Bears quarterback Jay Cutler gives cricket a try on Friday. Unlike American football, it’s a sport that Londoners actually care about. | Tom Hevezi~AP
Updated: October 21, 2011 2:45PM
LONDON — A bleary-eyed Jay Cutler rubbed his face as he stepped up on the podium for his first news conference in London, hours after stepping off an overnight flight across six time zones.
He’ll have two days to get over that jet lag before the Chicago Bears run onto the field at Wembley on Sunday to play a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that has spent the whole week in London to get used to the time difference.
According to Cutler and the rest of the Bears, that won’t be a problem.
“I feel all right. I think the guys are little bit tired,” the quarterback said. “I’m sure everyone is going to get a good night’s rest and we’ll be ready to roll.”
This is the fifth year in a row the NFL stages a regular-season game at Wembley, and the second time the Bucs have come over. In 2009, Tampa Bay also arrived on the Friday before the game and then looked sluggish when it was routed by the New England Patriots — one of the reasons Bucs coach Raheem Morris changed the team’s setup this time.
Bears coach Lovie Smith, however, said he was confident his team would not be at a disadvantage.
“I felt like it was important for us to have a regular work week in Chicago,” Smith said. “There’s 48 hours before we play, so we have plenty of time. We’ll be rested and ready to go. The best football team will win the game.”
The shorter time spent in London also means there’s less time taking in the local sights and culture, although that’s not what the team came over for anyway, Smith said.
“It’s a business trip. We sight-see when we’re vacationing in the summer,” he said. “We will have a little bit of time tomorrow, but that’s not our purpose.”
There was still time for some fun and games before their first practice Friday.
The Bears are practicing at The Oval, one of England’s most famous cricket grounds located in south London. That meant some of the players got some help with their batting and bowling techniques from local cricketers — with mixed success.
Cutler looked quite handy with the bat, hitting what would have counted as a couple of boundaries (similar to runs) off deliveries (or pitches) from Brian Urlacher.
However, the wayward bowling of linebacker Lance Briggs had some of the assembled photographers ducking for cover, bringing to mind one of the locals’ popular sayings: “It’s just not cricket.”
Briggs, however, seemed less affected by the jet lag than many of the Bears. He was still full of energy after his cricket display, joking with teammates and capturing his new surroundings on his video camera — including filming the TV reporters filming him when giving interviews.
“I feel great. I was a little bit tired when I got off the plane,” Briggs said. “But I had a cup of joe, and I’m ready to go.”