The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a relatively unexpected participant join them Wednesday for their first practice here at Pennyhill Park resort.
DT Gerald McCoy, who missed last week's game with a left ankle injury, returned to practice for the first time since he left the Bucs game against San Francisco in the first quarter two weeks ago.
McCoy had both of his ankles heavily taped but he participated fully in the individual and position drill portion of the workout before being limited in the team drill and scrimmage portions.
"He's getting better,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said of McCoy, who was originally expected to miss a few weeks of action. "Having a chance to get him back is exciting for us.''
McCoy wasn't the only player who returned to action. Rookie TE Luke Stocker, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, and WR Sammie Stroughter, who has missed all but the first game of the year with a foot injury, also were back.
Stocker participated in the entire workout and is expected to play this week against the Bears, but Stroughter was limited in his return and may still need more time before he's ready.
The rest of the injury report wasn't quite as glowing. C Jeff Faine, who was knocked out of the last game with a strained right biceps, sat out, as did RB LeGarrette Blount (knee), DE Michael Bennett (groin) and MLB Mason Foster.
Foster, who was limited in practice a week ago by a sore right ankle, is now nursing a sore left ankle. Morris said he's hopeful Foster can get healthy in time to play Sunday against Chicago.
"We'll see what he can do by the end of the week,'' Morris said. "He's a tough kid, so I've got a lot of confidence in him being able to be ready.''
The fact the Bucs are making their second trip to London in three years and the presence of a Bucs fan club here are among the reasons many are wondering if the Bucs will become an annual visitor to London.
The NFL has expressed a desire for one team to be a regular part of its International Series games here, but Morris said he believes fans here will want more variety in the series.
"I don't know if it will be an annual trip (for us) or not, that's for the league and our ownership to decide,'' he said. "We're all about promoting our game, but you guys will probably get tired of us and want to see some other people.
"So we'll see. I don't want to overstep my bounds and give a game up for London every year. I don't want to overstep my bounds and say we're moving to London and all that stuff. But this (Pennyhill Park) would be a nice One Buc. It's nice.''
Morris may be right about the desire to see other teams. This year's game has yet to sell out, though the NFL says the reason is largely because it was late in announcing the two teams and because marketing and ticket sales efforts were delayed by the lockout.
Morris does believe, however, the Bucs are a popular team here, saying, "Last time we were out here you guys were cheering your butts off for us, and we were getting our butts kicked (in a 35-7 loss to New England). We really appreciated that.''
Much like during the Bucs' first visit two years ago, there is little around the city of London that suggests there is an NFL game here Sunday. Promotions for the game are seemingly nonexistent, save for some graffiti written on the wall in front of the EMI recording studios on Abbey Road, where the Beatles recorded the bulk of their work. Mixed in there among the various tributes to the Fab Four is a message for the Bucs opponents that reads "Go Chicago Bears'' in Bears orange and blue.