LONDON – The Raiders have been in the United Kingdom for a long time now. They flew over Sunday night after beating Indianapolis, and have holed up at a golf resort just outside London for a full week.
Some have been out to see London’s sights, but most haven’t left the area for more than a few community events or minor excursions. This is a work trip and has been treated as such.
Body clocks are well adjusted at this point. Physical recovery initially delayed by following a game with a long flight has been made. The Raiders are confident their long stay in the United Kingdom has helped them prepare to play an important game Sunday versus Chicago at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
“It has been wonderful,” Raiders head coach Jon Gruden said. “We’ve had a great acclimation here to the time zone. The hotel setup is great, the practice field is sensational and we’re not going to have any negative impact on our performance because of the time zone. We’ll be ready to go.”
Players have said the time away has a training camp feel, with everyone staying close in hotel rooms and able to plan or watch film together at any time. That certainly helps make up for Vontaze Burfict’s loss to suspension, or any offensive deficiencies created by injury.
This prolonged stay was a strategy shift from a year ago, when the Raiders came to London at the last possible minute. They played in Los Angeles the week prior to a London game, and arrived on a Friday morning for a Sunday game against the Seahawks. The Raiders got beat handily by a Seahawks team that had been here most of the practice week. While that’s not the only reason for the outcome, it certainly was a contributing factor. The Raiders are at a point in their rebuild where they need all advantages pulling in their direction, and didn’t want to give one up – in this instance, scheduling – that they could control.
“I learned a valuable lesson that we needed a little more time to get acclimated,” Gruden said. “It was my first time last year coming to London playing football. I’m used to playing home games at home, so I made a mistake and tried to correct it this year. Hopefully, it shows on the field.”
The Bears arrived Thursday night and conducted one practice here Friday. They’re naturally assisted by coming over from the Central Time Zone, and most teams in that region and farther east come over late. It’s the West Coast teams who benefit from playing a game in the east and flying over right after. The Bears didn’t have that issue, and believe in their strategy coming from their home base.
“It’s all about where you’re located, where you played the week before, and there’s some other stuff that goes into it,” Bears head coach Matt Nagy said. “This is what we did a few years ago when I was in Kansas City. There are studies both ways, and this is what was best for our organization.”