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View from the O-Zone: London … with a grin


LONDON, England – They came, they saw and they practiced.

Or at least they got some runnin' in.

Such was the nature of the Jaguars' 2015 journey to London, which began Thursday evening Jacksonville time and ended Friday mid-morning London time:

This was tiring. This was taxing. And as always with a trip to play in the International Series, this was logistically tricky.

But the Jaguars made it to the United Kingdom – weary, but no worse for the wear.

And by early Friday afternoon London time – early Friday morning to their Jacksonville-based body clocks – players and coaches were going through a brisk walkthrough on an equally brisk, gray England afternoon. It was a tired group of players and coaches.

But as Jaguars Head Coach Gus Bradley spoke to the British-based media contingent at a post-practice press conference at Allianz Park, his smile was wide.

"We're excited to be here," Bradley said. "The players seem to be handling it pretty well. It's a great atmosphere. Overall, it's a really good environment."

Quarterback Blake Bortles was next at the podium. As always, he smiled, too – smiling Friday despite a night spent trying to sleep on an airplane, and despite having practiced twice since seeing the inside of a real bed.

As for his press conference, it was … well, entertaining.

There were questions about football, and about travel. He spoke about the need for the Jaguars to win Sunday, and how despite the team's 1-5 record this is a big game. It's big because players continue to believe they're close to winning – not just once, but regularly.

"It's definitely an opportunity to kind of turn it around," Bortles said. "It's another opportunity. We've been so close multiple times and I think we've just missed on multiple occasions. It's just an opportunity to put it all together. …

"I don't know that it's a giant step (to start winning). I think it's a smaller step – definitely smaller than some guys think. We've shown capability of what we can do, and the kind of team we can be. We just have to put it all together."

That was gist of the football stuff from Bortles. That wasn't the most entertaining stuff.

The entertaining stuff was when Margaret and Malcolm Corden – the parents of James Corden, he of the "Late, Late Show with James Corden of CBS" -- engaged in some peppy banter with Bortles. The Cordens, billing themselves as the "UK Sports Correspondents for James Corden's Late, Late Show" asked Bortles if he was familiar with the show.

"I'm not," Bortles said, smiling.

"You're not? My goodness," Malcom Corden asked before asking Bortles to briefly explain football for the UK audience.

As Bortles explained it was a mixture of other sports, including perhaps rugby, Corden asked Bortles about the concept of special teams.

"Doesn't that make the special teams feel sort of superior?" Corden said. "How would you feel if you weren't in the special teams?"

"They get the least amount of plays during the game, so I think they named them special teams to kind of cover up for that," Bortles replied.

Margaret then identified herself as "James' mom."

"Hi James' mom," Bortles said.

Margaret went on to explain that with James having moved out of the house (presumably to do the "Late, Late Show with James Corden of CBS") there was an extra bed at their home if any Jaguars player needed "a bed for the night, or a cup of tea."

"I'll take that, because the bed in the hotel is kind of hard," Bortles said. "I'm in. Are you cooking?"

As the press conference closed minutes later, Malcolm Corden rejoined the fray, saying the pair had interviewed Bills players that morning and that the Cordens needed a reason to pull for one team over the other.

"Did you offer one of them a bedroom?" Bortles said.

"We never offered them a bedroom," Corden said.

Bortles, as he did throughout the exchange, charmed with a smile.

"You've got to support the guy staying at your house," he said.

Bortles exchange with the Corden's will have little game impact, of course, but it shows some of what the International Series is about. And with the Jaguars expected to play a game in London for the foreseeable future, it shows how best to approach it, too.

The United Kingdom doesn't completely get football yet, and certainly the Jaguars want to be a huge part of the landscape as this country learns it. As such, there are going to be some educational, introductory and promotional events such as Friday's post-practice presser involved with each trip.

And because the trip involves international travel and logistical challenges, the events – and even some of the preparation – is going to be seen by players and coaches through tired eyes while standing on tired legs.

That doesn't mean you can't prepare and play well while doing some off-field events, and it doesn't mean you can't make London a home-field advantage while doing it.

And as Bortles showed Friday, there's no reason you can't enjoy the experience along the way.

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