The 5-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t just spending this week preparing for their big game against the 9-3 San Diego Chargers.
The Bucs are also making preparations for their long trip to the West Coast, where they’ve produced just a 3-22 all-time regular season record.
The Bucs have lost two straight games on the West Coast. In 2003, Tampa Bay was downed in San Francisco, 24-7. And in Week 3, the Bucs lost to the hometown Oakland Raiders, 30-20.
Those West Coast woes prompted Bucs head coach Jon Gruden to change the team’s traveling plans. Instead of leaving on Friday, the Bucs will depart for San Diego on Saturday morning.
“Since Coach Gruden has been here, we are 0-3 on two-day travel,” said Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks. “Our record prior to that was pretty good, so he is going back to the single-day travel. Hopefully, it works out for us. To me, no matter what day we go out there, we have to execute. That is something we have not been able to do the previous trips on the West Coast. I think we can do something about it this week.”
Brooks wasn’t the only Bucs player that didn’t mind leaving for San Diego a day later than usual.
“Shoot, we lose every game we go out there a day early, so let’s try it a different way,” said Bucs defensive end Greg Spires. “A lot of guys don’t want to lay around a hotel room the whole day, so it’s good that we’ll go out there and get it going and come on back.”
While it will be a challenge to travel across the country and play the 9-3 Chargers in their home stadium where the Bolts have compiled a 5-1 record this season, the Bucs say it’s business as usual.
“There’s a difference, but this is business and we get paid to play,” said Bucs safety Dwight Smith. “We know how to handle ourselves regardless of whether we’re traveling two hours or four. The guys know how to get themselves ready for games.”
Although its record may not suggest it, Tampa Bay can win on the West Coast. In fact, its last trip to Qualcomm Stadium was in January of 2003 for Super Bowl XXXVII. The Bucs defeated the Raiders in that contest, 48-21.
?It’s going to be fun,” Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly said of returning to San Diego. “We have a lot of fond memories in that stadium. But this is a different team, this is a different year and we are going for a different job. We’re going to take care of business. We are going on a smaller trip probably then it usually would be; we’re leaving on Saturday. The guys have to take a business mindset when we get down there.”
According to Spires, the Bucs should be fine as long as they get their rest.
“It’s overrated,” Spires said of the challenges presented by traveling to the West Coast. “As long as you get your eight hours of sleep the night before you’ll be okay.”
While there are some negative thoughts associated with Tampa Bay’s previous two trips to the West Coast, the Bucs are concentrating on the positive things that can come out of the long trip, which includes a much-needed win that can keep the 5-7 Bucs in the NFC playoff race.
“I don’t really understand it to be honest with you,” Bucs quarterback Brian Griese said of all that is made of the trip to the West Coast. “It is just another trip. The flight is a little bit longer, but I think it is more mental than anything. My attitude is that I love going to the West Coast. I love playing in San Diego. I am looking forward to the trip. It just gives me a little bit longer to celebrate on the way home.”
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