Notebook: London an Unwelcome Obligation

The NFL is trying to expand its reach with its annual London game, but for teams the trip is viewed more as a hindrance than an opportunity to showcase American football overseas.

For most professionals, a trip overseas, even those for business purposes, is viewed in a positive light. Even if work takes up the majority of one's time, sightseeing can typically be fit into the schedule. To the majority of us, it's an enjoyable experience.

The same can't be said for NFL players and coaches that participate in the annual London game, which dates back to 2007. For them, it's one more long plan ride, which includes adjusting to a six-hour time difference, in the middle of an already hectic in-season schedule.

If given a choice, few organizations would volunteer for the opportunity to expand the game's reach overseas. The Chicago Bears are no different. Players have talked since training camp about the burden of this weekend's excursion across the pond, although their levels of animosity differ greatly.

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

Yet some players, like cornerback D.J. Moore, are doing their utmost not to make a big deal out of the game's location, treating it as just one more business trip.


Wembley Stadium
Kirby Lee/US Presswire

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

Chicago's opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, flew into London on Monday. By now they've surely attuned to the time change, something that could affect Bears players, who will only have two days to make the adjustment. Yet Chicago's personnel have downplayed the difference in arrival dates.

"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."

Coach Lovie Smith has extolled the reasoning behind the trip, which is to ultimately bring football to the global arena, something for which basketball and baseball have led the charge. Commissioner Roger Goodell has spoke about hosting multiple games in Europe and even a future Super Bowl. Smith, at least publicly, is on board.

"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."

He said the team's decision to stay home an extra few days was to keep his players on schedule and allow them the comfort of sleeping in their own beds.

"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."

Linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs said that if it were up to them, they would have flown in earlier, but ultimately, it won't make a difference.

We'll see on Sunday which team's planning was more advantageous.

-Former Bears offensive lineman Olin Kreutz has announced his decision to leave the New Orleans Saints. His agent, Mike Triplett, said his client no longer has the passion he feels is necessary to play the game at a high level and doesn't want to just collect a paycheck.


C Olin Kreutz
Kirby Lee/US Presswire

Kreutz has suffered from a knee injury since Week 3 and may be on the verge of officially retiring. Pro Football Focus has him ranked 31st in the league at his position, so lack of production probably also weighed heavily on his decision. He was drafted by the Bears in 1998 and was a 12-year starter at center for Chicago before a far-from-amicable departure this past offseason.

-Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk played in coordinator Mike Martz's system while the two were together in St. Louis in the late 1990s. Faulk is very familiar with Martz's in-game temperament and demeanor. As such, he told ESPN 1000's "Waddle and Silvy Show" that the derogatory comments Jay Cutler made toward his coordinator, which were clearly audible on national television, did not surprise him.

"Maybe Jay was just upset with the play or something else," Faulk said. "Martz is like this: You can throw a touchdown and if you don't go through your progressions and throw it to the guy that was open and he will question you. He will say, 'Forte was open in the flat, why did you throw the deep ball?'"

He said such on-field confrontations are not uncommon in the middle of a heated NFL contest.

"Is it possible that they are going to be on the same page every game? Probably not," said Faulk. "Your quarterback and offensive coordinator aren't always going to see eye to eye on the plays that are called or the read on the play."

-London's Wembley Stadium, host to this weekend's game, has sold 75,000 tickets to this point. Yet there are still 9,000 seats still available. The annual London game has sold each year since its inception in 2007. The lockout and bad economy are being blamed for the slow pace of sales yet it's expected the remaining tickets will be sold by game time Sunday.

-S Major Wright saw limited activity in practice yesterday due to a hip injury. Chris Harris filled in with the first team. It's still unclear as to which will start Sunday, although considering Wright's solid performance last week, he'll likely get the nod if fully healthy. That said, he could be on a short leash. Additionally, coach Smith's history with the safety position does not provide us any insight as to which way he's leaning. Since taking over in Chicago in 2004, Smith has inserted 50 different safety combinations.

-WR Earl Bennett has practiced fully the past two weeks but is not expected to play. He should be back on the field in Week 9 after the bye.

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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.


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