Despite loss, Bucs enjoy London
With the obvious exception of the final score, there wasn't much about playing a game against the Patriots at Wembley Stadium that the Bucs didn't like. From an enthusiastic crowd that numbered 84,254 to an atmosphere that was reminiscent of that usually reserved for the Super Bowl, the game came off as something truly special and memorable, they said.
"It was a great atmosphere," Raheem Morris said. "I was really surprised seeing those Buccaneer flags waving at the beginning. That gave you a great feeling.
"It was really a lot of fun. There were a whole bunch of different chants I haven't heard before and we saw beach balls and the wave. This was old school fun football and it was good to be a part of it despite the loss."
Ronde Barber said the turf at Wembley Stadium was a little slick, much like the turf teams play on in the northeastern United States, but that it was better than teams get at most U.S. stadiums. "It's a great stadium," he said. "I think everybody was pretty excited about being here, for sure. It was a pretty balanced crowd and so it was good. It was a real nice experience."
The Patriots had the best experience, of course, winning the game 35-7. Patriots QB Tom Brady said the kickoff to the game is something he will probably never forget. "All the flashbulbs were going off out there and everyone seemed really excited," he said. "That went on for about 10 minutes, which is something you don't often see in the States."
Pro Bowl return man Clifton Smith made it to England but didn't make it into the lineup for Sunday's game. Still bothered by a concussion he suffered a week ago after absorbing a hit from Carolina's Dante Wesley, Smith sat out while Sammie Stroughter handled the return duties.
"I think I could have played but the training staff, they put my health first and said it was in my best interest to sit out, so what can I do," Smith said. "You got to listen to them and go with it."
Smith said he was feeling no ill effects from the hit he took from Wesley until he tried to return to practice a few days ago. He said the headaches started to return at that time and that he was advised to wait until after the bye week to attempt a return.
Others who were inactive for the Bucs on Sunday were DT Dre Moore, DE Kyle Moore, C Jonathan Compas, T Demar Dotson, CB Marcus McCauley and OL Shawn Murphy.
The NFL pulled in some big-time talent to serve as honorary captains for Sunday's game. The Patriots seemingly got the better end of that deal, too. Their honorary captain was Elton John. Honorary captains for the Bucs were boxer Joe Calzaghe and Vernon Kay, who is Britain's answer to Ryan Seacrest.
Among the pregame highlights: Toni Braxton sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" while Welsh mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins, the first artist to win successive Classical BRIT Awards, sang "God Save the Queen."
Paul Stewart, the founder of the Bucs UK fan club here in England, briefly sat in for Gene Deckerhoff in the Bucs radio play-by-play seat Sunday. Stewart, who is also the editor of bucpower.com, made the call on Josh Freeman's first snap from center. "After meeting Mike Alstott and Lee Roy Selmon yesterday and doing play-by-play today, that pretty much completes the bucket list for me," Stewart said.
Brady had been intercepted only twice before Sunday's game, but the Bucs intercepted him twice in four pass attempts in the first half alone. Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib got the picks for the Bucs. ... Sunday's game was the 184th that Barber has played in for the Bucs. He now ranks third in team history in that category after passing Paul Gruber (183 games). ... Sunday's game drew the third-largest crowd for a Bucs game.
Roy Cummings, The Tampa Tribune 26 October 2009