LAKE FOREST – The Bears carried passports along with their playbooks Thursday.
By the time their team flight touches down today, it will be morning in London.
As part of the NFL’s annual “International Series,” the Bears (3-3) will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-2) on Sunday at London’s Wembley Stadium. The 86,000-seat venue has hosted a regular-season game every year since 2007.
“Hopefully we’ll give them something to cheer about,” Bears coach Lovie Smith. “If I was over there and didn’t know a lot about our game, I would be pretty excited about seeing the greatest returner of all time, Devin Hester, [and] Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, … a future Hall of Famer in Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers.
“Just like down at Soldier Field, it’s up to us to put on a good show and make them get into it.”
The teams adopted opposite strategies in the week leading up to the game.
The Bears took a business-as-usual approach, mirroring the strategy the New England Patriots used in 2009. Bears players reviewed film Monday at Halas Hall and practiced Wednesday and Thursday before heading to the airport.
The Buccaneers left the U.S. on Monday and have spent the week in London.
Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris decided to arrive early because of what happened when his team played in London in 2009. The Buccaneers arrived late in the week and played with tired legs as the Patriots trounced them, 35-7.
“More or less, I just wanted to get these guys acclimated quicker than we did the last time,” Morris said on a conference call. “Get these guys in the city, situated in their hotel rooms.
“[They’re] having the ability to be out here on your off day and see the city, get that stuff out of your system, and get right into your game week.”
Buccaneers players have stayed at a team hotel and visited schools and other sites when they are not practicing our touring the city.
“It’s kind of like a training camp atmosphere,” Morris said.
That deviation from the routine was exactly what the Bears wanted to avoid.
“It’s still a business trip for us,” Smith said. “We didn’t go over earlier because we wanted to go over our same game week routine.
“Our practice field. Our equipment. Our meeting rooms – all of that – and do what we normally do. That’s how we’re looking at the game.”
When the Buccaneers arrived late in the week in 2009, quarterback Josh Freeman remembered feeling foggy in London town.
“It’s just tough,” Freeman said. “You’ve got the time difference [when] you arrive, and I know a lot of guys didn’t get a real good night’s rest that first night. Then you’ve got the next night and then you’ve got the game.
“So it doesn’t really give you an opportunity to get acclimated to the time difference and being in a different country. When you first get in town, it’s, ‘Oh, this is pretty cool,’ and guys wanted to go sightseeing. Coming in early allows guys to get that out of their system and come back ready to go.”
Bears bits: [NOTE: WILL FORWARD INJURY UPDATES ONCE THEY ARE AVAILABLE AT 4 P.M. OR SO. COULD PUT SOMETHING IN HERE ABOUT HESTER, KELLEN DAVIS, ETC.]