Bears Downplay London Trip

The Bears will head to London this week to take on the 4-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Chicago's players and coaches aren't worried about crossing the pond and insist they are focused on the game.

Contrary to what they say in public, players often aren't genuinely excited about taking an eight-hour plane trip to play on foreign soil at a neutral site. The Bears and the Bucs drew the short straw this year for what has become an annual skip across the pond to play a regular-season NFL game at London's legendary Wembley Stadium. The company line is something like: "It's a great opportunity to market the league. We'll deal with it the best we can, and none of the other stuff matters once the game starts." But every player has a different way of spinning it.

"We don't have a choice," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "We've gotta go do it, so we'll load up (Thursday) night and head on over."

Cornerback D.J. Moore is downplaying the whole experience.

"This is pretty much another game," he said. "You're flying somewhere, you're playing and then you're flying back."

A hot topic all week will be which team had the better game plan; the Bucs because they arrived late Monday, or the Bears, who aren't scheduled to land at Heathrow Airport until Friday morning London time.

"I don't think it really matters," Cutler said. "We're going to get an excellent two days of work here, and then we're going to fly over. I don't think there is a definite game plan of when to go over and when to not go over."

The argument for the Bucs' plan is that they'll have longer to get acclimated to the six-hour time difference, but the Bears say they're not concerned.

"As long as we have a football field over there ... it's (technically) going to be a soccer field, but as long as there's a football field and a referee, I'm good to go," rookie defensive tackle Stephen Paea said. "I don't think it will be a factor, but we'll see."

"It's a long trip but it's still football," nose tackle Anthony Adams said. "We're going to have fun out there, and once the whistle blows we're good. We trust in our coaching staff and we trust that they're going to put us in the best position to win. It doesn't matter when we go over there. If we go over there the day of the game we're still going to be all right."

There won't be a lot of time for sightseeing, but players point out that's not why they're making the trip. With the Bucs at 4-2, they could conceivably wind up battling the Bears for a wild-card playoff berth.

"I would love to go to a lot of places," kicker Robbie Gould said. "(But) it's a business trip. We're going over there to win a football game. It's a big game for us because it could have playoff implications. So we need to win this one, especially if we're going to be in the hunt late in the season."

By arriving early, the Bucs were able to participate in some of the NFL-sponsored activities designed to grow the product overseas. The Bears will miss most of that, although several players will appear at a Saturday pep rally at Trafalgar Square. But coach Lovie Smith said that didn't factor into the decision to arrive on Friday. Smith's goal was to have as normal of a work week as possible, which means practicing on the same fields at the same times.

"When the NFL asked us to go and play over there, we were all in favor of it," Smith said. "It was about us going over there and bringing our brand of football over there; that's what we're doing. We're showing up on time.

"We have a few things we're going to do on Saturday, but besides that, it's about the football game. Just like when we're here, we're not out doing a lot of things on Sunday when we're playing at Soldier Field. It's about the football season and us trying to win a football game. The NFL is OK with everything that we're doing. There's a lot of ways to do things. I'm sure Tampa is having a great time over there, and we'll have a great time once we get over there."

SERIES HISTORY: 54th regular-season meeting. Bears lead series, 35-18. But the series is 2-2 since Lovie Smith, a former Bucs assistant became the Bears' head coach in 2004. The last three games have each been decided by three points, with the Bears winning twice.

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