After landing in London, Packers get acclimated to their new surroundings

Productive Friday practice plays a big part in team’s reset

Packers hold Friday practice outside The Grove Hotel in London

LONDON – After arriving with the London sunrise a few hours earlier, a grinning Matt LaFleur took it upon himself to ask the first question of his pre-practice news conference on Friday.

"What time is it?" said the Packers' head coach in a joking fashion as he stepped to the podium. "I'm trying to figure it out right now."

Yes, LaFleur was aware of the noon local time, but his humor offered a glimpse of the immediate aftereffects of his team's 7-hour overnight flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

It served as purpose, though, as the Packers started to acclimate both their minds and bodies heading into the franchise's first international regular-season game this Sunday against the New York Giants at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The team got as much sleep as it could on the flight over, with some players and coaches faring better than others. Once on the ground, the Packers kept players busy in both the meeting room and on a practice field that's adjoined to the team hotel.

This is old hat for tight end Marcedes Lewis, who played in four London games as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In fact, one of his most memorable games occurred in London when he caught three Blake Bortles touchdowns in a 44-7 obliteration of the Baltimore Ravens in 2017.

It was around his third trip to London that Lewis feels he began to master his routine. Based on that experience, the 6-foot-6, 267-pound tight end liked the energy and enthusiasm he saw from the team during Friday's practice.

Lewis also believes LaFleur hit all the right notes while preparing the Packers for their first regular-season game abroad, checking the temperature of the locker room with the veterans.

"He always does a good job. He's super receptive to not just other coaches but players and being able to hear guys out, and open to getting better," said Lewis of LaFleur. "I think he did a great job with getting us here and getting us ready, trying to keep us on our schedule as much as possible."

The Packers altered their usual process on a few matters, including the game-planning process. LaFleur said the team had its entire plan installed for the Giants in before leaving for London.

With that in mind, the Packers used Friday's practice as more of a walk-through. While centered and focused, the practice had an energetic and playful vibe to it, all things considered.

All-Pro cornerback Jaire Alexander even stuck around afterward to play with the kids participating in the Play 60 event that took place, punting a few balls their way. It's all part of the fun.

"I'm excited about it. You don't get to play in London too often," Alexander said. "I'm just grateful to be here."

Alexander joked most of the team is running on "four or five cups of coffee," but not him. "I'm natural," the five-year cornerback quipped. "I'm gonna get some meditation. That'll wake me up."

The Packers' goal was to keep players up as long as possible to help reset their body clocks. While Lewis estimates most of the roster would turn in well before curfew, they still had a little time, and energy, to enjoy London once the workday was over

The Green Bay Packers held practice outside The Grove Hotel in London on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022.

Lewis said he had some friends in Downtown London he was planning to meet for dinner, while quarterback Aaron Rodgers and receiver Allen Lazard had plans to watch the United States national women's soccer team's friendly match with England.

Then, there's sixth-year linebacker Eric Wilson, who's experiencing a little déjà vu after flying to London last weekend as a member of the New Orleans Saints' practice squad.

Coincidentally, the Packers are staying at the same hotel and playing at the same venue as the Saints did for their matchup with Minnesota seven days earlier.

In between the two games, Wilson also flew from New Orleans to Green Bay to sign with the Packers Wednesday. Wilson said he had a laugh upon learning he was headed back over the pond with his new team this week.

"It's no big deal. I don't mind it," Wilson said. "It's fun to travel and go overseas and play in different places. Even when we travel in the states, it's fun. I'm trying to make the most of it in the business class."

As exhausting as Friday felt for the players and coaches, the Packers believe a relatively normal Saturday will help reset their minds on the main reason for the trip: a fourth straight victory.

At the end of the day, the Packers have a job to do against a New York Giants team that ruled out seven players on Friday, including receivers Kadarius Toney, Kenny Golladay and rookie second-round pick Wan'dale Robinson.

"I think the schedule will be to our advantage to acclimate as much as we can," Lazard said. "Obviously today, Friday, is going to be a little bit harder, coming off the plane, going straight to practice and meetings, and then just kind of getting through today. Hopefully get a nice sleep tonight, set us up for a successful Sunday."

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