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Tuesday, 18 December, 2018

NFL at Wembley - how the teams are handling the eight-hour time difference

Andrew Wilsher visits this week's Wembley teams at their practices

Seattle meet Oakland in the regular season for the first time in four years at Wembley
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What started as a pipe dream has grown into something no NFL fan could have imagined 15 years ago.

On October 28, 2007, the Miami Dolphins faced the New York Giants at Wembley Stadium in the first regular-season game in London.

Eleven years later and English national stadium is set to host three matches on consecutive Sundays, with only Carolina, Green Bay and Houston yet to play in the UK.

The drawback for teams playing at Wembley is notably the time difference, which will impact this week’s teams more than most.

Seattle, from Washington state, and Oakland, from California, are both west-coast teams and therefore have to adjust to an eight-hour switch. While the game’s 6pm kickoff shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, practising at what would normally be 4am in Seattle is no easy feat for Pete Carroll’s side.

The Seahawks practice at their training camp in Watford on Thursday

But the Seahawks head coach said his team have responded well to the change, and he’s optimistic they can put on a good show.

He said: “Our club travels well and we’re hopeful that we’ll make this a good trip and earn what we’ve come here for.

“We did our research and decided that coming early was the best thing. We took full advantage of a nine-hour flight, which wasn’t too long.”

“Not everyone handled the trip exactly the same but that’s why we focus on practising immediately and doing stuff that we’re familiar with. Everything worked out great. We’ll be ready.”

Pete Carroll reveals how he plans to tackle the time zone issue

The Raiders, however, have taken a different approach. Oakland made the decision to arrive in London 24 hours later on Friday afternoon, with just walk-through practices scheduled before Sunday.

Head coach Jon Gruden explained why: "We did a lot of research on it, and we're just doing the best thing we think for our players. Get the proper preparation at home, and then go to London and get ready to play on Sunday.”

Traditionally teams aim to get to London as early as possible, with some, including the Chargers who play at Wembley next week, requesting road games on the east coast the week before teir transatlantic trip to ease themselves across the timezones.

A trip to London over the summer helped Russell Wilson prepare for the journey this time round

Even Seattle’s arrival on Thursday could be deemed tardy, but Oakland wide receiver Amari Cooper trusts his coach’s choice of a quick visit.

He said: “I feel like we have enough time to adjust. I’ve never been in London, and I’m really excited to be here. This is only my third time out of the country, so it’s a nice opportunity for me to get out and explore.”

Amari Cooper hopes to make his first trip to London a memorable one

While the chance to see what London has to offer is on the agenda, Raiders rookie defensive tackle Maurice Hurst Jnr made clear that everyone in the locker rooms knows what they’re here to do.

He said: “It’s a business trip, and we’re here to play football.”

Both teams look excited and focused for the showdown at Wembley, but only one will make the long flight home as the victors.

Adaptability to the time and conditions will play a key role in determining that. Each team has their own plan on adjusting and we will find out which paid dividends on the Wembley scoreboard.


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