- Bill Williamson, ESPN Staff Writer
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Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
The San Diego Chargers arrived earlier today in London for their game Sunday against New Orleans.
After the Chargers lost Sunday at Buffalo, they fell to 3-4. They need to beat New Orleans to avoid falling two games below .500 at their bye. The Chargers have to keep their focus and their schedule on the same routine as usual despite being in London.
That was clear in reading quotes for San Diego coach Norv Turner and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Here is a sampling of their media sessions in London today:
How do you treat this week as far as curfews and free time and things for the players?
"We have a normal schedule. We have a pretty tight schedule and obviously these first couple days they have a little more time in terms of freedom. Tuesday is our normal day off. When we get into Wednesday it's our regular schedule and then late in the week certainly there will be a curfew."
Have you had a chance to watch the tape from Buffalo?
"We watched it quickly and got into it. Obviously we were in the process of doing that as you guys were speaking with Philip and LT."
What are your thoughts about it a day later?
"The biggest thing ... sometimes after the game you make comments and you may be off base and sometimes you're right. Obviously we had two critical turnovers, one at midfield when we had the lead and gave them a short field. We had a critical interception going in (to the endzone) late in the fourth quarter. The other things we talked about: our inability to get them off the field, in terms of creating pass rush. I thought there were times on third down if we had tackled better we could have gotten them off the field and kept them putting together long drives. Then we're not running the ball the way we need to. We need to run the ball better."
What are your feelings about playing in London?
"I'm excited. It's an exciting trip for me; for our players. Our guys will handle it well in terms of the preparation. To play well, preparation is always the key. We have a great facility here. The field is in fabulous condition. The gentlemen that did the work on it and prepared everything did an outstanding job. We couldn't ask for a better facility in terms of us getting ready. I've been over here a couple times in the preseason and I know how exciting the games are. That was preseason, so I know being a regular season game and the way the crowd gets into it and how they respond, it will be exciting for everyone involved."
Last year's Giants-Dolphins game was played in the rain and was low scoring. Do you think with conditions being different, scoring may be higher this time?
"I think every year you do this, you learn from it. I've been told the field is in great shape. We've got two very good quarterbacks. Both teams are capable of scoring points. I would like to see us score points and hold them down."
What do you expect from the crowd, with it being not just Chargers and Saints fans but a mix of NFL fans?
"Sometimes you don't know what to expect, but as I said, in my experiences being here, the crowds have been outstanding. They've been loud and full of energy. It makes for a accelerated atmosphere."
When were you in London before?
"I came here once with the Rams and once with the Cowboys in the late 80's, early 90's."
With the fans not really aligned with either team, how do they react?
"It has been a while for me but I do remember it being awfully loud and exciting."
With the way the season has gone for the Chargers, does this trip come at a good time?
"You really have to do this, and that's not a pat answer; you really have to do this as an NFL player or coach. The schedule comes out, everything is determined and you know what it is. You have to get it in your mind and say, 'Here's what it is and we've got to handle it.' As I said, I think the fact that the facilities here are so outstanding, they're going to help our guys get prepared. Playing well is about preparation. Whether this comes at a good time or not, it's what we make of it. If we do our job and prepare properly and go out and play well and find a way to win the game, then it came at a great time."
How did you react when you found out the Chargers were going to play in this game?
"My reaction was the same as our players: it was true excitement. There's experiences that you get to do and I think a lot of the experiences I've had being involved in preseason games overseas, I think of the games I've been in involving unusual circumstances, and those are the ones that really do standout. Getting the opportunity to come over here and play, the excitement of the match up and everything involved, it'll be exciting for everyone."
What type of advantage is it to take one of your road games and play it at a neutral site?
"I'm anxious to see how that plays out. Obviously I'm sure New Orleans would rather be playing this game in their stadium. But they're an awfully talented football team. They're a very good football team. I'm sure they're going to make this into their home game."
What do you think of the setup at Pennyhill Hotel?
"I think it's great. They really have set it up for us and obviously everything around here is put together well. The practice fields, weight room, locker room, the meals. Where we're staying there's a great spa right there where we can get treatment, so everything looked nice and we're excited to be here."
You came out this summer to promote this game. What's been the difference from what you saw during your first trip?
