Tyler Williams' job this week is to essentially trick the body clocks of 53 Vikings players and their coaching staff into thinking a game in London is business as usual for not only this week but next week when the team won't have the typical bye that follows an overseas game.
"The goal is to keep them on Central time as much as possible," said Williams, the team's executive director of player health and performance. "We know we'll shift them a little bit. We just won't shift them all the way there."
Now is the easy part. Unlike Sunday's designated home team, New Orleans, which flew to London from Charlotte the day after Sunday's loss to Carolina, the Vikings have been sleeping in their own beds and will keep practicing as normal at TCO Performance Center through Thursday afternoon before boarding their flight at 6:30 that evening.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins followed a similar travel schedule when his Washington team played the Bengals in London in 2016. He threw for a career-high and London-record 458 yards in a 27-27 tie. He took neither side Wednesday when asked whether leaving early or late in the week presents an advantage.
"There's pros and cons to both," he said. "I can understand why [the Saints] left when they did. I can understand why we're leaving when we are. I think it goes both ways."
Williams was with the Rams on four trips to London. They left early twice and late twice. Williams and the sleep experts with whom he consulted believe leaving late is the better option.
The hard part starts Thursday night when the team charter departs on a seven-and-a-half-hour flight for a city that's six hours ahead of Central time, landing close to 8 a.m. London time.
"You probably want to sleep the whole day when you get there," defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson said.
That's not an option.
"Our goal is to hopefully get the players to sleep on the flight," Williams said. "Get there, wake them up, move them, get the flight off us, go through what would be, quote-unquote, a normal Friday for these guys.
"Have practice, go through some of those normal meetings and then hopefully crash that night. Get as much sleep as they can. Go through a walk through, keep them up Saturday as much as we can and go play the game. Get back over here and instill a really good recovery strategy."
Williams said the first hurdle is getting players to sleep on the plane. Cutting out screen time, limiting light exposure and, if need be, taking melatonin to encourage sleep are key, he said.
Seven and a half hours later, Williams will be on the other end of the sleep spectrum.
"We'll have an activation session with them right away, get some light exposure," he said. "Maybe some caffeine, some tea, as they call it in London, some espresso."
And, of course, the most important hurdle is a Sunday kickoff that comes at 8:30 a.m. Central time, or 2:30 p.m. London time.
"There's all kinds of pieces that we're using to be ready to go on Sunday," Cousins said. "I'm kind of looking forward to tackling that."
Coach Kevin O'Connell said he has a lot of confidence in the plan the team has had in place for months. As for any possible advantages, he touched on perhaps the most important one. It has nothing to do with managing sleep, and a lot to do with a neutral field that very well could end up having more Vikings fans in attendance.
"I've obviously been to the Superdome before," O'Connell said of the Saints' ear-splitting home venue. "Not playing in that environment there at the Superdome, it's a benefit for us."
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This story was originally published September 28, 2022 7:35 PM.