LONDON – The wakeup call came late in the morning. Breakfast? More like brunch.
While the clock at the Intercontinental Hotel said early afternoon Saturday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tried their best to pretend it was just after sunrise.
The idea was to maintain the team's collective body clock as close to Tampa time as possible, so that when the Bucs and Patriots kickoff Sunday at 5 p.m. London time, it will feel like the standard 1 p.m. start at Raymond James Stadium.
So far, so good. At least for cornerback Ronde Barber, one of several players interviewed in a hotel ballroom shortly before the team began its meetings and held its final walkthrough.
"It feels like morning," Barber said. "I think that's kind of what they wanted to get accomplished with us, even when we left. We just ate breakfast at 11 o'clock. So, we're trying to stay as acclimated to an East Coast schedule as we can. Obviously it's not, but we'll try."
Oh, and about that final walkthrough: It had been scheduled to take place at Wembley Stadium, as had the interview sessions with the players and Coach Raheem Morris.
But rain forced the grounds crew to cover the field, canceling the outdoor walkthroughs for both teams and placing the Bucs in the position of holding their final preparatory practice in the same ballroom that contained the interviews.
Morris, already down one practice day because of the team's decision to travel during the day Friday, rather than overnight Thursday like the Patriots, refused to allow this further disruption to bother him.
"You deal and you adjust," Morris said. "You don't show any mental weakness, because your team will show that same mental weakness. We're not going to provide any excuses for ourselves. We're going to go out, we're going to practice in this ballroom, we're going to get our walkthrough and get everything we need to get done, and we're going to move on, man."
Linebacker Barrett Ruud echoed that sentiment and pointed out that neither team prepared under ideal conditions this week.
"It may be more of a problem if you knew New England was getting all that time," Ruud said. "But they're short on time, too. We both have a little bit of a short week. It's a little bit like a Thanksgiving game, I guess, also, too, where both teams are a little shorter on preparation. But the level of play's still going to be really high."
In fact, though, the Patriots did end up with one more outdoor practice session than the Bucs. New England's decision to leave Boston Thursday night after practice gave the Patriots the chance to hold an outdoor walkthrough at the Brit Oval Cricket Ground Friday, a practice session that took place simultaneously with the early stages of Tampa Bay's flight.
The Bucs arrived at their hotel at about 11 p.m. local time Friday. By then, the Patriots had been in London for about 18 hours.
Still, Morris stuck by the plan to come when they did.
"We've got owners that move around London a lot," Morris said. "They move around and do things over here. I think they've got a business over here. I'm not sure."
Throughout the week, Morris said the decision to leave Friday morning was based on recommendations from the Glazer family, which (as alluded to by Morris) owns Manchester United of the English Premier League and does spend spend lots of time in the United Kingdom.
Not that Bryan, Joel and Ed Glazer come to England to play an NFL football game, but Morris naturally deferred to the team owners.
"They gave us some high recommendations on how they travel and how they move and how they feel the best," Morris said. "So, we took them. We sat down, we figured out how our schedule should look, how we want to plan, what time we want to get up, how they feel the best, when they feel the best, what day they feel the best. All that stuff was taken into account. … We've got smart people in great positions to help us out."
In addition to losing an outdoor practice session Saturday (albeit a walkthrough), the Bucs and Patriots now are in the unusual position of playing a game at a stadium they've never even seen before game day.
That's of particular concern at Wembley Stadium, a venerable soccer venue that has hosted two NFL regular-season games the past two seasons. In 2007, the Giants and Dolphins struggled with the field's longer grass, which is not as football-friendly as the turf in the NFL.
Morris said equipment manager Jim Sorenson did go to Wembley Stadium to inspect the playing surface and come up with a recommendation on the type of cleats players should use Sunday.
"The field doesn't matter," Morris said. "As long as they're playing on the same slop we're playing on, the same snow we're playing on, that stuff doesn't matter. It's about your preparation, it's about pad level, it's about physical play, it's about toughness.
"It doesn't matter where you practice at, what surface you play on. If we've got to play the game in the ballroom tomorrow, that's what we'll do."
Meanwhile, once Saturday's final preparations were out of the way, several Buccaneers hoped to take in as many sites as they could in the limited amount of time they have.
The team hotel is situated in London's Mayfair neighborhood, near Hyde Park and St. James's Palace. The well-protected back wall of the Buckingham Palace Gardens is around the corner.
Ruud, for one, intended to see what there was to see.
"I just want to kind of take a quick stroll and see everything, you know?" Ruud said. "I'll take my little camera phone out there and take a couple of pictures. But I definitely want to walk around for a second, just to say I was in London for a limited amount of time. I definitely want to see, at least, the short area around here."
What sites would such a stroll afford Ruud?
Within a 20-minute walk of the team hotel, he could find the Wellington Arch, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and Fortnum & Mason, the Queen's grocery.
Or, he and the Bucs could have observed thousands of marchers proceed down nearby Park Lane, adjacent to Hyde Park, in an orderly protest of British military presence in Afghanistan.
Or, a five-minute taxi ride would put Ruud or his Bucs teammates at the doorstep of Harrods, the famous department store. If he were really feeling adventurous (and not too jet-lagged from the eight-hour flight the day before), Ruud could have taken the London Underground to the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels and the armor of King Henry VIII.
All of which is old hat to the Buccaneers player who is most at home in London.
Barber made the trip this past summer as part of a marketing blitz to build hype for this weekend's game. He said he didn't intend to make any return visits to the city's many tourist attractions.
"No, I've seen them before," Barber said. "I don't need to. This is a business trip. It's not about leisure."