Ex-NFL Europe coach Tomsula returns to London with 49ers

LONDON -- For San Francisco 49ers defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, his team's journey to London to play the Denver Broncos in a regular-season NFL game is like a trip down memory lane.

Tomsula, who has been a coach with the 49ers since 2007, spent nine years with four different teams in the NFL's European league. But on Sunday, he'll take part in the American football league's fourth regular-season game at Wembley Stadium.

"I thought Crystal Palace was awesome," Tomsula, 42, said of the England Monarchs' stadium in 1998, a smaller venue more famous for its track and field meets. "As an American to sit in those stadiums and listen to those songs and the passion and the excitement, it's a big deal."

The change of pace and extra surge of adrenaline in the British capital also could provide a bit of a boost for a 49ers team that has struggled this season. The 49ers are 1-6, and they blew a late lead in a 23-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

"Maybe that is nice," Tomsula said of the break from routine. "Come over here, breathe some air here in the countryside, and kind of go from there."

Tomsula played at Catawba College in North Carolina before starting his coaching career at the same school in 1989. By 1998, he was hired to come to London and take over as defensive line coach for the Monarchs.

After a season in England, Tomsula spent four years with the Scottish Claymores before moving on to the Berlin Thunder for two more. In 2006, he was the head coach of the Rhein Fire. NFL Europe folded a year later.

"Well, it sure is great to be back and seeing everybody, old friends," Tomsula said after the 49ers arrived in London on Monday. "For all of us that were involved in the NFL Europe league, being here representing the NFL, this has got a special meaning for all of us."

Despite the collapse of the league in Europe, the NFL has persisted in playing regular-season games in London. The first three were sellouts, and Sunday's 49ers-Broncos game at Wembley also is expected to be a full house.

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And Tomsula is as excited for his players as he is for himself.

"Flying in ... you could see the arch over Wembley there, so there was a buzz on the plane. It was really neat," Tomsula said. "They're excited, you can feel it."

But whether London is ready for a team full-time or not -- something NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said last year would be of "tremendous interest" to the league -- is something Tomsula won't discuss.

"My name is Jim, it's not Mr. Goodell," Tomsula said. "So I'm going to stay away from answering any questions for the NFL."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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