LONDON — The Baltimore Ravens landed at Heathrow Airport after a transatlantic flight at 8 a.m. Friday and were stunned by hundreds of fans greeting them.
Six hours later, the Ravens were on the practice field, where they received another pleasant surprise.
“I honestly thought we’d be zombies walking around out here,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “I feel like personally, since I’ve been on my feet, I’ve been pretty good. Today in meetings earlier today, I was a little bit tired. But ever since I’ve been up and moving around, I felt pretty good. I thought practice was pretty typical for a Friday. Obviously, if we’re all a half-step slower, you probably can’t tell as much but it felt pretty good. It felt pretty good today.”
The Ravens play the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday in a battle of newcomers and old professionals in terms of the British experience. This is the Ravens’ first game outside the United States, and this is the fifth straight year the Jaguars are playing in England.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh was closely watching his players to see if any jet lag from the 7 1/2-hour flight showed up in practice.
“I was really watching that to see how our guys would handle that part of it but the answer is really, as crazy enough as it is, is no,” Harbaugh said. “Our guys have been great. I just complimented them. We had a great practice. Guys got off the plane. Most of them slept. I know they were sleeping. I heard a couple of guys wake up with dreams or whatever, scream out in the middle of the night. We’re getting those guys checked out right now. We had a great practice, great meetings. We’re going to spend some time doing some recovery stuff at the hotel and then we’ll get some dinner and probably most of the guys will get to bed.”
Flacco said his injured back, which sidelined him for all of training camp and the preseason, held up well on the long flight.
“They took care of us with the plane,” Flacco said “We have no complaints there. We were able to get some rest. We’ve been on long flights before. With the time change and the fact that we flew overnight, we tried to take advantage of that. Yeah, I feel good.”
The Ravens received a warm welcome when a large crowd gathered inside the airport terminal and gave high-fives to players as they walked past.
“It’s pretty special when you can share this experience, not only with your teammates and the organization but fans that support you,” said safety Eric Weddle, who previously played a game in London with the Chargers. “It’s pretty cool that they make the trek from the East Coast. I came in ’08. There wasn’t anyone from San Diego because it’s so far away. But it’s awesome. I hope to see them all at the game and hopefully put on a good performance for them.”
It’s even more impressive that not all the Ravens’ fans at the airport came from Baltimore.
“We had Ravens’ fans from the States. We had Ravens’ fans from Great Britain, I think,” Harbaugh said. “I heard a couple of accents. It was fun. It wasn’t Dundalk [Maryland] either. It’s just been great being here. We’re appreciative of it. We’re really excited to play the game.”