Red-eye Raiders: No need for acclimation in Jon Gruden’s travel plans – NFL Nation

ALAMEDA, Calif. — Teams have different approaches when it comes to playing a game overseas — some like to spend as much time as possible there to better get their bodies acclimated to the time change while others make it a quick trip.

The Oakland Raiders are choosing the latter in anticipation of Sunday’s game at London’s Wembley Stadium against the Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders depart Thursday night on a 10-plus-hour flight and hit the English ground running on Friday afternoon, with media availability and a walk-through.

“The length of the flight, probably get over there … and mostly just recover with the players,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said Wednesday. “Get them to stretch. Get them a little something to eat. Get their blood pumping. Get a walk-through. Then Saturday, the day before the game, a lot of review. There won’t be a lot of time for sightseeing, but I’ll try to sneak out and make some friends.”

Raiders players have been given pamphlets with “travel tips” that include exercises, stretching and nutrition advice.

The Seahawks, meanwhile, left Seattle on Wednesday night, so they will have a full day’s head start on the Raiders in England. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the plan was for his players to get as much sleep as possible on the flight before practicing shortly after landing and to stay awake the rest of the day “so that they get a regular night’s sleep [Thursday night], a real healthy night’s sleep without going to sleep during the day.”

At least the Raiders and Seahawks will be facing the same eight-hour time difference. Sunday’s game will kick off at 6 p.m. local time, 10 a.m. PT.

Gruden said Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson would be his “tour guide” across the pond since he has been there “seven for sure, maybe eight” times for NFL games already. But in truth, there is very little time for the Raiders, who are 1-4, to do anything other than prepare for a game against the Seahawks, who are 2-3.

Raiders linebacker Tahir Whitehead played two games in London with the Detroit Lions, who spent the week there both times. He said it took “one day” to acclimate to the time change.

“I don’t think it really matters whether you go early or if you go later in the week,” Whitehead said. “Whether you’re here or there, you’re still practicing, training with the squad. On this patch of grass, or that patch of grass.”

Yes, even on the flight.

“There’s always work to be done, baby,” Whitehead said.

Derrick Johnson, who played in London with the Kansas City Chiefs against Whitehead’s Lions in 2015, said it would be imperative to get body work done upon arrival. Especially coming from California.

“Get off your feet,” Johnson said. “Massages. Chiropractic work.”

In 2014, the Raiders went to England immediately after playing at the New England Patriots. Oakland was thumped by the Miami Dolphins 38-14 at Wembley Stadium and Dennis Allen was fired as coach after the 0-4 start to that season.

“It’s good to get away for a little bit in a long season,” said Olson, who was also on that 2014 Raiders staff as O.C. “I think it’s great this time in the schedule, Game 6, I think with the four preseason games, it’s the halfway part of the season. I think it’s a real good time for the team to bond. Get over there, be away from any distractions and just a good time to be with your teammates.”

Long stay, or short?

“I’ve had success in both, and failures in both, so always trying to find what’s the best way to do it,” Olson said. “I personally prefer going over on a Thursday. Make it a quick road trip there, but either way has worked. I prefer the way that we are doing it.

“Every team is different. I think it was good for our players to be here and rehab and rest here and be in there in their own bed and have a chance to sleep. We started by having an early week. They actually are going to get an extra day of rest Friday on the travel day and tomorrow night, so I think we will be fresh and ready to go. I like the way that they set it up, our trainers and our strength staff, and coach set it up this year.”

For Gruden, though, there is more at stake in his first trip to London. He has coached in Japan and Mexico in preseason games.

He said he is not a good traveler, and after 14-hour flights to and from Belarus to watch his son Deuce compete in a powerlifting tournament a few years ago, “I hope I can make it, honestly,” he said with a nervous grin. “I’m not great. I get claustrophobic.

“I had vertigo for a month [after Belarus]. 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.”

As a team in the middle of relocation — the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020 — Oakland is obligated to give up one home game a season for an international contest. In 2016 and 2017 the Raiders played “host” to the Houston Texans and New England Patriots, respectively, at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca.

“You hate to lose a home game, honestly, but for the betterment of the game, I think it’s exciting,” Gruden said. “It’s great for the game of football.”

ESPN Seahawks reporter Brady Henderson contributed to this report.

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