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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs hoping early London arrival gets results

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 21, 2013 at 02:52 AM

Tampa Bay Buccaneers left tackle Donald Penn remembers one thing about the team's previous trip to London.

He did not enjoy it.

Penn is optimistic Tampa Bay's second trip to London might be a better experience.

"I slept all day Saturday the last time I was there," Penn said. "I was tired."

Penn's fatigue was a direct result of Tampa Bay's travel plans in 2009, when they left Tampa on a Friday for a Sunday game, a loss to New England.

 This year, the Bucs (4-2) left Tampa early Monday morning and will spend the entire week in the London area preparing for Sunday's game against the Chicago Bears (3-3) at Wembley Stadium. 

Two years ago, Bucs management chose to treat Tampa Bay's game against New England like any other road game. The team flew to London on Friday and arrived Saturday morning. There was no sightseeing involved. Players also had no time to get acclimated to London's five-hour time difference.

After a walk-through on Saturday, Tampa Bay faced New England, a team that arrived 17 hours earlier than the Bucs, on Sunday.

The results were predictable.

New England sliced and diced Tampa Bay during a 35-7 victory. The only positive for the Bucs was rookie quarterback Josh Freeman's debut performance against New England, which led to him becoming a starter.

"It took a lot out of me the last time," Penn said. "It's a big time adjustment. I'm real happy about how we're doing it this year."

Bucs officials are treating this year's trip with more consideration than an away game in Charlotte.

After arriving at Heathrow airport about 10 p.m. local time Monday, players will have Tuesday off to recuperate, with the only requirement that day a visit to a local school. The Bucs will have their normal weekly practice schedule leading up to Sunday's game, with workouts on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, plus a walkthrough on Saturday.

"I'm glad we're going early, but it's early," tight end Kellen Winslow said before the plane took off from Tampa International Airport. "We (had) to be on the bus at 7:30 a.m. (Monday). You've got to do what you have to do. It's a long flight."

New Orleans coach Sean Payton took the same week-long approach during his team's London game in 2008.

The Saints beat the San Diego Chargers, 37-32, and Peyton said leaving early helped his team.

"We had a great setup where we kind of got through that jet lag on Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday," Peyton said. "As the week progressed and we traveled into the city of London the night before the game, it seemed to help everyone get on their clocks and get comfortable with their routine.

"Not having done it any other way, I don't know the difference. I only know the way we approached it and I would say that we would probably approach it the exact same way, having gone through it before."

Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is experiencing London for the first time, but does not expect to play on Sunday.

McCoy is recovering from an ankle injury and did not play in Tampa Bay's 26-20 victory against New Orleans. The injury did not deter McCoy's travel plans.

"I'm going over there to support the team," McCoy said. "Even if you're off the field, if you don't do anything but support your teammates, it helps. I went to Africa this summer and flew through London, so I'll be okay (on the flight over)."

Penn is OK because Tampa Bay left for London earlier this year.

Now he wants better memories.`

"We've got to keep this thing going," Penn said. "Chicago is crawling and climbing. They're a good team and we have to keep it up. They aren't going to come in and lay down at all.

"We have to keep it up, keep playing how we're playing and keep building. We can't take another step back."

arichardson@tampatrib.com (813) 259-8425