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.

hide

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.

Vikings banners will fly over a giant tailgate party at the stadium, and the cheerleaders, coaches and players will appear at a Saturday fan rally on Regent Street that is expected to draw 600,000 people.

Some will travel from Minnesota, and some will come from the homeland of the original Vikings. Bagley said the team has sold about 3,000 tickets and expects followers from Norway and Sweden to make the shorter trip across the North Sea.

 

  • 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

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Baltimore 0
Philadelphia 0 Top 3rd Inning
NY Mets 0
Miami 1 Top 3rd Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cleveland 0 Top 2nd Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Chicago WSox 0
Texas 0 Top 3rd Inning
Houston 0
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
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
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
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 Delayed 9:55
(6) Auburn 38
(16) Clemson 21 3rd Qtr
(12) Georgia 21
Liberty 15 3rd Qtr
(23) North Carolina 21
Ohio U 14 3rd Qtr
Kent State 7
Louisiana Tech 0 1st Qtr 3:56
(4) Oklahoma 14
Stephen F Austin 0 1st Qtr 1:52
(20) Kansas State 7
Fresno State 0 1st Qtr 10:12
(15) USC 0
Southern Miss 0 1st Qtr 13:50
Miss State 0
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
Idaho 0 Delayed
Florida 0
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
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
Nevada
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
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
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
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
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
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(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
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
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
Louisiana
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
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(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
Texas
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
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 1st Half 44:55
Montreal 0
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
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
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 27 2nd Qtr 5:45
Indiana 28
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How many fantasy football teams do you draft?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close