WATFORD, England — Down a gravel walkway, past the steel gate enclosed by a 10-foot wall, beyond two security guards and a bomb-sniffing yellow Labrador named Quaid, a song from Las Vegas-based band Imagine Dragons was audible from a hotel garden.
The music originated from a field adjacent to the high-security nursery.
There, on a pitch surrounded by trees tossing in wind, under gray skies true to an English autumn, the Seattle Seahawks worked Thursday afternoon as the only NFL team in Europe. Several hours later, the Raiders would depart Oakland on a red-eye flight to join them.
The NFL has landed in London for the first time this season. Relative to the Seahawks, the Raiders are fashionably late, but coach Jon Gruden has expressed confidence his club can adjust to an eight-hour time difference before Sunday’s game at Wembley Stadium. Certainly, the Seahawks (2-3) expect the Raiders’ best.
This is more than a brand expansion opportunity for the league.
This is two teams looking to breathe life into their season.
The Raiders are 1-4. They are coming off a division loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, a result dropping them to 0-2 in the AFC West. An opportunity awaits here to regain footing before the bye week. Otherwise, with a loss, the Raiders would be left to ruminate on the reality of a one-win start.
Since the current playoff format was enacted in 1990, a total of 136 NFL teams have started 1-5. Nine, or 6.6 percent, made the postseason. None appeared in the Super Bowl.
A win would help the Raiders heal some during the break. Back-to-back games await in the Bay Area between the Indianapolis Colts in Oakland and San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara. Each foe also is 1-4. Realistically, Sunday represents a chance to find stride and reset the campaign to .500 come midseason.
As for Seattle, all three of its losses were by a single-score margin, including two within a field goal. Last weekend, the Seahawks led the Los Angeles Rams in the fourth quarter before succumbing 33-31.
About three hours after their landing in London, the Seahawks practiced in a quiet town just north of the city. They left Washington around 8 p.m. on Wednesday on a plane a little different than the one in which the club usually travels; safety Shaquille Griffin said that veterans were able to sleep in full-sized beds toward the plane’s front.
Coach Pete Carroll characterized the flight as relatively short.
“We took full advantage of the Mercator route, and in doing so, it was like a nine hours or something flight,” Carroll said. “It worked out. It was great.”
Said rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin, Shaquille’s younger brother: “It was crazy. I fell asleep, and I didn’t even know the plane was landing. That’s when you know you’re sleeping good. I can definitely say we got some good sleep.”
The Seahawks have arrived in London.
The Raiders are next.