London Calls the Eagles
(973espn.com) - For the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium is an annual thing.
For the Eagles, it's anything but and that has many believing the Jags will have the advantage in their home away from home for Breakfast at Wembley.
Sunday's game will mark the sixth straight year Jacksonville has played in the United Kingdom and the Jags have won in three consecutive trips but any "home" loyalty at the historic stadium may be mitigated by the notoriously well-traveling Eagles fans. According to StubHub.com, 41 percent of the tickets purchased to the NFL's latest international affair emanated from the Philadelphia area.
The bigger issue than environment, however, is the logistics and the normalcy of making the trip every year is just not there for the Eagles, who tried to keep their routine in place as much as possible.
The team held its typical Wednesday and Thursday practices, with the latter being moved up a half-hour, at the NovaCare Complex before setting off to Heathrow on Thursday night. The players were instructed to sleep on the plane and when they arrived in London Friday, it was basically off to the Hazelwood Rugby Complex, home of the London Irish RC, in Sunbury-on-Thames for the final full-scale practice before Sunday's game.
"It's not rocket science," said Jags coach Doug Marrone when discussing the travel, telling Philadelphia-area reporters that you sleep on the plane and stay awake the next day. By Saturday everything should be back to normal as far as one's body clock goes.
"It's tough, but we prepared for it," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said before practice on Friday in London. "Obviously from having an advance team come out and scout the area and the hotels and the NFL does a great job in doing that and helping provide a lot of information for us. I was over here a couple years ago with the Chiefs, and today is just about keeping the guys moving and everybody going. As soon as we got to the hotel, we got them up, got them moving again, had our normal Friday meetings, and now we're out here practicing. It’s a little bit of an adjustment, but we'll make it through."
On Saturday the Eagles are planning on a typical work day with time for the players to take in some of the culture around London.
"We're going to have our typical Saturday morning, so we'll work for two, three hours Saturday morning, still have a little bit of a walk-through type practice and keep [the players] going," Pederson said. "But really after that, just let them relax and enjoy the time. If they want to see something, they can go see something and experience the time, too, while they're here."
Three players -- running back Darren Sproles (hamstring), cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring) and linebacker Nate Gerry (ankle, knee) did not make the trip from Philadelphia and while veteran safety Corey Graham (hamstring) did accompany the team to the U.K. he was ruled out. Defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (calf), did travel and will be a game-time decision.
"He's been doing well, trending up," Pederson said of Ngata.
The potential new face in the lineup is undrafted rookie cornerback Chandon Sullivan, who was promoted from the practice squad after Derek Barnett was placed on injured reserve due to season-ending rotator cuff surgery.
"Gosh, this kid has just done everything right," Pederson said of Sullivan. "He's put himself in a position to help us, and we're excited about the opportunity for him, and it's a great opportunity to step in and play. We'll see how much time he gets, but it's a big opportunity for him."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen