Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris had the opportunity to address members of the media Wednesday afternoon, including a contingent of local reporters from around the U.K. Morris talked about his young football team and the challenges it faces in playing an NFL game overseas. The third-year Bucs’ boss commented on the possible advantages of arriving in London four days earlier than the last time the team traveled to England.
“Hopefully it has the results we are looking for,” Morris said. “It is great to get here (early). The people at Penny Hill have been awesome. They have taken complete care of us. The food, the beverages, the rooms, the hospitality, the courtesy service, everything has been phenomenal.
“Getting our players here and getting them acclimated to the city – we let them have their day off here – kind of takes some of the angst away from going toward the end of the week. Now we start our workweek and start to practice.
“It’s like a college setting. We have a bunch of young guys who love being around each other. I just wanted to have that bonding moment. It's kind of like training camp a little bit.”
Tampa Bay didn’t fare well in their last trip across the pond, getting soundly beaten by the New England Patriots 35-7 in 2009. Josh Johnson was the starter but then rookie quarterback Josh Freeman entered the game late, making his NFL debut. Morris said this team is much different than the one he brought two years ago.
“This is the birthplace of Josh Freeman,” Morris said. “He went out there and got a couple snaps. I have a different quarterback. I have a different Bucs team and I have a “youngry” football team that is coming out there ready to play. Hopeful these guys come out and play fast, hard, smart and consistent like they have been all season."
Morris was later asked about the significance of losing a home game and making the difficult long trip.
“We are road warriors,” Morris said. “You go on the road and you have to go play. Right now we are out in London and we are enjoying the people, the town and everything that's going to happen. We will have an opportunity to go out there and play in London. Nobody cares if we are crying anyway.”
Morris continued to tow the company, or league, line when asked what he thought about playing overseas two of the last three seasons.
“This thing is a little bit bigger than the Bucs,” Morris said. “It's more about the NFL and promoting our game. Anything that is going to help promote our game, I am all for it. Especially in a positive light. A young Bucs team coming out to London, setting the example, is awesome. Unfortunately for our fans back at home it was a home game, but somebody has got to do it and suck it up and it was us this time.”
The British media asked Morris about the speculation that the NFL may want to have the Buccaneers travel to London for a home game every season.
“I don’t know if it will be an annual trip,” Morris said. “That's obviously for the league to decide and all our ownership. But for us we are about promoting the game. You guys will probably get tired of us and want to see some other guys, so we'll see. And we'll get a chance to get out there and grow as it grows.
“I don’t want to overstep my boundaries (and say) give a game up for London every year. I don’t want to overstep my boundaries and (say) we are moving to London next. But this would be a nice One Buc. So it is nice,” Morris said laughing.
Morris acknowledged the Glazers did come to him and get his thoughts before making the decision to accept the NFL’s offer to give up a home game for a trip to London.
“Our ownership does a great job of making things wonderful, as you can see,” Morris said. “If you look around, it's set up luxuriously. It's been set up great. You always have a say. They always come talk to me about it.
“We came over here and we love coming. We are young. We are a young football team and we want to get out there and do some things. It gives us a great opportunity to put ourselves in the bright lights and let our players get into a Super Bowl-like atmosphere. Traveling away for a week, there's only one game you do that for. So I'm all in.”
England is known for it’s several fan clubs and groups that meet at local pubs and establishments every Sunday night, and even into Monday morning, to watch the live broadcasts of Tampa Bay’s games. Morris commented on whether he felt like the Buccaneers lose their home-field advantage by giving up a home game in Tampa.
“I don’t know if you ever lose home-field advantage coming to London,” Morris said. “Last time we were out here you guy were cheering your butts off and we were getting our butts kicks. I really appreciate that. And when we left it was a great learning experience for a young football team. Anytime you can go into a stadium and walk into a gladiator-like atmosphere it's always going to be fun for you.”