For the first time in their 20 year history the Titans will play a game off of American soil when they meet the Chargers Sunday at 8:30 a.m. CST at London’s Wembley Stadium.
The game is a great opportunity to display the Titans brand, as well as introduce Nashville, Tennessee to a global audience. But the trip presents challenges for a football team seven weeks into a grueling season.
For starters, there’s an eight hour flight involved, which is about twice the length of the charter flight to any other NFL city. Then once you arrive in London you have to adjust your body clocks forward to account for the six hour time difference. Sunday’s kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. GBT, which is about the time people normally will be walking into church or rolling out of bed back in Nashville.
The Titans’ operational staff spent hundreds of hours this season, including multiple trips to London to survey sites, to come up with a plan that was the least disruptive for players and gives the team the best chance to win on Sunday. After all, the eight hour flight home will be long enough. No need to make it longer with a loss.
Some teams have elected to fly over to London early the week of their game in an effort to get players acclimated to the time change and their surroundings. The Titans, like many other teams, are electing to make the trip later in the week so they can get most of their work in at the team facility in Nashville.
“It’s the product of many, many hours of work by our ops staff,” Titans General Manger Jon Robinson said. “They made several trips over there to take a look at everything and we decided we wanted to keep our players in as close to a normal routine as possible.”
In order to accomplish that, the Titans changed their weekly schedule. Normally the team gathers for corrections and treatment on Monday, then gives players Tuesday off before they reconvene Wednesday for the start of game week preparations. With their flight to London scheduled for Thursday evening, the Titans gave players Monday off, then brought them in Tuesday morning for corrections and turned their attention to the Chargers that afternoon.
The goal is to put the entire gameplan in by the end of practice on Thursday, before they leave town.
“We want to get everything in before we get to the plane,” head coach Mike Vrabel said. “Because when you get over there you don’t know how everybody’s going to feel. You’ve got the time change, and traffic, you know whatever side of the street you drive on over there. We just want to give us the best chance to win on Sunday.”
The Titans are expected to land about 6:30 Friday morning. From the airport, they will go straight to the team hotel in suburban London where they will hold a practice open to European media at about 1:30 in the afternoon.
After a short youth event following practice, players will then have the rest of the day to attend meetings or explore the city with their families. Saturday’s team walkthrough will be closed just as it normally is.
The NFL does provide teams the option of taking their bye the week following their London game, which is what the Titans chose to do, hopefully eliminating any carryover effect the long trip has on the rest of the season.
It’s a historic opportunity, but it’s also a trying week physically on coaches and players. The goal for the Titans is simple. Go beat the Chargers.
But there’s still nine games left after this one, and making sure the team is ready for those is just as important as the plan for this one.