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Vikings players getting all kinds of tips on how to handle six-hour time difference in London

Minnesota won in their previous 2 trips to London.

SPORTS-VIKINGS-PLAYERS-GETTING-ALL-KINDS-1-SP.jpg
Minnesota Vikings guard Ed Ingram looks around the stadium as he enters the field during the team's training camp at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on July 29, 2022.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press
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Rookie Ed Ingram is looking for all the advice he can get as the Vikings prepare to play the New Orleans Saints on Sunday in London.

“I’ve never been out of the country before,” Ingram, Minnesota’s starting right guard, said Wednesday. “I literally just got my passport during (spring drills). I don’t know what to expect at all.”

Thankfully for Ingram and other members on the team, they are getting plenty of advice of late about how to handle the six-hour time difference. Much of it has come from executive director of health and performance Tyler Williams, who played a key role in the Vikings’ decision to leave for London on Thursday night and arrive Friday morning.

The Vikings arrived earlier in two previous trips to London for Sunday games, and won both times. They beat Pittsburgh 34-27 in 2013 after leaving on Monday night and arriving Tuesday morning and defeated Cleveland 33-16 in 2017 after departing Wednesday night and arriving Thursday morning. And the Saints have been in London since Monday, flying out Sunday night from Charlotte, N.C., after a 22-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers.

“When I found out we were going to London, we did our due diligence,” Williams said of the Week 4 game, which was officially announced May 4. “We went to the drawing board and we consulted multiple sleep experts. With one of our partnerships with Sleep Number, we contacted some of their specialists to say, ‘Hey what’s the best process to get our guys performing their best?’ ”

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Williams spent the previous 15 years with the St. Louis and then Los Angeles Rams, and they went to London four times. He said the Rams were twice overseas for a longer period and twice for a shorter period, and he believed the latter worked better.

“Our bodies function on kind of an internal clock, which we call circadian rhythm, and our players function off of those, so our goal is to first and foremost keep their rhythm the same,” Williams said. “We call that rhythm being on Central Time. We like our players to have the advantage of their own beds, have the advantage of the normal food, the chefs they have, their normal training facility, their locker, just any type of recovery strategies.”

The Vikings will leave at about 7 p.m. Thursday after conducting normal practices Wednesday and Thursday at the TCO Performance Center, and players are being encouraged to sleep on the seven-hour flight as much as they can. A meal will be served shortly after takeoff, lights will be turned off, sleeping masks will be distributed and taking melatonin will be an option for players.

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After the Vikings arrive at about 8 a.m. London time, players will be encouraged to drink caffeine and to stay up during the day. They will have a practice Friday in London and then can sleep in Saturday morning. The Vikings will leave immediately after Sunday’s game, which will start at 8:30 a.m. CDT (2:30 p.m. in London) and be back in Minnesota at around 1 a.m. Monday.

Williams said the Vikings’ plan was put in place with their next game, Oct. 9 against Chicago at U.S. Bank Stadium, in mind. In their previous two trips to London, they had a bye week following the game.

“The goal is to not have (players) fully acclimate (in London) because the minute you fully acclimate, you’re going to have to fully acclimate back,” Williams said. “So the goal is to keep them on Central (Time) as much as possible, with knowing we’ll shift them a little bit.”

All of this sounds good to Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. He was with Washington in 2016 when the team left Thursday night, and he ended up throwing for 458 yards in a 27-27 tie with Cincinnati.

“It’s something our staff has really been strategizing on since we found out we were playing there this spring,” Cousins said. “I remember being here at (spring drills) and it coming up, talking about the best way to do things.”

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The strategy also sounds good to linebacker Jordan Hicks. He was with Philadelphia in 2018 when the Eagles left on a Thursday night for what would be a 24-18 win over Jacksonville in London.

“It’s a matter of making sure we get sleep on the flight over there and then making sure that we follow the protocol that they’ve laid out in terms of trying to trick your body into staying up or getting sleep at certain different times,” Hicks said.

Defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson, in his sixth season, has never played in London. He said he’s planning on drinking a lot of coffee after the team lands.

Ingram said he might also drink coffee though he hopes some of his favorite sports drinks with caffeine will be available. Considering Williams said the Vikings have “shipped over a ton of food,” players should have plenty of options.

“It’s going to be difficult, the time difference,” Ingram said. “I’m expecting a lot of us to be kind of off schedule. But they gave us a little schedule about when we get on the plane to get to sleep as quickly as possible. And I’m going to make sure I stay on that schedule and don’t take any naps (on Friday).”

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