With the United States of America still in conflict with Iraq and the multi-country outbreak of the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) virus, some questioned whether or not the National Football League would actually go through with its plan to have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play the New York Jets in the American Bowl in Tokyo, but the league all but answered that question Wednesday when it announced the kick off time for the Bucs-Jets contest, which will be the first of the 2003 preseason.
The 11th annual American Bowl will kick off at 5:00 a.m. ET (6:00 p.m. in Tokyo) on Saturday, Aug. 2. It will be the first ever prime time slot for an American Bowl game in Japan.
"Our fan base in Japan in general and Tokyo specifically is growing," said NFL senior vice president Doug Quinn. "We're thrilled to present a dynamic event for our fans that includes the reigning world champion Buccaneers, plus a very exciting New York Jets team at a time that the majority of fans can really enjoy."
This will mark the first time Tampa Bay has ever played a game overseas. Both the Bucs and Jets are scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Wednesday, July 30, which will be 12 days after the Bucs report to training camp in Orlando.
"One of the first things (head coach) Jon Gruden said to the team when he was hired was, 'We can take this thing global,'" said Buccaneers executive vice president Joel Glazer. "When we go to Japan, we'll definitely be going global. We want to spread the word about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and there is no better way to do it."
Previous games in Tokyo were played on Sunday mornings at 11:00 a.m. ESPN will televise the Bucs-Jets game live in the United States on ESPN2 and rebroadcast the game that evening at 8:00 p.m on ESPN.
Tickets for the American Bowl go on sale on Saturday, May 10.