Posted by Josh Katzowitz
Last year when the 49ers met the Broncos in London, it was clear to then-San Francisco linebacker Takeo Spikes that arriving in England a few days before Denver made a big difference.
“I think it helped (to leave early),” he told me in a Five Questions (or more) interview. “To be honest, we got there Monday morning, and we didn’t recover until that Thursday. That’s when everybody’s bodies were back on schedule. I can’t even imagine doing what Denver wanted to do and expect them to feel well-rested and alert. I know for us, even on Wednesday, I still couldn’t go to sleep on time. … I talked to them when they got off the plane on Thursday, and they said they felt fine. But damn, it must have been tough.”
Apparently, Bears coach Lovie Smith still believes the Broncos approach can work for his squad. Although the Buccaneers, who play Chicago this Sunday in London, left for the UK on Monday, Chicago won’t hop on a plane until Thursday, arriving in London on Friday. That means the Bears will have only two days to get their bodies acclimated before playing Sunday.
Smith doesn’t see a potential problem.
“For us, we wanted to keep a regular game-week routine in place and that's what we're doing,” he said, via the Tampa Tribune. “As far as getting acclimated, you can bog your mind down with all of that talk. We're going to go there. We'll be there Friday. We're leaving Thursday from here. That's plenty of time."
Tampa Bay has tried to have a normal work week as well. The Buccaneers took Tuesday off, like they normally would, to sight-see around London and then got ready to have normal practices Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
"Getting our players here early and getting them acclimated to the city, letting them have the day off here (on Tuesday) to do whatever they want kind of takes the angst away from coming in at the end of the week,'' Bucs coach Raheem Morris said from England.
Another key reason for the early travel schedule. Getting the team acclimated to the Wembley Stadium turf.
"That's why we came here on Monday,” Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik said. “Because the Wembley field is just like that. It's slipperier than what you expect, so it's important for our guys to be able to practice on it and with the right cleats on.''
The Buccaneers tried the Smith approach two years ago, and they were easily beaten by the Patriots 35-7. New England had arrived 17 hours before Tampa Bay -- which, granted, isn’t a big difference, but it is something. And with the 49ers easily beating the Broncos last season -- when San Francisco got to town three days earlier -- you’d think the Bears would be paying attention to the mini-trend.
But you’d be wrong.
"You can get as much rest as you need," Smith said. "We're going to end up playing the game at 12 o'clock, Chicago time. I don't think that's an issue at all. I think normally when you go overseas, I think the best football team normally wins. It's as simple as that. That's what will happen this time around."
Maybe, or perhaps jet lag will play a big part in a Tampa Bay win.
For more NFL news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnNFL on Twitter and subscribe to our RSS Feed.