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Tampa Bay Buccaneers get to practice in their hotel ballroom, not Wembley Stadium

LONDON — When the Bucs emerge from the locker room today and stroll onto the Wembley Stadium turf, it will be their first time on a football field since Thursday afternoon.

The team's planned walkthrough practice for Saturday at Wembley was canceled because of London's wet weather, an effort to prevent damage to the turf before today's game. The team spent Friday flying across the Atlantic and arrived late in the evening.

Michael Signora, the NFL's director of media relations and international communications, said league policy requires that playing surfaces be covered in the event of rain the day before a game. So the Bucs were told Saturday morning that they would not be permitted on the field.

League officials did offer the team an indoor facility at Wembley to conduct its walkthrough, but the team declined, opting to use a ballroom at the InterContinental Hotel, the team's London headquarters.

Coach Raheem Morris shrugged at the setback.

"You deal, and you adjust," he said. "You don't show any mental weakness. We're not going to (make) any excuses for ourselves. If we have to play the game in a ballroom (today), that's what we'll do."

Officials get defensive when talking about the Wembley turf given the rain-swamped 2007 Giants-Dolphins game that left the turf a muddy mess and had players easily losing footing.

NFL officials have said many improvements have been made since then. Still, the Bucs sent personnel, led by equipment manager Jim Sorenson, to the stadium Saturday to evaluate the turf and to make recommendations on which cleats to use.

"The field doesn't really matter," Morris said. "As long as (the Patriots) are playing on the same surface we are."

Smith still iffy: RB Clifton Smith, who sustained a concussion last week against Carolina, is the only player with an injury concern that might keep him out, Morris said.

The coach will not commit to playing the second-year return man until just before kickoff, if at all.

"This is as healthy as we've been," Morris said. "The only issue we may have (today) may be Clifton Smith. … Clifton suffered a pretty good hit last week. You care about the safety of your players. You care about how they're going to respond. We'll take our time with Clifton. I won't put him on the field until he says he's ready and until our doctors say he's ready."

Moss the man: CB Ronde Barber, who has been to London several times, said he wouldn't bother visiting any attractions. He was too busy thinking about ways the Bucs could slow Patriots WR Randy Moss, who Barber said is still a major threat, even at 32. CB Aqib Talib will be primarily responsible for Moss.

"I always thought of him as just the deep-threat guy," Barber said. "But they're finding different ways to get him the ball. … He's added to his repertoire. He's still dangerous. He's still a vertical threat. When they need a big play, that's their guy. It's definitely Randy's job to get over the top of people. Aqib is going to have his hands full all day."

Working OT: With a shortage of practice time this week, QB Josh Johnson has spent more time dissecting film.

"We had an eight-hour flight, so when I woke up, I just watched film on the plane," he said. "With all the down time, I have more time to watch film. I don't have anywhere to go. I'm just watching tape all I can on the things that we might not be able to cover in practice. I feel pretty good about the game plan."

Patriots update: WR Brandon Tate and T Mark LeVoir were activated for today's game. LeVoir likely will replace injured starter Matt Light, and Tate could help on kick returns.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers get to practice in their hotel ballroom, not Wembley Stadium 10/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 24, 2009 8:11pm]
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