Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte started his second straight game at Wembley Stadium in London this past Sunday. In the first quarter, the rookie picked up his first career interception, and played a solid game overall. Bear Report talked with Conte about the trip to London, which resulted in a 24-18 Bears win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"The London trip was awesome. I loved it. I really loved the chance to see London. I'd never been there before but I definitely would love to go back there sometime.
"The flight over wasn't too bad. Most of us were able to catch at least a little sleep. We left at 7 p.m. and the flight there took around seven-and-a-half hours. The problem for me at least came the next day. Of course [London] time was quite a bit ahead of Chicago time, so when there was an afternoon press conference, followed by meetings and practice it was hard not to fall asleep. By the time we got back in the bus we were more or less out of it. I'm not going to lie. I'll admit it. It was really rough. We all were so tired by then.
S Chris Conte
Streeter Lecka/US Presswire
"I missed the pep rally in Trefalger Square and was sorry about that. Only a few of the players were slated to be there – big name guys like [Brian] Urlacher and [Lance] Briggs went, of course. I don't think that rookies, who nobody had ever heard of, would have made that much of an impression. One thing I heard later that was pretty neat was that the fans at the rally began to chant ‘Lets Go Bears.' I guess they remembered our team from the time they came over to play in 1986.
"I took advantage of the time when the rally was going on to go to the hotel and sleep. Most of the players did that. It wasn't long but it definitely helped with our adjustment to London time. Once we had that time to rest, to sleep, everybody was back to normal physically. By the time the game came around we were feeling good.
"The stadium was really nice. I believe that it was only a few years old. It was state of the art in every respect, and held an enormous amount of spectators. One thing that was kind of funny was that not many of the fans were familiar with NFL football. Of course they watch soccer so this was somewhat new to them. It was real quiet in the stadium for most of the game, or the applause would come at strange times.
"One thing that was great to watch was when the people in the stands did the wave. It went on and on. I guess they enjoyed doing that. Driving into the stadium in the bus we looked out and saw so many different NFL jerseys on the fans. It looked as if every single team was represented. I saw Dolphins jerseys, Cowboys jerseys, Raiders jerseys and so on.
"The same with the flags they were waving – every team seemed to have fans there. Even in groups of people, every one of them represented a different team. It looked like people were NFL fans, not fans of any particular team.
"In theory it was a Tampa home game, but in this case, it definitely seemed to us players to be a neutral site. I've never played in a game where there was no cheering for either the offense or the defense of a particular team. There was no noise issue when either team had the ball. That was a different experience. But they were definitely excited to have us there.
"I'm feeling a lot more confident as the time goes on. I have to admit that in the first game I had a real case of nerves. It was very difficult to overcome. But now that I have been in more, every time I play it gets more familiar and the nerves disappear. The transition for me from game one to game two was definitely a big step. I hope to continue that progression of feeling more comfortable each week.
"[During the] bye week I'm heading back to California to see my college friends and my family. I want to go to a Cal game and hang out with the guys who are still playing there. It should be a great time. Then I'll be looking forward to returning here and playing well for the rest of the season."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.