- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Bill Belichick gathered all Patriots players for a meeting earlier this week and gave them their game plan for the team's trip to London. It was heavy on crossing patterns.
"We spent 30, 45 minutes going over things, like when you cross the road, make sure we look to the right, not the left. All those important things," Belichick said, chuckling.
The Patriots (4-2) face the Buccaneers (0-6) Sunday at Wembley Stadium, a contest that has little sizzle except for where it will be played. This marks the third consecutive season the NFL is playing a game in London and the first time the Patriots will have their passports stamped.
How do the players feel about the trip?
"I wasn't totally excited with it, but it's one of those things the NFL wants us to do," left guard Logan Mankins said.
"I'd rather stay in the States and stick to our normal routine that we do every week. It's one of those things where you just have to deal with it and go play the game."
Mankins, like others, said there would be no time for sightseeing. It will be all football.
The Patriots are scheduled to depart from Logan Airport about 5:30 p.m. Thursday, while the Buccaneers aren't leaving for their eight-hour flight until 8 a.m. Friday. Both teams would normally leave Saturday for a road game.
"Really, it's just getting over there and getting acclimated to the time change, which I'm sure is all mental. You have to get over it and move on, " quarterback Tom Brady said of London's being five hours ahead of Eastern Time.
"It's certainly not a normal week for us, but I think it's important for us players to realize that this is a trip where we're going over to win a game and nothing more than that. It's not for going out and seeing the sites. We're going for one reason, and we need a really focused group and certainly to bring our energy and excitement and try to play a great game."
In terms of the team's itinerary, Brady believes it best suits the players' ability to adjust.
"I know some teams have gone over there and stayed all week, but I don't think any of us wanted to that," he said. "We wanted to be here, get the game plan in, and go out there and get adjusted. We have a couple days to get adjusted. It's a late game on Sunday [6 p.m. London time], so we'll have our time to get our rest."
Brady said that at the team meeting, Belichick told players which areas to avoid. Otherwise, Belichick hasn't had much involvement with the London-specific aspect of the game, saying his primary focus has been on the Buccaneers.
The Patriots' preparations began in the offseason, when they first learned they'd be playing in London as part of the NFL's goal of globalizing its brand. Members of the football operations staff and security department started mapping out plans for travel, lodging, food, family accommodations and practice facilities.
The Patriots are scheduled to arrive in London at 5:30 a.m. local time Friday and will practice on a cricket field (The Brit Oval) at 1:30 p.m. Owner Robert Kraft, Belichick, Brady and other players are scheduled to address media members that day, as will former Patriots place-kicker John Smith, who is a native of Southampton, England.
On Saturday, the team is scheduled for a walk-through at Wembley, where the players will get their first feel for the surface Giants and Dolphins players said they struggled to gain footing on in their 2007 game.
As they do for every game, the Patriots have a scouting report on the Wembley playing surface.
"Don Brocher, our equipment manager, handles all that stuff and does a great job with it," Belichick said. "He's always aware of what the surface is, and what it's like if it rains, and what that surface is like compared with what we're used to. We take the proper footing, and if there is some kind of question about it, we take one, two, three different options and then we'll make our decisions when we get on the field.
"We're certainly prepared for a grass field," Belichick continued. "We've been on soft fields, we've been on hard fields, so I'm sure we'll be able to handle whatever it is."
Belichick added that he plans to address the team upon its arrival in London, reviewing some of the non-football aspects of the trip.
"Those are all things that are taken into consideration, and they are time consuming, they are distractions," he said. "It's the same for both teams. There are things that are different that you want to remind everybody of and what we feel like is the best way to handle them. Hopefully that all works out."
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com.
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