By Bill Bradley, contributing editor
Jaguars head athletic trainer Scott Trulock and head strength and conditioning coach Tom Myslinski know more than enough about this trip. They have been preparing for it for nearly six months. The team left for London on Sunday night after playing in Cincinnati.
Trulock and Myslinski last week talked with NFL Evolution about the overseas trip, including preparing players mentally and physically, maintaining players' health and making sure players get enough sleep.
How many trips have you made to London?
Trulock: This is my first year with the Jaguars, but Tom was here last year when they went to London.
How different is it than planning a trip to, for instance, Oakland?
Trulock: I'm pretty much managing the medical component of it. Tom oversees a lot of the performance aspects of it. We see a lot of overlap there, but there's obviously different challenges that this trip poses. From the medical side, there's a couple of things. No. 1, much of it is the diagnostic process. When we're at our own facilities with our own X-rays and MRI machines, there's real simple ways we can evaluate players and make diagnostic decisions. For our situation, when we're leaving from Cincinnati to go over to London, we've had to prepare to go through that diagnostic process potentially (in London). ... That's part of the medical challenge. Also, one of the big challenges is the medications and the prescription meds. Obviously, the laws are different and they apply as we go through customs. It's been real important for us to make sure our players have their prescription meds and have as much as they need ahead of time because we're not able to dispense meds once we go overseas.
Myslinski: It's harder (for performance coaches) because we're traveling east, so we're traveling plus-five hours. From a Circadian rhythm standpoint, it makes it harder for us. There's an adaptation issue within the time zones crossed. The rule of thumb is to allow 1 1/2 days (to get used the time change) for every time zone crossed. The challenge is also we're departing from Cincinnati. We're recovering from the Cincinnati game to get prepped and ready to play Dallas in a week.
So you're trying to recover from the bumps and bruises on an eight-hour plane ride?
Myslinski: That is exactly right. We call it the big three -- sleep, nutrition and hydration. It's a matter of how quickly can guys catch up to get acclimated to those three and get on their normal schedule again.
How far ahead of time does a training staff start planning for this trip?
Trulock: We've been planning for this literally since the spring. As far planning, we've been looking since then at all the things we're going to need. For instance, one of things we're doing is to make sure that all of our players have compression socks after the (Cincinnati) game. Obviously when you get on a plane, you're in a pressurized cabin. Under normal circumstances it can cause swelling in the extremities. As Tom said, we will have just played a game and then we're getting on a plane for eight hours. ... Things like that require a lot of planning.
Tom, you mentioned sleep is a big aspect of this trip. How do you get the players back on a normal sleep cycle?
Myslinski: If you didn't just have a game (the Sunday before), you could stay in advance to adapt. But we do have a game and it's really just going and trying to adapt to Greenwich Mean Time. Probably when we get there we'll tell the guys ... if they are going to bed late or they go to bed early, how quickly they can adapt to the sleeping rhythm and their new Circadian cycle.
How much do both of you work in concert with coach Gus Bradley and the coaching staff to explain what needs to be done from a health standpoint for this trip?
Trulock: Our general manager Dave Caldwell and Gus Bradley are great. They certainly understood how important all these components are. This is something that they made a priority for us in planning and having instructions for the players in what to do. Like Tom said, just looking ahead to when we get there on Monday is tough enough. We have activities planned, such as a regeneration session when we get there to try to advise the players that it's OK to take a nap but not to sleep all afternoon and try to get adjusted on that time zone as soon as we get there. Our logistics and operations staff is great. They're very helpful in planning these events so we can get the players adjusted as soon as possible.
Is there anything in regards to workouts or performance training that changes with the trip?
Myslinski: In the weight room, we're treating this week as a (light workout) week, just because our guys need to adapt to a new environment. I know accommodations are going to be made on the practice field. That's how things are. We understand that. We've adjusted to it. We've given information to the coaches. They're sponges. It's great to be able to give them that information and they appreciate it.
Myslinski: Really, everybody helps out everybody. We were in the same situation last year and we asked around.
Trulock: One thing that has been talked about between the medical staffs and the trainers is the emergency response. This is just one nuance of the trip. But if we were to respond to an emergency and need to spineboard a player, we have bigger athletes than most sports do. Other than football teams, nobody uses a spineboard this size. We have some medical equipment like that which we have left over there so that teams have access to it. It's one of those planning components. Hopefully it doesn't happen, but we have to be prepared for an emergency. In a regular NFL stadium you would have all that there. We've made sure those pieces are in place to respond to that type of emergency.
What are some of the details that people might not realize that go into safety for this trip?
Trulock: Our operations staff does so much of the work to plan for the equipment to over there. (For instance,) our equipment manager has been learning what the fields are going to be like over there. We're going to be practicing on different fields and making sure our players have the correct footwear. From a health and safety standpoint, that's very important in finding the right cleats and cleat size. Even stuff like that can affect the health and safety and are done behind the scenes. Those guys do a tremendous job.
Is the medical and support staff different than a domestic road game?
Trulock: From that standpoint, we're bringing the normal staff in terms of trainers, physicians and our strength and conditioning coaches. It's the normal group that would go on a regular road trip.