Two Virgin Atlantic jumbo jets carrying a Vikings party of more than 150 people — players, coaches and other team personnel — departed for London on Wednesday night.
They were expected to land around 10 a.m., except their bodies will tell them it’s more like 4 a.m. after accounting for the six-hour time change. So sleep has been a big topic for the Vikings leading into Sunday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at Twickenham Stadium, a few days after the nine-hour flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Heathrow.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is approaching the trip differently by having the team depart Wednesday night and sleep on the plane as opposed to wait until the sun rises Thursday, like the Browns, to travel. The time difference becomes five hours once daylight savings time ends in Great Britain on Sunday.
“A lot of teams do all these things, and they go over there and get their butts beat,” Zimmer said. “Some teams do it differently and win. Arizona went over for the whole week last week [and lost 33-0]. At the end of the day, it’s about football and how you execute.”
Not only were the Cardinals destroyed by the Rams a week ago, Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer broke his arm.
Results vary, but the Vikings are trying to iron out as many kinks as possible caused by the 4,000-mile trip. Before the flight, Vikings players were instructed to limit caffeine intake, adjust sleep schedules ahead of time and even given “special glasses,” as receiver Jarius Wright said, to limit light exposure while using their smartphones. Some players said they’ll make sure to wear compression gear to keep existing injuries and swelling from being affected by pressure changes during the long flight.
While this is a business trip, players will get some time to themselves Saturday in London. Kicker Kai Forbath said he and some teammates will attend the Arsenal and Swansea City Premier League match at Emirates Stadium, which seats 60,000, nearly as many people as U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I’ve been to U.S. games before, but never [crowds] like this will be,” Forbath said.
Reiff a question mark
Receiver Stefon Diggs and left guard Nick Easton returned to practice Wednesday, meaning both could return to play the Browns after missing the past two games. In addition to a strained groin, Diggs is dealing with an ankle injury that limited him in practice. Quarterback Sam Bradford (knee) still is not practicing.
Left tackle Riley Reiff is a question mark for Sunday after he was held out of practice Wednesday. Tackle Rashod Hill took Reiff’s place at left tackle. Hill’s play for the Vikings has been impressive considering he was plucked from the Jaguars practice squad less than a year ago, but he has been more effective as a pass protector than run blocker in his limited snaps.
“Today was a little rusty, but I will correct my mistakes,” Hill said. “Just need to be ready. If Riley plays, or if Riley don’t play, just trying to contribute to the team.”
Forbath was named NFC special teams player of the week after his career-high six field goals vs. the Ravens, including two from beyond 50 yards. It’s Forbath’s second career award.
Forbath has made 32 of 33 field goals (97 percent) and 22 of 28 extra points (79 percent) since joining the Vikings.