PHOENIX - The Green Bay Packers still want to play a game outside the United States, and they believe a potential matchup could be looming.
At the NFL meetings this week, Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy said a 2018 game at Los Angeles could be moved to London. The Rams are building a $2.66 billion stadium in Inglewood, Calif., that will open before the 2019 season, but are using the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until then.
“Since they will be in a temporary stadium,” Murphy said, “that might be an opportunity.”
It’s a tricky proposition trying to get the Packers an international game. They are unwilling to surrender any games at Lambeau Field, knowing how important they are to fans and the local economy. But opposing teams have been unwilling to move a home game against the Packers, knowing it’s a likely sellout because of how well the fan base travels.
A team playing in a temporary stadium can be compelled to shift a home game to London, which is why Murphy and the Packers are eyeing the 2018 Rams game. They will not play in London in 2017.
London is no longer the Packers' only option for an international game, though it is their strong preference. The league recently branched out to Mexico City, where the Oakland Raiders hosted the Houston Texans last season. The Raiders will return to Mexico City for a game against the New England Patriots in the 2017 season.
The NFL’s introduction to Mexico City wasn’t perfect. A fan pointed a laser in Texans quarterback Brock Osweiler’s eyes during a play. Murphy said he talked with officials with the Raiders and Texans about their experience, and he would be willing to have the Packers play there.
“There’s some issues they need to work through,” Murphy said. “Not always a good idea when your quarterback has laser beams in his eyes. So they’re working through those things. Yeah, I think our preference would be London, but I think we’d be open to a Mexico City game.”
A third option for an international market is China. The NFL expects to play a game in China as early as 2018.
Murphy said he has talked with general manager Ted Thompson about the possibility, and both are opposed to it.
“I’d have to know the circumstances,” Murphy said. “… That could really wipe a team out. So if you don’t have a good bye afterwards, that would worry about the effect that would have on the rest of your season.”