There wasn’t much time for the Rams to do what is normally done after a typical game day in the NFL. That’s because about 28 hours after the 30-20 loss to the Packers, the team was on a plane to London to begin preparations for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.
They arrived early Tuesday morning and were quickly at an NFL Play 60 event with about 500 kids. Wednesday morning, it was business as usual as much as possible with a practice at the Arsenal soccer club facilities. Making the transition easier was the fact that owner Stan Kroenke also owns Arsenal.
The Rams’ approach differs from the Patriots. They won’t leave until Thursday night and arrive in London early Friday morning.
Said coach Jeff Fisher, “We talked to other clubs. I’ve been over here several times in the preseason in the American Bowls and we just felt that the fact that Mr. Kroenke has a facility here, we felt that it would probably be best to come over early to put the travel behind us and the time difference behind us and get settled. That’s what we’ve done thus far.”
Before leaving, Fisher said, "Our biggest challenge is just acclimating to the time change and the long flight. They're all excited. They know the challenges associated with going 'across the pond,' as they say, and they're looking forward to it. They'll have some (free) time. We'll follow the normal schedule as close as we can there through the week."
In staying home, the Patriots practiced Tuesday, knowing little will likely get accomplished Friday after a night of traveling, albeit with a shorter flight than the Rams.
Said coach Bill Belichick, “We’re going to try to add a little bit extra time on the back end to rest and kind of get adjusted and all that. (We’ll) kind of take Friday as a travel day and obviously we’re traveling Thursday night but getting adjusted, getting settled and all that, we’ll see how much we actually get done that day. I don’t want to say it’s a lost day, but I think it’s certainly a transition day for us. Saturday, hopefully we can get back into our regular routine on Saturday and treat Saturday like a normal Saturday.”
For Fisher, he believed it was mission accomplished after Wednesday’s practice. The coaching staff did most of the final game-planning after arriving Tuesday.
He said, “I’m very pleased and proud with the way the guys have responded to the time change. They brought a lot of energy to the field; we had a great practice.”
Quarterback Sam Bradford agreed, saying, “I thought we had a really good practice today. Obviously, it’s been a long past two days, but it felt good to actually get outside and move around a little bit after having been on the plane for close to eight hours and then yesterday really not doing much. So it was nice to get on the field. I thought we had a really solid Wednesday and we’ll look to build on that tomorrow.”
Not your usual day off: It was Regent’s Park in central London where the NFL Play 60 event took place Tuesday, normally a day off for NFL players. The Rams had a ride of more than 30 minutes to their hotel and after getting somewhat settled, left for the event after about an hour. Many observers noted that a large number of the kids were gathered around Rams kicker Greg Zuerlein and punter Johnny Hekker.
Laughing linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar told the team’s website, “I walked over here and the kickers and punters have 30 kids with them already. This might be my first time I’m jealous of a punter.”
Quarterback Sam Bradford said, "I'm a little tired right now. But it's fun to be out here with these kids. They are definitely excited to learn something from us about American football."
Bradford said Wednesday about the time with the kids, “It was very apparent that we were in a foreign country. Just the youth here compared to the youth in America, I mean, they had very little awareness to what American football was. I think it surprised me a little bit just how little they knew about our game, which I think is one of the reasons it’s such a great opportunity for the NFL to come over here. These kids aren’t exposed to American football and if we want to expand our game, we’re going to have to do things like this to get them active and get them interested in learning more about the game.”
Asked to compare the football skills with youth in the United States, Bradford said, “You really can’t even compare them because I mean, I have a feeling that yesterday some of the kids we were dealing with, it was probably the first time they’d ever seen an American football. Obviously they play a lot of soccer over here. I asked a couple of them what they played and the predominant answers were soccer and cricket. I think, obviously, they're just brought up a little differently in terms of the sports they're exposed to. It really is kind of hard to compare them talking about football.”
It’s somewhat surprising that the NFL doesn’t require teams playing in the game to spend the entire week there. Chris Parsons. NFL vice president of international business, told the Rams’ website, “When we first started playing games here we wanted to bring teams not just to play games here but we wanted to try to integrate them into the community. So every year we have actually been able to do that. When teams are doing what the Rams are doing this year and coming over for the entire week, it’s fantastic.
“The off day is often used as a chance to do some things in the community. So every year we find the kids are much more engaged and much more interested and want to be more involved. So this is our biggest effort yet getting 500 kids out. And the Rams have just blown us all away with the fact that they sent the entire team down here. We couldn’t be happier.”
Amendola on the practice field: Wide receiver Danny Amendola was catching passes from quarterback Sam Bradford in the limited work he did in practice Wednesday. It was the first time back on the practice field for Amendola since Oct. 4 when he suffered a sprained sternoclavicular joint against the Cardinals.
Originally, it was said that Amendola would miss at least four weeks, and that is likely still the case. Running around catching passes without contact is much different than playing a game. It does provide some optimism, however, that he could be available for the Nov. 11 game against San Francisco, the week after the team’s bye. That would be more than five weeks after the injury occurred.
Asked about what it would mean to get Amendola back, Bradford said, “It would mean a lot. Obviously I’ve said it before: a lot of our offense runs through Danny when he’s healthy. You look at the Washington game when he caught 15 balls and everything really started with him. There’s no doubt that we miss him, but I think in the past couple weeks, the guys that have had to step up and make plays because he's not there, I think they’ve done a great job and I look for them to do the same this week. Everyone has really elevated their game since he went down.”
Were you surprised to see him back on the field? Said Bradford, “It was really good to see him, obviously. Me and him are pretty close; we talked about it last week. He told me that he was going to be out there with us today doing some stuff. I was a little surprised – just from the initial reports, I thought it was going to be quite a bit longer for him to get back on the field. But anytime you get him back out there, I think it just brought a whole spark to the whole group today and just lifted everyone’s spirits a little bit seeing him back out there. Even though he didn’t do a whole lot, just having him on the field really energized our group.”