As close to a homecoming as he's going to get

LONDON -- For Patriots rookie tackle Sebastian Vollmer, a trip to London was as close to a homecoming as he is likely to get. And the NFL's only German player was savoring his brief return to Europe and making a solid contribution in his second start in New England's 35-7 defeat of Tampa Bay on Sunday.

The block he made late in the first quarter opened up a gap that allowed Wes Welker to pick up a 14-yard touchdown reception. "I didn't see anything," Vollmer said. "You just stare at your guy, which you've got to do, and I saw him make a great cut and go to the end zone."

What mattered most was that his family was at Wembley Stadium to witness it, his parents and sister crossing from his home in Duesseldorf, Germany, for what proved to be a special occasion.

Growing up in the city that used to host NFL Europe's Rhein Fire, Vollmer had dreams of playing professional football. In his last British appearance, representing Germany at the 2002 European Junior Championship in Glasgow, it still seemed so unlikely. A scholarship to the University of Houston brought the NFL closer into view before the Patriots chose him in the second round of this year's draft.

Game by game, the trade is being learned. Despite his vital block, he still committed two penalties. "That bothered me," he said.

"I'm going to watch film tomorrow. Get it evaluated by the coach. Then I'll know what happened. It's hard to judge yourself and see what you do."

Surrounded at his locker by a large group of German reporters, Vollmer conceded his disappointment that the Patriots' tight schedule means a flight home Monday to Boston rather than using the bye week for some quality family time. Business comes first -- and the process of planning to face the Miami Dolphins back on American soil.

"We have to take the bye week now, correct what mistakes we've made, take it step by step, and prepare for our next opponent," he said.

"For me this is all about the experience. I learned a whole lot. When I watch film, I can see the technical mistakes I've made, or the assignments, or whatever it might be."

Mark Woods is a writer for Britball Media and filed updates from London this week for ESPNBoston.com.