"I stayed kind of more in London. This is kind of out a little bit. We're kind of to ourselves right now and have a chance to bond as a team. I think that's a bit different. I think once it gets closer to the game when we're able to go back in town and see the atmosphere of the people of London, I think it will kind of be the same atmosphere I got when I was here earlier."
What did you do during your summer trip?
"I just did media things and promoted the game, got the people excited about us coming over here and playing."
What was the sense you got from people here about their interest in the game?
"I thought they were very excited about us being here. They were really interested in American football. I think that's evident in how many tickets have been sold. I think they're pretty excited. I'm pretty sure they want to see a good game. That would help."
Were your teammates asking you what to expect once they arrived?
"There were a couple of guys asking what it was like. One of my guys said, 'Are there any big guys in London like us or are we going to stand out?' I thought to myself, 'I didn't see too many big guys so you might stand out a little bit.' Of course he was a lineman, so."
Is there an added importance for you to perform because you are serving as an ambassador for the NFL?
"I think it's important to have a good showing and to really give the fans something to talk about, a reason to want the NFL to come back and have more games here. I think that's important. Obviously we're trying to
get our game more exposure in the world wide sense. I think it is important for us to have a good showing."
How do you feel about seeing Drew Brees on the other side?
"I'm excited. Obviously I'm not excited about competing against him because he's a heck of a competitor and a (heck of a) quarterback. That'll be kind of different but at the same time I think it'll be fun being out there on the same field with him again but this time hoping that he throws some interceptions."
When you guys were drafted on the same day, did you think you and Drew would spend your whole careers together?
"Of course you think that because that's the time you're dealing with now. You never think about someone leaving as a free agent or what have you. You just think it's going to be forever."
Are you happy to see the success he's had?
"Absolutely. To me he never ceases to amaze me to be honest with you, all the passing yards he has and touchdowns. I see in the offseason how hard he works because we workout together. It doesn't amaze me the success that he's having now."
What do you think of Wembley Stadium as a venue for an NFL game?
"I really like it. When I came here earlier I was just kind of taking in the atmosphere and obviously it was empty at that time, but just wondering what it would be like with people in the stands. I thought it was a great stadium, really built well and the grass seemed really good. From what I understand they've really been taking care of the grass and making sure that it's up to somewhat better than last year. I'm excited. I really am. I'm excited to get there and see the atmosphere. I think it's going to be great."
What kind of atmosphere do you expect?
"I expect it to be loud and just everybody having a good time. The only thing for me, I'm not sure who they're going to cheer for. It's like, which team are they going to go for. I think that will be the interesting thing to see. I think they're going to just want to see good football. They'll cheer for both teams. Whoever scores they'll cheer because really they just want to see a good game."
Sunday's game is a night game here. Do you enjoy playing at night more?
"It's a great time for us. Again, it brings out that kid in you. In high school playing at night a lot and even in college. It just brings back that feeling that you had in high school or college playing under the lights. We always felt like that was special. Even in the National Football League, you really feel like playing in the atmosphere that's under the lights and the crowd and two teams at night, it just really gets you going. If you can't get ready for a night game then you don't need to be playing football."
Now that you're here being 3-4, is this a good time in the season for the trip?
"I think it is. It is a good escape for us. Obviously losing yesterday, a lot of guys are really down about that loss. I think it really gives us time to take a deep breath, time to get away from the national media in the States and just have some time to ourselves and really just get close and bond a little bit. I honestly think that's why the Giants were successful last year. They were kind of going through the same struggles. They came here and it kind of changed their season. We're hoping for the same kind of luck. Hopefully London brings us that."
You don't think it was a coincidence that the Giants won the Super Bowl after coming to London?
"No I don't."
Just 72 rushing yards against Buffalo. What's your reaction to that?
"We've got to have more opportunities. I think that's obvious. When you don't get opportunities, I think we talked about this earlier, you don't get in a rhythm of running the football. It becomes tough on you to try to do anything if you don't get a chance to get in a rhythm. Obviously for me, 14 attempts, that's not enough. At the same time, we only had 48 plays. We've got to have more plays and hopefully we start to get more plays."
5dEric D. Williams
6dEric D. Williams