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Patriots notebook

He’d prefer it site unseen

Maroney not a fan of taxing travel

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 23, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots departed Gillette Stadium at 4 p.m. yesterday in a six-bus caravan headed for Logan Airport, escorted by six State Police motorcycles, a black unmarked cruiser, and a sport utility vehicle.

But if running back Laurence Maroney had his way, Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would not have required such an elaborate travel itinerary, let alone passports.

He would have preferred to play the game stateside, not at Wembley Stadium in London. After all, it’s a long way to go to haul the mail. With Fred Taylor (ankle) and Sammy Morris (knee) banged up, Maroney and fellow running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Kevin Faulk will have to shoulder the bulk of the work.

While this game was part of a three-game initiative by the NFL to bring regular-season football to London, expanding the league’s lucrative brand to the European continent - the failed experiment of NFL Europe notwithstanding - it did seem to come with a physical toll for those teams that have to go abroad.

“It’d definitely be nice just to go out there and play in different countries,’’ Maroney said. “But to be honest, I’d just rather stay here. It’s less traveling, less jet lag. I know my area and surroundings.’’

The team flew to Heathrow Airport on a Virgin Atlantic charter, which was scheduled to arrive in London today at 5:35 a.m. (12:35 a.m., Eastern time). Like many of his teammates, Maroney is making his first trip outside the United States, resulting in his first passport stamp, but he wasn’t planning to take in any of the sights in London. If he wanted to gaze at Big Ben, there was always tight end Benjamin Watson.

“It’s not a vacation, it’s more of a business trip,’’ Maroney said. “That’s how I’m going to take it, that’s how I’m looking at it. If I’m going to go sightseeing in London, I’m going to have to go on my own time. Right now, I’m on Patriots’ time and I’m just going to go out there and handle my job.’’

Pound for pound
Maroney seemed none too thrilled with the exchange rate, which did not favor American tourists who have to fork over $1.66 for one British pound, which is slightly more expensive than a euro ($1.50 US).

“That’s highway robbery,’’ Maroney said in mock anger. “A dollar isn’t even worth a pound over there.’’

Asked if he thought the team should be compensated in British pounds this week for doing their business on British soil, Maroney replied, “I think we should.’’

But then he realized, “We’d have to pay [British] taxes over there, huh? I don’t know. But I think we should be paid in pounds, so I can go ahead and convert that back and it can add up a little bit.’’

Tally for Tully
Linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, who was released Monday and then signed a one-year deal Tuesday, received the same package as linebacker Eric Alexander: a $650,000 guaranteed contract for the remainder of the season, according to the NFL Players Association. Banta-Cain and Alexander were released and re-signed as part of a procedural process before the trading deadline to protect the players from exposure to waivers . . . The team took its entire practice squad to London, meaning tight end Robbie Agnone and wide receiver Terrence Nunn stood a good chance of being activated for the game. Roster spots became available Tuesday when wideout Joey Galloway and tight end Michael Matthews were released. “They just told me to game-plan like I’m playing and prepare like I’m the starter and just go from there,’’ Agnone said . . . Before a crowd of 30-40 sponsors who accompanied the team on the trip, the Patriots worked out in full pads again yesterday at the lower fields near Gillette Stadium. The same five players who missed Wednesday’s practice were also absent yesterday: wide receiver Julian Edelman (forearm), cornerback Darius Butler (ankle), tackle Matt Light (knee), Taylor, and Morris. Butler joined the team’s travel party. Safety Brandon Meriweather (foot) was limited in his participation, while guard Stephen Neal (not injury-related) returned to full participation after being limited Wednesday.

The limited
Buccaneers defensive tackle Chris Hovan returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session with an ankle injury. Running back Clifton Smith (concussion) was limited after missing Wednesday as well, while cornerback Aqib Talib (hamstring) was limited yesterday.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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