Umenyiora has high hopes for NFL's future overseas


HERTFORDSHIRE, England -- From the back of a crowded Rex Ryan news conference Wednesday, a voice coated in the perfect English accent lofted a probing question at the Bills head coach about his underperforming defensive line and their ability to make plays.

The person had indicated that he watched the film, a line that often drives coaches -- who spend their entire lives watching the film -- insane. But little did Ryan know that former Giants star pass-rusher Osi Umenyiora was in the media now, and perhaps he knew a thing or two about defensive line play.

"What's this guy doing here?" Umenyiora said, laughing, when asked what he imagined everyone else was thinking.

As it turns out, Umenyiora, who lived in London until he was 8 years old, is a special NFL ambassador to the United Kingdom and for the last six months, he's been working with the league in an attempt to help grow the game.

He still misses playing -- he said that after he left Atlanta, all he could think about was a potential reunion with the Giants, something he obsessed over until he started considering other options, like retirement -- and he still keeps in touch with his teammates. Umenyiora spoke with injured pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who is still recovering from a massive Independence Day weekend fireworks accident.

"He's doing well," Umenyiora said.

And on the Giants reunion (he eventually retired as a Giant): "There was a time that it was all I was thinking about -- for months. I wanted to go back to the Giants and they weren't thinking on that level at that time, then it got to the point where I wasn't thinking on that level."

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But he's also passionate about his new role, which also involves analyzing games for the BBC. Umenyiora is anxious for Sunday's Bills-Jaguars game because in England, there won't be any commercials. Instead, the action is tossed straight to the commentators who need to have all the answers and fill the eons of time during stoppages.

The film watching will be put to good use.

During his last six months, he's taken his role beyond the described parameters. He's been scouting London's youth and semi-professional leagues for NFL-level talent. He's turned into a dependable voice for British football fans looking for more in depth analysis. On that Wednesday during and after practice, the interview queue for Umenyiora was almost as deep as Tyrod Taylor's.

It's an endeavor that led him to believe that it won't be too long before his work will start paying off. In his mind, that means a full-time team in England. "If they can put a man on the moon, I'm quite sure they'll be able to figure out how to get a team here," he said.

Wake up and watch with the world. The NFL is live on Yahoo. For the first time ever, the NFL is streaming a live game on Yahoo. Bills vs. Jaguars live from London, Sunday, October 25th, at 9:30 a.m. ET.