Vikings aim at smooth transition for London 'home' game

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2013 - 1:06 AM

Team is striving to put players at ease before Sunday’s “home” game. Biscuit mix, coffee and favorite socks will be waiting.


Rams running back Steven Jackson, left, was caught by Patriots middle linebacker Brandon Spikes during last year's NFL game at London's Wembley Stadium. The Vikings and Steelers will play each other there Sunday.

Photo: Matt Dunham, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The first time he traveled to London with the Vikings, Dennis Ryan learned that sharing a mother tongue with the British does not guarantee perfectly clear communication. Before a preseason game at Wembley Stadium in 1983, his hosts were stumped when he asked how to get the coaches to the press box; when they suggested a crane might help, he realized they thought he was talking about team buses, not team bosses.

The Vikings’ equipment manager hasn’t encountered that kind of epic misunderstanding during preparations for this week’s return visit. Still, in a country where the word “football’’ conjures visions of David Beckham, team officials have taken great care to ensure nothing is lost in translation. Months of planning went into Sunday’s NFL International Series game between the Vikings and Pittsburgh at Wembley Stadium, with the goal of making players and spectators feel as if they’re in a sleek European version of the Metrodome.

The Vikings will send their cheerleaders, the Skol Line drummers, the Gjallarhorn and 20,000 pounds of gear across the pond. Their hotel will be transformed into a mini-Winter Park, complete with replicas of the team’s weight room and meeting rooms. Wembley, one of the world’s most famous stadiums, will be decked out with Vikings banners and videos.

“We’re trying to make it as seamless as possible, so it’s just like a normal home game for us,’’ Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “We’re very excited to get over there and be in such a premier game in front of an international audience.’’

By mid-September, Ryan had shipped 50 boxes of stuff, including the team’s preferred coffee and players’ favorite socks. “I’m more familiar now with the language they speak,’’ Ryan said with a laugh. “We’ve been planning and organizing since late June. We want players and coaches to have all the comforts of home.’’

Even though the Vikings are traveling 4,300 miles to get to London, it is officially a home game. The team will leave Monday evening on an overnight charter flight; a second charter, carrying the entire front-office staff, spouses, corporate sponsors and others, will depart Wednesday.

The game is the seventh in the NFL International Series, which began in 2007 as part of the league’s push to make American football a global commodity. This season, for the first time, there will be two games, with Jacksonville playing San Francisco on Oct. 27. Both sold out quickly in a stadium that holds 84,500.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in June that he wants to expand the series to three games per year, and there has been discussion of putting an NFL team in London. According to Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley, the NFL’s fan base in the United Kingdom has doubled to 11.3 million since the series began.

“The league wants to strengthen their brand and expand their fan base,’’ Bagley said. “That also goes for the Vikings in terms of our brand. We’re happy and proud to take the show on the road.’’

Team officials began exploring the logistics of playing in London in 2011. The Vikings were chosen to participate last fall, and several staff members have since visited the hotels, stadium and other venues to prepare.

The team will spend its first three days in a hotel an hour outside the city center, where a practice field has been set up by the same NFL staff that readies fields for the playoffs and Super Bowl.

A hard-sided tent has been constructed next to the field to house a weight room that will have all the equipment the Vikings use at home. Team operations coordinator Paul Martin also is overseeing setup of a players’ lounge with American TV channels.

Spielman said he was shocked at the effort and expense put into the venues, which have been used by other NFL teams playing in London. The lounge, Martin added, actually is nicer than the one at Winter Park.

“Everything we need for practice will be just like we have [at Winter Park],’’ he said. “Inside the hotel, it’s kind of like our [training camp] dorm at Mankato. If the linebackers have their own meeting room here, they’ll have it over there. We want to keep things comfortable and seamless.’’

To that end, the team had a sleep specialist from the Mayo Clinic speak to players about adapting to the six-hour time difference. Geji McKinney, the Vikings’ director of food service operations, also will oversee meal preparation to ensure the players are served the foods they need and want.

The hotel restaurant will be turned over to the Vikings for their exclusive use during their stay. McKinney visited the kitchen, sent recipes to the chefs and shipped some items she couldn’t find in London. Turkey burgers, Southern seasonings, hot sauces and American ketchup all had to be packed and sent. And biscuits, one of the players’ favorite foods, were completely foreign.

“To [the British], a biscuit is a cookie,’’ McKinney said. “I went to a KFC over there and asked for a two-piece and a biscuit, and they looked at me like I was crazy. I had to ship over Bisquick so we could make our biscuits from scratch. ’’

On game day, the Vikings’ staff will oversee a very purple production. The team has made videos outlining the franchise’s history and profiling current and past players, which will be shown on Wembley’s video boards.

  • related content

  • The NFL in London

    Monday September 23, 2013

    Some facts about the NFL International Series and Sunday’s game between the Vikings and Pittsburgh:• The NFL began the series...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


NY Yankees 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Toronto 2
Detroit 3 Bottom 3rd Inning
Chicago WSox 5
Chicago Cubs - F. Doubront 1:15 PM
St. Louis - J. Masterson
Cincinnati - A. Simon 3:05 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 3rd Qtr 10:55
UAB 24
(7) UCLA 21 3rd Qtr 7:33
Virginia 17
Western Mich 14 3rd Qtr 15:00
Purdue 23
(5) Ohio State 13 3rd Qtr 11:15
Navy 14
Appalachian St 0 3rd Qtr 9:00
Michigan 42
Ga Southern 17 3rd Qtr
NC State 3
Boston College 2:00 PM
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Marshall 2:30 PM
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 3:00 PM
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Chicago 6:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters



Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 preseason     
Aug 8 - vs. Oakland 7 pmX10-6
Aug 16 - vs. Arizona 7:30 pmX30-28
Aug 23 - at Kansas City 7 pmX30-12
Aug 28 - at Tennessee 7 pmX19-3
2014 regular season     
Sep 7 - at St. Louis Noon
Sep 14 - vs. New England Noon
Sep 21 - at New Orleans Noon
Sep 28 - vs. Atlanta 3:25 pm
Oct 2 - at Green Bay 7:25 pm
Oct 12 - vs. Detroit Noon
Oct 19 - at. Buffalo Noon
Oct 26 - at Tampa Bay Noon
Nov 2 - vs. Washington Noon
Nov 9 - Bye
Nov 16 - at Chicago Noon
Nov. 23 - vs. Green Bay Noon
Nov. 30 - vs. Carolina Noon
Dec 7 - vs. NY Jets Noon
Dec 14 - at Detroit Noon
Dec 21 - at Miami Noon
Dec 28 - vs. Chicago Noon




question of the day

Poll: Who would you rather have on your team?

Weekly Question