Patriots QB Tom Brady readies for loud crowd at Wembley
New England Patriots backup quarterback Ryan Mallett (15) tries to pull a ball out of starting quarterback Tom Brady's grasp during a drill at practice at the NFL football team's facility in Foxborough, Mass., Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
LONDON — With the experience of playing in London still fresh in his mind, Tom Brady has been focusing on some special preparations for his return to the British capital.
The New England Patriots (4-3) will play a regular-season game in London for the second time in four years on Sunday when they face the St. Louis Rams (3-4) at Wembley Stadium, the iconic venue that is the home of England’s national soccer team.
“It was loud last time,” Brady said Friday, remembering back to 2009 when the Patriots beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 35-7 in the NFL’s annual trip across the pond. “You never really know when they’re going to be cheering, so you got to prepare for both without crowd noise and with crowd noise.”
A sellout crowd of more than 80,000 is expected for the sixth NFL regular-season game at Wembley.
The Patriots arrived in London on Friday morning, three days after the Rams made their way over to Britain. Although they did not schedule a practice session for Friday afternoon, coach Bill Belichick said the team still had a lot of work to do.
“We’ll get done what we feel like we can get done,” Belichick said. “Today is kind of a transition day for us.
“Normally it’s the middle of the night for us. But it’s not, it’s early in the morning. So try to spend the day as the day and then sleep the night and hopefully tomorrow our body clocks will be back on normal schedule.”
New England’s three losses this season have been by a combined four points, but two of them came against NFC West opponents — the same division the Rams play in.
Last week, the Patriots beat the visiting New York Jets 29-26 in overtime.
For Brady, the key this weekend will be trying to keep things as normal as possible.
“The most important thing is using these next few days to prepare and not necessarily get distracted by all the different things that you could possibly go out and do,” Brady said. “It’s not like this is a vacation.”
Not only is this a work trip, it’s an important one.
“You look at this game as a very critical point in our season. If we can just get to 5-3, we feel like we’re at a decent point,” Brady said, looking ahead to next week’s bye. “You can move forward with mental toughness and play Patriot football.”
Belichick is also all about the work at hand.
When asked by local media about football’s impact overseas, the Patriots coach was less than eager to get involved in the discussion, saying “I have no idea.” A few minutes later, he was asked about racism in soccer, which has been a hot topic in Britain over the last year with several high-profile cases.
“I don’t know anything about the soccer league here,” Belichick said in his usual monotone voice.
How about having a full-time NFL franchise based in London?
“Yeah, I’m not really sure,” Belichick said. “I’m just trying to coach a team that I’m on. And I don’t really know about all the rest of it.”
But if you want to talk football — or American football, at least — you’ll get plenty about Sunday’s game, even if it’s not exactly incisive.
“The Rams present a lot of issues. They’re very good defensively, fast, good pass rush team, good coverage team, got a lot of good corners,” Belichick said. “Offensively, running backs are very talented ... they got explosive receivers, good kicking game, good punter, good kicker, good returner. They’re good in every area of the game.”
This weekend’s NFL game will be the first in London since the city hosted the 2012 Olympics. Wembley Stadium was used for some soccer matches, including the men’s and women’s gold-medal games, while the adjacent Wembley Arena hosted badminton and rhythmic gymnastics.
Brady said he watched the London Games on TV, but he was somewhat stumped when asked what Olympic sport would suit him best.
“I’m not the most athletic person in the world,” Brady said, “but I got a decent arm so it works for me as an NFL quarterback.”