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Jeremy Unertl: NFL Europe Diary


*For the first three weeks of the NFL Europe season, the Frankfurt Galaxy could do no wrong. But times have been tougher the past two weeks, with road losses to the Amsterdam Admirals (20-16) and Rhein Fire (14-7).

Individually it's been much the same for Green Bay Packers safety Jeremy Unertl, who has been forced to flip-flop between cornerback and safety based on the Galaxy's injury situation.

On the eve of Frankfurt's game with the Scottish Claymores, the former Wisconsin-La Crosse star checked in with to update his NFL Europe Diary:*

Jeremy Unertl: In the last two weeks we've gone from being 3-0 and hoping to go undefeated, to losing two in a row and having reality thrown at our faces.

The teams are so evenly matched in this league that it really becomes a fourth-quarter game. The past two weeks we've had chances to win, but we haven't been able to get it done. Offensively we're struggling in the red zone, but defensively we're doing a pretty good job.

On my part, the last two weeks have been pretty uneventful. I came over here to play safety, but because of injuries I was playing a lot at corner. In the last two weeks I've been practicing at corner, but getting in the game at safety.

That rotation has been tough for me.

Playing corner is a lot of reacting to the receiver. Playing safety you have to know a little more about what's going on, what the other team is trying to do, because you're supposed to be back there giving orders for the rest of your team.

Without getting the practice reps at safety, it's been a little awkward when they've thrown me back there. You just have to think a different way. And after playing so much corner, sometimes I have to force myself to do things at safety that I used to do naturally.

Barcelona (4-1) is in first place right now and we beat them to start the season, so if we can win out the rest of the way we're in good shape.

One of our strength coaches says everyone is going through the 'Six-Week Blues.' I guess this is about the time every year when some of that early excitement wears off and guys start to get homesick. I can kind of see that in some of the guys, and I certainly miss being home and being in America, but I wouldn't say that I'm homesick. My family is coming in next week and that will help.

The last two weeks we've been on the road. You could say that every week in NFL Europe is an away game, because it's not like college or the pros where a home game means actually being home. But even in Europe it's much better when you don't have to go on the road.

In this league, travel is the worst. It's not like the NFL where you have a charter and have the best meals and stay in the best hotels.

Here we take commercial flights like everyone else. It can take an hour just for 50 guys to go through the passport line. So there's a lot of standing around and waiting. And then you get someplace that you've probably never been to before, that doesn't really look like home.

When we have games in Frankfurt we don't have to deal with that travel, and we can relax and prepare for the game.

Plus, at home games you get the crowd behind you. Our crowd is unbelievably great, really loud.

Last week we played in Rhein and there were 42,324 fans in their retractable-roof stadium. It echoes like crazy in there and everyone that comes to the games has some sort of gadget -- a whistle, a noisemaker, something.

I don't know where they get them, but it's loud the entire game. For the visiting team it's really annoying. You're on the field trying to communicate to your teammates and you can't hear one another.

Our fans are very supportive. Whether we win or lose, they always treat it like, 'Hey, we had a good time.' The funny thing is that most of the fans aren't very knowledgeable about football, so the announcer is always explaining the game. He'll say things like, 'That was a quarterback sack.'

But even if they don't know what's going on half the time, the fans are always screaming and yelling. It's much more of a soccer-type crowd.

They're also very friendly. The other day I did an autograph session, and while the fans look up to the players a little bit, we're not treated like celebrities as in America. Most of the fans here just want to meet us and say hello. They're very hospitable.

We don't get a lot of free time, but a couple days ago I saw the latest X-Men movie. They held a sneak preview at the one American theatre they have over here. I liked it, and I think a lot of the guys were happy just to get out of the hotel.

People watch movies differently in Germany, though. They get pretty crazy, screaming at the screen and clapping. It's pretty different.

Two weekends ago in America was the NFL Draft. We didn't hear too much about it over here. Our only link to stuff like that is USA Today.

But the coaches knew it was coming up and talked to all the players about it. They told us not to get frustrated if our teams drafted someone at our positions. And we all know that we're not supposed to count heads, but we're human, and you have to do a little rationalizing.

So guys talked about it a little but, but most of us know that we can't worry about it and that it's better to just deal with the task at hand.

For me, that's just playing football. The Packers had mini-camp last week, but for me -- especially being from a small school -- playing over in Europe is a lot more beneficial than being in mini-camp. Here I get a chance to play full-speed, and at mini-camp you don't always get that.

The downside, of course, is that I could be in Green Bay learning the defense and be able to come into training camp with more knowledge. In that way, it's kind of a double-edged sword, especially at safety where the more you know about the defense the faster you are able to play.

But I still remember a little bit of the defense from last year, and I'm pretty confident I can pick it up again. Right now it's better for me to get experience, plus I'll come into camp in football condition, which is a bonus.

Once you've been someplace for a while, the mentality that it's 'new' starts to wear off. We've been here for six weeks now and it would be easy to get caught up in wanting to go home, but I'd rather make the most out of this opportunity.

The days go by so fast. The first five weeks are gone already, and I'm sure the second five will go even faster. Before I know it, I'll be home again, so I'm doing my best to enjoy it while I can.

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