Unlike many of his teammates, Kyle Orton has made the journey from Denver to London before.
The Broncos quarterback and his wife, Bridget, vacationed in the city a few years ago, giving Orton — who majored in history at Purdue — a chance to take in many of its most famous sites.
After making the more than nine hour flight from the Mile High City to London’s Heathrow Airport this time around, the expectations for the trip are a little different.
“You want to have a great combination of having fun and enjoying your time over here, no question about that,” Orton said. “But for us it’s such an important game, that’s going to make the trip one way or another. If we can come out and play well and win the football game, we’re going to have a fun trip.”
The Broncos took their next step toward that goal Friday morning when they touched down in London. After three days of productive practice at Dove Valley, the team began what Head Coach Josh McDaniels called “the second phase of the plan” in getting ready to play San Francisco on Sunday.
McDaniels said most of his players were able to get some sleep on the plane ride before the team rolled into its preparations for the 49ers. On Friday, that included a morning meal, meetings and time to watch tape of Thursday’s practice session before heading to the historic Brit Oval — a more than 150-year-old cricket ground — for practice.
“Everything is kind of going as planned — no hiccups so far,” McDaniels said in a media session before the workout.
The Broncos got an early taste of local culture before the session began when the team’s captains met with a pair of players from the Surrey County Cricket Club.
Orton, Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, Daniel Graham, Chris Kuper and D.J. Williams signed a football to give to Surrey representatives Arun Harinath and Tom Lansford. The cricket players presented Graham and Kuper with fluorescent green cricket jerseys bearing their football numbers before giving them a taste of England’s national sport.
Graham — batting left-handed — got in a few good strokes against Harinath, a fourth-year player who is normally a batter for the Lions. Then Kuper, a right-hander, stepped in and cracked a few shots.
“I’ve played for 12 or 13 years and I still haven’t picked it all up,” Harinath said. “For those guys to just pick up the ball striking just like that is impressive. I think if you’re an athlete you can pick things up like that pretty quickly.”
McDaniels, who had never been to London before, said his players would have some time Friday night and Saturday afternoon to do some site-seeing. The team will get its first look at Wembley Stadium during a Saturday walk-through.
All of that is part of the adjustment to a new place with plenty of differences from home — some of which were evident to players even in their first hours in the city.
During his press session, Brian Dawkins was still shocked by his ride over to the practice facility and needing to get used to cars driving on the left side of the road.
“I looked out and I saw traffic and we were supposed to go to the right in my mind and we went left and I saw cars coming, so that kind of freaked me out for a second,” Dawkins said with a smile.
After a week of practicing and traveling, players made it clear that they were well on their way to making all necessary adjustments — physical or cultural.
They’ve embraced the plan set out by McDaniels and the coaching staff meant to have the team ready to play by 5 p.m. local time on Sunday and remain focused on the most important part of the trip — leaving England with a win.
“Now we just have to tune everything up (with) our game plan,” Graham said. “We’ll work on the last things we have to work on before Sunday and today we’re just going to sharpen up everything.”
While five players stayed in Denver to focus on getting healthy, McDaniels had good news on the injury front after arriving in London.
“We think that everybody that’s here should be ready to go and capable of playing,” McDaniels said. “We look forward to having a full strength team out of the group that’s in London.”
Robert Ayers (foot), Perrish Cox (concussion), Darcel McBath (ankle), Kevin Vickerson (groin) and Wesley Woodyard (hamstring) did not travel with the team and are out for Sunday’s game. But Eddie Royal (groin), Andre’ Goodman (quadricep) and Dawkins (knee) fully participated in Friday’s practice and are listed as probable.
For the 49ers, Alex Smith (shoulder) and center Eric Heitmann (neck) were declared out earlier in the week. Cornerback Tarrell Brown (back) is doubtful. Running back Anthony Dixon (hamstring) and Vernon Davis (ankle) were limited during Friday’s session and are questionable. Linebacker Ahmad Brooks (knee), cornerback Nate Clements (ankle) and guard Adam Snyder (back) are listed as probable.
- Eric Detweiler, DenverBroncos.com
Below are some photos from Friday’s session: