ALAMEDA – The Seattle Seahawks will head to London on Wednesday to prep for Sunday’s showdown with the Raiders.
The Silver and Black are leaving Thursday evening.
That’s unorthodox to be sure, heading out that close to a kickoff roughly 5,400 miles from home. Most teams based on the West Coast leave early in the week, or stay on the eastern seaboard and then head across the Atlantic. NFL schedulers typically grant requests to play a team out east the week before to make the London trip a smidge easier.
The L.A. Chargers, for example, will train in Cleveland between playing the Browns and then Tennessee in London the following week.
Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is taking a different tact.
He’s waiting until the last minute to head over, just in time for one media availability to promote the Raiders-Seahawks clash at Wembley Stadium. They’ll prep in earnest in Alameda before leaving for London, and conduct two walk-through practices in the United Kingdom before game day.
“Did a lot of research on it, obviously -- people that have done it, people that have made that cross-country trip from California,” Gruden said Monday. “I don’t know much about it. We’re just doing the best thing we think for our players. Get the proper preparation here. Then go to London, get them the proper rest, time acclimation. Then get ready to play on Sunday.”
Time will tell if this approach pays dividends. It just might, though talent will have more to say about Sunday’s result than travel plans. Or, you know, it might totally flop.
The Raiders wanted a home game leading into the London trip but got a road game in Los Angeles instead, keeping the Silver and Black away from home for most of this early season. They’ll have a run of five calendar weeks in the Bay Area after that – they have a bye, two home games and a road game in Santa Clara against the 49ers – to balance scales.
This travel stretch, however, doesn’t suit Gruden well.
“I hope I can make it, honestly. I’m not great (traveling),” Gruden said. “I get claustrophobic. My son was a weightlifter and he won a powerlifting competition in Belarus. I had to fly 14 hours. I had to fly home 14 hours. I had vertigo for a month. I couldn’t even lay down, the house was spinning. I am hoping I don’t get vertigo. I’m not a great traveler.
"I’ll be honest with you, I hate it. I’m not good. I’m concerned. I’m more worried about that than our goal-line offense right now.”
Gruden was exaggerating there. Just a smidge, if you can’t tell.
There’s probably an element of truth in there echoed in this itinerary, which keeps the Raiders as close to home as long as possible.
The Raiders have given up a home game to play abroad four of the last five years, and will do so again in 2019 before formally moving to Las Vegas in 2020. Next year’s international contest is expected to take place in Mexico City, where the Raiders hosted games in 2016 and 2017.
Gruden plays a role in marketing this London game and won’t have bad things to say about it even if he feels otherwise.
“You hate to lose a home game, honestly, but for the betterment of the game, I think it’s exciting,” he said. “It’s great for the game of football. I haven’t really thought about it much.”
Preparing and traveling well will be of chief concern this week heading into the Seahawks game, as the Raiders try to avoid a 1-5 record heading into a Week 7 bye. This will be Gruden’s first trip to London, and he’ll try to prep the team as well as possible in less-than-ideal circumstances.
“I’m excited to go over there and make some friends,” Gruden said. “My brother got to go as a Redskin and he loved it. My son got to go as a member of the Redskins and he loved it, so I will, too.”