Many frequent travelers can tell you that you do things better the second and third time you visit someplace than your rookie voyage. So, returning to London a year after clobbering the Oakland Raiders there, the Dolphins know what they’re dealing with when it comes to transatlantic regular-season football.
The flights. The fuss. The funky timing.
“It’s a football game. You don’t want to monopolize every single second of the players time because you could kind of wear them out a little bit,” Dolphins coach Joe Philbin said. “I thought we had a good plan, which we do this year. There’s time for them if they want to go have a meal in the city or do what they would normally do on a Friday evening. But we’re also having our normal practices, normal meetings, and try to get into the routine as quickly as we possibly can.”
(Of course, it’s the Dolphins third regular-season game at Wembley Stadium, but the first was back in 2007, at least two football operations purges ago).
Philbin said the Dolphins would put their sports science knowledge to use on the 8 1/2-hour flight which left South Florida Thursday evening.
“I just had [sports performance director] Wayne [Diesel] talk to the team right now about wearing compression things on the plane, about hydration when we get there,” Philbin said. “We’re going to have massage people there right away. Wayne’s going to be working on people. Our stretch people are going to be there to work it out. We’re going to go have a walk-through early in the afternoon London time. It will be good to get out in the sunlight, get the guys some fresh air and get moving [Friday].”
The second of the NFL’s three London games last year saw Detroit, with current Dolphins defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, edge Atlanta 22-21. Detroit got over there on the Tuesday before the game, giving themselves more adjustment time.
“It will be a little bit of an adjustment because we’re not going to have as much time,” Suh said Wednesday. “At the end of the day, I’ve traveled overseas many times, and I know how to personally get myself adjusted to their time zones and acclimate to where I’m comfortable.”
Perhaps the biggest change for the Dolphins will be what Detroit experienced — playing the early game.
Unlike past games, which kicked off at a normal Sunday afternoon time for the United States, but was Sunday night football in the UK, Detroit and Atlanta played at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard time. The two Eastern time zone teams got to experience to even a greater degree what West Coast teams do when they play at 1 p.m. on the East Coast.
NFL executive vice president of international Mark Waller said last week the change in kickoff time accommodated UK fans, who complained about getting home in Monday’s wee hours.
“One plus was U.S. fans who haven’t seen much benefit to these international games told us how much they liked having a game to watch Sunday morning,” Waller said. “We doubled our audience in Asia by playing in that window, it being Sunday night as opposed to early Monday morning.”
Dolphins left tackle Branden Albert (hamstring), tight end Jordan Cameron (groin), defensive tackle Earl Mitchell (back) were limited in practice Thursday. Tight end Dion Sims (concussion) and running back Jonas Gray (calf) didn’t practice.