The NFL confirmed earlier today that indeed the Bears will play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London on October 23rd. Kickoff is set for 6PM London time and the usual 12 Noon kick Chicago time.
The Bears reached the NFC Championship Game last season and aim to advance one game further in 2011. One of the league’s most historic franchises, the nine-time NFL champions helped introduce the sport to a UK audience in the mid-1980s. As the reigning Super Bowl XX champs, the Bears played a preseason game at Wembley on August 3, 1986, the first of the American Bowl series of games designed to introduce American football to fans around the world.
“To return to London to play an NFL game — this is going to be fun,” said Chicago Bears Chairman MICHAEL MCCASKEY. “I remember how enthusiastic the fans were in 1986 when we played in Wembley Stadium and defeated the Dallas Cowboys. London fans were so welcoming and blended their traditions of singing soccer songs with the NFL-style of presenting games. Of course the Chicago Bears are very pleased to have been named the ‘Team of the Year’ by UK fans following the 2010 season. So we are looking forward to facing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in October and playing in person before our terrific fans in the UK and Europe.”
Team of the Year by the UK fans, huh? That’s news to me. Jolly good!
The London trip comes with a big IF and that’s whether or not the owners and players can reach a deal by August 1st. If a labor deal is not reached, the game will move to Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, which would have hosted the game had it not been for the trip overseas.
This also pretty much confirms that the Bears and Bucs are slated for a BYE week on October 30th since teams that play overseas get a bye the following week to help with the jet lag. Then again, if an agreement isn’t reached all the Bears will be recovering from will be a few long nights at Mons Venus.
It makes perfect sense to put a stake in the ground for planning this trip; the logistics for the teams and fans requires at least a couple of months to be worked out. The rest of the schedule is set to be released at 6PM Central on Tuesday. Just as a refresher, the Bears 2011 opponents are:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers*
Green Bay Packers
Once we see the games all lined up, we’ll take our customary look at the W’s and L’s and take a ridiculously early look at the Bears’ record, so check back in.