Green Bay Packers arrive in London ahead of Sunday's game feeling like they have to 'kind of just get through' Friday
WATFORD, England – Matt LaFleur didn’t look bleary eyed, but his first words at his Friday news conference still conveyed the disoriented sense he and his team were going through after their flight arrived early Friday morning.
LaFleur’s news conference was at 12:05 p.m. local time, which was 6:05 a.m. back in Green Bay, and he said he’d gotten maybe a couple of hours sleep on the flight.
“What time is it?” LaFleur said. “I’m trying to figure it out right now.”
The Packers are the lone NFL team that hasn’t played in London, so this is new territory for most of the team, though LaFleur has been here twice, as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Rams and Tennessee Titans.
Some teams travel to London early in the week, but it appears most do like LaFleur and leave Thursday. That’s the schedule the Rams and Titans used on LaFleur’s previous trips. In 2017, the Rams defeated Arizona 33-0 and, the next year, the Titans lost to the Los Angeles Chargers 20-19.
One goal was for players to sleep as much as they can on the approximately 7-hour flight. To that end, the Packers’ plane has sleep pods that fold out to a flat bed for many of the players. But pods or not, not all players can sleep on planes. Receiver Allen Lazard said he hardly slept even though he had a pod.
“Kind of just get through today,” Lazard said after Friday’s practice, “hopefully get a nice sleep tonight, set us up for success on Sunday.”
The Packers hit the ground running after arriving in London a little before 7 a.m. local time Friday. They wanted to make sure the players stayed awake until at least 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. Friday, then they can get a long night’s sleep. At some players’ urging, LaFleur moved the practice and meeting schedule up so the players didn’t have any downtime in the rooms when some might have nodded off.
Their jog-through practice started shortly after LaFLeur’s news conference.
“We don’t want them to take a nap after this (practice) and then be all kind of out of whack for the game,” LaFleur said.
On a normal game week, the Packers’ coaching staff teaches the game plan to the players in segments Wednesday through Friday. But this week, LaFleur condensed that to Wednesday and Thursday, so the players wouldn’t have demanding classroom work on Friday when their sleep-deprived attention spans might waver.
Friday practices are usually on the short and light side but include a couple of full-speed red zone periods. But because the team basically got off the red-eye flight, took the long trip to its hotel, and then not long after was on the practice field, this practice was a jog-through start to finish.
They practiced on a field on their hotel grounds in the London suburb of Watford. The practice field already was lined because the New Orleans Saints had stayed there last week.
After practice, the players greeted a group of youths who were going to play in an NFL-sponsored flag football event in the afternoon. The players were then available for interviews walking off the practice field. Tight end Marcedes Lewis, who at 38 is the second-oldest player on the team, has played multiple games in London as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars and said he prefers going earlier in the week.
“It’s all in what you do with your time,” Lewis said. “If you’re not sleeping, you need to be hydrating because that helps get rid of the jet lag. At the end of the day, though, the other team has to do the same, nobody’s feeling sorry for you.”
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Though the Packers didn’t do anything full speed Friday, they did have a full practice Wednesday. LaFleur likened the work week to playing a Thursday game, when there’s no full-speed practice and the emphasis is on recovery and teaching the game plan in a compressed timeframe.
“I feel pretty good,” Lazard said after practice. “Obviously got done with practice and everything. Body got more loose, that’s all I really needed today. As good as I need to be on a Friday morning.
“The hardest part of the week is the Wednesday through Friday period of obviously practicing stateside, packing, traveling and getting here. Once today is over, that will end the rough part of the week.”