It's only May, which means in the NFL world that OTAs are underway and teams are working to get better for the upcoming season. Very few of them are thinking through travel schedules for the season, but the Indianapolis Colts are.
That's because the Colts travel to London in week four of the 2016 season for an October 2 matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Colts haven't played in London before, so it's a new experience and one they are already thinking about how to handle.
The good news for the Colts is that they have someone on staff who has handled it before. Offensive line coach Joe Philbin took his team to London for games twice when he was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins, and the Colts are leaning on his experience to help them prepare for their own trip overseas this year.
“He’s been a great resource as far as that trip goes," head coach Chuck Pagano said earlier this week. "We’ve spent a great deal of time already in preparation for the London trip. Our people have been over there, our ops people. Joe has been great. There are a lot of ways to skin a cat. Teams have gone and spent a whole week over there. Teams have left on a Thursday and fly through the night and get rolling on Friday afternoon. We’re throwing around a lot of different things right now and obviously we’ve got a guy that’s been there a couple times that has been through what hotels do you stay at, where do you do the walkthroughs, acclimating from a time standpoint and adjusting that way. A lot of stuff to work through but he’s been a great resource.”
The Colts haven't yet made any decisions on what their plan is going to be, but Pagano is finding that his time spent coaching the Oakland Raiders a decade ago - a west coast team having to play several games in the eastern time zone - is proving beneficial as well.
“I mean, you’d love to try to keep things as normal as possible as far as the week goes," Pagano said. "Having been in Oakland in ‘05 and ‘06 and doing a lot of two-day trips traveling west to east, it’s a heck of a lot easier going that way from a time change standpoint. It’s still disruptive, and it’s hard to do. You like to stay in a routine and you like to keep things the same as much as possible, but again, we’re still looking at it and if we can keep things close to being as normal game week wise, preparation wise, if we could leave later. If we could leave Thursday night or something and make things work and stay over there a couple days and play Sunday and get home that’d be great.”
The travel schedule home to play the following Sunday isn't the biggest concern, as the Colts could realistically be home within the same range as they would be for some other games. It's the travel before the London game that they are especially having to think through, as they want to help offset the effects of jet lag and adjusting to the different time zone. They haven't made any decisions on that yet, but they have already started thinking though it.
It's an important thing to discuss, as the Colts will be playing a division opponent in what could be a crucial game. The AFC South is expected to be a close race once again this year, and the Jaguars are expected to be a much-improved team. The Colts will need to be at the top of their game for that matchup, so it's wise to spend time thinking through what the best way to make that possible is when it comes to travel.