It was a different post-practice locker-room environment for the Eagles than a typical Thursday at the NovaCare Complex. Players finished packing suitcases. They prepared their sleep plans. Each locker had a gray jacket with throwback, kelly green trim and "Eagles" across the chest, the Union Jack on the right arm, and London graphics — including an image of Big Ben — on the inside lining.
The players were not returning home after practice. Instead, they readied for an overnight flight to London for Sunday's game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"We've mentally prepared ourselves for this for a good 48 hours, trying to pack and make sure everything is right, because once we leave, we're not coming back," running back Corey Clement said. "If you don't have your passport, looks like you're not going, either."
The Eagles departed from Philadelphia on Thursday night. Their flight was scheduled to arrive at London Heathrow at 7:25 a.m. local time. There's not much downtime upon arrival. They are scheduled to practice at the London Irish training ground at 2:30 p.m. After practice, they have a community event with London schoolchildren, so it's going to be a long Friday.
"I really don't like red-eyes," tight end Zach Ertz said. "I have a tough time sleeping. I'm not thrilled about it, but everyone's doing it. It's going to be something we have to adjust to."
The Jaguars do it every year. Head coach Doug Marrone said his players know how they're going to feel, know what the flight will be like, and he stressed the importance of sleeping on the flight – and staying awake the next day. He said it's "not rocket science."
"Everyone pretty much has all the plans from a science standpoint and all that other stuff," Marrone said. "It's just a matter of the players believing it and going ahead and doing it. It's just a matter of – this part's tough, this part's tough – this is when you're going to start to feel better."
The Eagles have had "countless talks" about the schedule, linebacker Jordan Hicks said, and everyone is going to try to do what they can to fall asleep. Players aren't used to sleeping at 7 p.m., but they'll try different methods. The team is giving them travel suits. Some mentioned watching movies. Some have special earbuds. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld was excited about having his own row on the flight and has blue-light glasses. Defensive end Chris Long noted a method used by other transatlantic travelers.
"Just take a lot of pills, like normal people," Long said. "It's no different for football players."
The Eagles moved up Thursday's practice 30 minutes, but they kept the rest of their week the same. The team has tried to maintain its routine. The Eagles might be bleary-eyed at practice on Friday, but players insisted they'll be ready for the game.
"So far, it's been a normal week, in terms of install, in terms of practice," Hicks said. "I expect tomorrow to be a normal Friday, Saturday to be a normal Saturday, just at a different venue."
The Eagles promoted cornerback Chandon Sullivan from the practice squad to the active roster and placed defensive end Derek Barnett on injured reserve. Sullivan, an undrafted rookie, played for the Eagles during the preseason.
The Eagles traveled without linebacker Nate Gerry (knee/ankle), cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring), and running back Darren Sproles (hamstring); they will be declared out. Safety Corey Graham (hamstring) missed practice, but he's traveling with the team, so he could still play Sunday. Linebacker D.J. Alexander (quadriceps), tackle Lane Johnson (ankle), defensive tackle Haloti Ngata (calf), and tackle Jason Peters (biceps) were limited at practice. Running back Wendell Smallwood and cornerback Rasul Douglas were back after missing Wednesday's practice for personal reasons. Carson Wentz was a full participant.