WATFORD, England – The Minnesota Vikings are wondering if all the quality time they are spending together in London is really what they need to turn their season around.
Minnesota plays the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Wembley Stadium, an NFL International Series matchup featuring a pair of 0-3 teams.
Traveling abroad and adjusting to the jet lag and time difference is a challenge. Plus, there is all that time stuck in the hotel with your teammates, coaches and front office staff.
"I don't think we needed the distraction of traveling to another country to play a football game when we're trying to right the ship," defensive end Jared Allen said Thursday at the team's practice facility outside London. "But at same time if you use the time properly, you're kind of secluded and everyone is focused on winning the football game, then it could work. It's all about how people handle it."
Minnesota is staying at a rural hotel outside of London where England's national soccer team usually trains before international matches. A golf course surrounds the grounds. Apart from using the pools and baths, Vikings players have gotten into nightly games of bocci.
Coach Leslie Frazier thinks the formula could work.
"In London, the team is doing things with one another so it's creating a bond, and friendships that will remain," he said. "I think it helps. It creates a chemistry that you need, a trust factor that is so important in team sports. Everyone has adjusted to the time schedule. The guys seem to be OK."
The prospect of setting up a permanent NFL franchise in London one day has been an ever-present topic this week, but the travel drain appears to keep players and coaches from completely endorsing the idea.
"You could put a team (in London) but it's a lot to ask for a player," Allen said. "I wouldn't sign over here being that every road trip is 3-4-5 days away from your family, plus 11 hours for West Coast trips. It's tough on the players, family members, and logistically tough."
After just three days in Britain, Allen sounded like someone who wouldn't sign up for the experience again.
"I love my teammates but I really enjoy going home and being with my wife and daughter and being away from people," Allen said. "This is not high school or college. We get paid to win football games. We can all bond later."
Allen was pleased his team will at least avoid the jeers the players heard during Sunday's 31-27 home loss to the Cleveland Browns. He is just not sure what to expect from the local fans.
"I watched a couple of soccer matches, and those people get (into) it," Allen said. "Just don't storm the field and we'll be good."
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