LONDON – The Cowboys left the practice field at Allianz Park at roughly 8:30 a.m. – by Dallas reckoning, that is.
It's just one of a dozen or more quirks about playing an ocean away from home, but it's probably the most prominent. With a six-hour time difference between Texas and England, the Cowboys are doing everything much further ahead of schedule than they're used to.
"It's got to be the time difference," said Barry Church, when asked about the biggest difference on the team's trip. "The first night was pretty crucial for us, we had to stay up and make sure we get acclimated to the time difference. I have to say that's the biggest difference."
That's definitely been the hottest topic of conversation to this point during the Cowboys' stay. Cowboys coaches encouraged their players to stay awake as long as possible upon arrival in London, in order to make the transition to the new time zone as smooth as possible.
"I stayed up until about 11 o'clock, and I woke up this morning feeling pretty good," Church said. "I'm used to the difference now, but yesterday was pretty rough."
Church and other players said they felt that their bodies had adapted well to the difference – particularly given the night to recharge. It's a lesson Brandon Carr learned the value of during the summer, when he visited Wembley Stadium as the Cowboys' delegate for the International Series' preseason media tour.
"I learned from the first trip. On the first trip I came and slept for about six, seven hours, and I was messed up for the whole entire trip," Carr said. "This time my teammates – we had a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, so it wasn't hard to stay up and sightsee and get around."
With that novelty behind them, the Cowboys should be able to get into the grind of a regular game week. To hear it from Jason Witten, though, this year's team has bought into Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's message of worrying only about what can be controlled.
"I think yesterday helped. All of us, we're still working through that," Witten said. "But this team is really interesting in the fact that it really doesn't make excuses or worry about those things. It's our job to get ready and get prepared, and we have plenty of time next week to worry about getting healthy."
That's a point that can't be forgotten during the commotion of this International Series weekend – the Cowboys begin their long-awaited bye week when they return to the United States. Week 11 is the latest possible bye week in the league this season, reserved for Dallas and Jacksonville – who are coming off the London trip – as well as Baltimore and the New York Jets.
Once the Cowboys recuperate from the trip back to Dallas, they'll begin a season home stretch that will seem them play four road games in six weeks. The toughness of that slate puts this game into even sharper focus as one the Cowboys can't look past.
"It's a big game for us to re-establish our identity," Carr said. "We worked so hard throughout this season, up until the last few games. Now it's time to regroup and refresh and show the world who we are again."
[embeddedad0]That comments carries a little extra weight on this of all weeks, as the Cowboys truly will be playing in front of a worldwide audience as they take their third attempt at reaching seven wins on the season. Garrett said the team mindset goes a long way toward limiting the distractions and external factors involved in such a unique trip.
"Coaches and players embracing this opportunity and not getting bogged down by any logistical concerns I think is a big part of it," he said. "That starts with sleep and handling the flight over, getting up, getting moving around. Yesterday was big. Obviously getting acclimated and getting going today is important for us."