone knows this is true but, hey, I’m just saying .... Oh, never mind. You figure it out.

WHAT’S THE CATCH?

It has been said that it is better to give than to receive.

The Arizona Cardinals haven’t been able to give.

As a result they may soon no longer be able to receive, courtesy of Larry Fitzgerald.

There’s concern in Arizona that without a quarterback capable of getting the ball to Fitzgerald that the Pro Bowl receiver may be looking for an escape hatch. The Arizona Republic this week speculated that Fitzgerald, who has shown some frustration this year, could leave as a free agent after the 2011 season.

Fitzgerald is on pace to gain fewer than 900 yards this year, his lowest output since his rookie season. He hasn’t scored in a month. “That must be hard for him,” receiver Stephen Williams said. “The end zone is like a home to him.”

CATCHING ON

Steve Johnson was the 224th player selected in the 2008 draft. He was so far down the Buffalo Bills’ depth chart last year that if his name was Timmy, ol’ Lassie would’ve left him down the well as a lost cause.

Johnson made just 12 catches his first two seasons and wasn’t even regarded as worth dressing for eight of Buffalo’s 16 games last year. But this is becoming Johnson’s breakout season. He has 25 catches in the Bills’ first six games and touchdowns in four consecutive games, including two in a 36-26 loss to Jacksonville.

“Who would have thought I would have that,” Johnson said after 158 yards on eight catches against Baltimore.

But don’t even suggest that he is on a stairway to football heaven.

“That’s the stuff the vets say. You don’t want to think about,” Johnson said. “When you think that way, you’re in trouble. I’m still trying to build on that.”

THE ROMO WATCH

Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones has acknowledged that injured quarterback Tony Romo might not play again this season.

“We’ll see what the circumstances are,” when he’s healthy, Jones said. “We’ll see how well we’re playing.”

Romo is expected to miss six to eight weeks with a broken left collarbone but there’s no sense rushing him back to a team going nowhere.

CRANK CALLS

Brandon Marshall is willing to let beleaguered officials off the hook, even if the league isn’t.

The NFL had a conference call with its officials on Friday in hopes of rectifying mistakes. But the Dolphins receiver isn’t blaming them for his team’s loss.

Officials have been criticized, especially after questionable calls affected the outcome of games last week.

Childress was fined for criticizing officials and disclosing confidential conversations with the officiating department. He was upset with a replay reversal of a touchdown catch by tight end Visanthe Shiancoe in Minnesota’s 28-24 loss to Green Bay. Shiancoe made a diving grab and appeared to secure it as he rolled on to his back. Officials ruled it a touchdown but, upon review, overturned the call. The Vikings wound up settling for a field goal. In his post-game news conference, Childress said “50 drunks in a bar” would have made the correct call on Shiancoe’s catch.

That was his first mistake. Then Monday, after speaking with Carl Johnson, the league’s vice-president of officiating, Childress told the media: “I was told this morning that that was a touchdown by Carl Johnson. He was disappointed to see that reversed.”

That is also a no-go zone, earning him $35,000 US in fines.

Officials also came under fire for a missed fumble by Ben Roethlisberger in the Steelers’ win over the Dolphins. While many Dolphins pointed to it as a turning point, Marshall said his team, not the officials, lost this game.

“We had so many opportunities to put (the Steelers) away,” Marshall said. “We got gifts. It was Christmas for us. We got two turnovers in their Green Zone. All we had to do is punch it in, and we failed to do that. The game came down to many more plays than just that one play.”

HAYNESWORTH: A PLUGGED NICKEL?

Albert Haynesworth held his first midweek question-and-answer session of the season. It figures he’d do it after his best game since signing with the Redskins. He had his first sack since 2009 and made a key goalline stop in Sunday’s win over Chicago.

“Now that we’ve changed some of the things that I do, it’s helped a lot,” Haynesworth said. “I don’t have to think as much on the field. I can just go out and play.”

Haynesworth and thinking have never been easy companions.

He has always believed himself destined to be the best defensive lineman in NFL history but these days he’s not even a starter.

Which, curiously, suits him fine now. Guess a $100-million contract makes the sidelines a sweeter place.

“I’m not good enough to play the 3-4,” said Haynesworth, who held out during training camp because he didn’t want to play nose tackle in Mike Shanahan’s system.

Haynesworth is playing mostly in nickel packages.

“We’ve got a guy in front of me who can play the 3-4 better than I can,” Haynesworth said. “I do get to the play the nickel and I play well in that.”

Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett believes Haynesworth could be effective in the 3-4 scheme if he had the mindset.

“Trying to get him to do the 3-4 stuff was trying to get a square peg into a round hole,” Haslett said. “We tried to force the issue, and it hasn’t worked out. I still think he can do it because he’s a good athlete and he is athletic and smart and tough enough ... he’s just got to want to do it.”

WALLBANGERS AND WALLFLOWERS

Boys will be boys, and sometimes you wonder if they’ll ever grow up.

The latest NFL player in trouble is Tennessee wide receiver Kenny Britt.

He is accused of throwing a punch during a bar fight in Nashville. Police are investigating the accusation which Britt denies.

Britt told Titans coach Jeff Fisher that he was trying to break up a fight between a friend and Harold Pointer, who has made the accusation. Britt acknowledged there may have been words exchanged but that he didn’t touch Pointer.

“I was definitely at the club. I was definitely having a good time. I’m 22 years old. I’m going to go out and try and have some fun and try to live like I’m 22 years old and not be an old man,” Britt said.

Meantime, more than 20 Chicago Bears were turned away from a nightclub during “Rookie Night” — a tradition that sees the veterans treat rookies to a night on the town.

Lance Briggs, Devin Hester, Brian Urlacher and others were denied entry by three bouncers at Angels & Kings. The reason, according to a statement by the club, was because an outside vendor was hosting a private event. The players presumably weren’t told that.

“I do know that we didn’t get in,” Briggs said. “I know that it’s a place I’ve been before and, for whatever reason, 25 Chicago Bears couldn’t get in.”

The club has since apologized.

“If it was a private event, let us know it was a private event (and) we’ll move on,” Briggs said. “If not, hey, let us in. We’re all paying customers.”

On the other hand, considering Britt’s clubbing experience maybe not getting in was the best thing that happened to them all night.

QUICK HITS

Holdout receiver Vincent Jackson has reported to the Chargers, as expected. He is ineligible for the next three games ... Rams receiver Danario Alexander tore a knee ligament Friday and is out four to six weeks ... Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams will likely miss Sunday’s game ... Tampa has released 10-year veteran guard Keydrick Vincent ... Randy Moss has been fined $25,000 for not co-operating with the NFL’s media policy ... A grand jury has decided not to indict JaMarcus Russell following his arrest for possession of codeine syrup without a prescription.

bill.lankhof@sunmedia.ca


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