Carl Nassib woke up at 5 a.m. Wednesday, well earlier than his usual 6:30 wake-up time.
He also has tried to ignore any clock changes for daylight saving this week, knowing it only takes him an hour in the wrong direction.
The Bucs outside linebacker plans to get up earlier still at 4:45 on Thursday, following a careful schedule the team is suggesting for players to help their bodies adjust to flying 5,000 miles and shifting six time zones for Sunday’s game in Munich against the Seahawks. As for getting some much-needed rest on the long flight across the Atlantic Ocean, that’s not a problem.
“I’ll sleep anywhere. I’m like a Great Dane,” said Nassib, excited for the NFL’s first regular-season game in Germany. “You get me to stop moving, and I’m out.”
Commanders’ David Bada remembers how normal it was for fans in Munich to wake up at 2:30 a.m. just to watch a game.
As the NFL heads to Germany, @gregauman examines the partnership that has been decades in the works and the frenzy football has created.https://t.co/ceGTFOcl31 pic.twitter.com/j9OBjii1UX
— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) November 9, 2022
The Bucs are making their second trip across the Atlantic in just over three years, and they’ll again lean on science to help lessen the impact of travel. Dave Hamilton, the team’s director of performance science, has a specific plan, including adjusting bedtimes by a half-hour each night in the days before the trip to lessen the jetlag effect.
“They’ve been pretty good,” the London-born Hamilton said of players’ buy-in factor. “Even today, when you looked at the car park coming in, guys were 45 minutes earlier than they would be traditionally. If nothing else, they’re getting to sleep early and waking up earlier. We did kind of emphasize, and it’s important: Don’t go to bed at the normal time and get up earlier, because now you’re creating sleep debt.”
So there are specific guidelines to follow, like the movie “Gremlins” with slightly less dangerous consequences.
No caffeine after noon Wednesday and Thursday. Recommended doses of tart cherry concentrate and Dream Water, two natural sleep aids. Sleep between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. is most important on their flight overseas. No naps of longer than 30 minutes when they land in Munich on Friday, or they won’t be as tired at night.
Fireflies? They’re small battery-powered devices Bucs players wear on side of their knees to stimulate circulation, help in recovery, both after games and on long plane trips. All part of sports science, how Tampa Bay travels smart. @fireflyrecovery Story: https://t.co/8Md41R1PJx
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) October 4, 2019
Players can wear custom-fitted compression garments from an Australian company, Cape Bionics, which can lower swelling in legs and feet, and increase dilation of blood vessels, which helps with circulation and lowers blood pressure. They also can use “fireflies,” which are small, battery-powered neuromuscular stimulators that attach on the side of the knee and prompt the peroneal nerve to pump the calf muscle to increase blood flow.
“Sport science is cool, right? I think it’s really cool,” said defensive lineman Will Gholston, reaching for a bag of fireflies in his locker. “It’s a throb, gets your blood flowing. If you have it set too high or not in the right spot, it’s not good. But it’s worked for away games in California. I know it will work. They went to school for this!”
As European trips go, the Bucs’ 2019 game in London against Carolina was not a good one. Handy travel tip: Do not commit seven turnovers. But that trip, in addition to a 37-26 loss to the Panthers, gave the team valuable lessons in adjusting diurnal rhythms and having players physically prepared for a game well outside their normal schedule.
“It’s a long flight. I remember I took two or three naps and we were still in the air,” cornerback Jamel Dean said. “I was tired, jetlagged, but it only really took me one night to adjust. I was pretty good for Sunday. It’s science, so I try to listen to it. I’m all for the melatonin.”
Bucs coach Todd Bowles played a preseason game in Germany with the 49ers in 1992, and he has coached in two London games, with the Jets in 2015 and the Bucs in 2019. His team will practice as normal in Tampa on Thursday and then fly out late afternoon, so most of its normal preparation can take place in its own facility, with just a Friday practice and walk-through Saturday taking place in Munich.
Bowles tried to diminish the challenge that travel plays this week, suggesting the flight to Munich is much like if they were flying to Seattle.
“That’s a long flight, too,” he said. “It would be maybe another hour more, at tops, but the time change you just have to deal with. We understand that going over. We’ll be excited to play and we’ll be ready to play.”
🇩🇪 Tom Brady und die Bucs kommen – München hat Bock! ❤️ #NFLMunichGame
🇺🇸 Tom Brady and the Bucs are coming – Munich is pumped! ❤️ #NFLMunichGame @Buccaneers pic.twitter.com/NGML0CHlA6
— NFL Deutschland (@NFLDeutschland) November 9, 2022
The flight, by air miles at least, is about twice as long as the one from Tampa to Seattle, and close to five hours longer. But the Seahawks are traveling even farther, and they’ll be playing a full nine time zones ahead of their norm, with kickoff at what will feel like 6:30 a.m. Sunday, so there are no excuses for the Bucs.
The Bucs want not just more sleep this week, but better sleep. So players were issued special “sleep glasses” to be worn in the final hours before bedtime, made to reduce blue and green wavelengths from artificial light sources — phones, TVs, computer screens — which can disrupt the body’s natural release of melatonin before bedtime.
“We know, from the research, that one hour of being on your phone can reduce melatonin by 30 or 40 percent, a significant amount,” Hamilton said. “The whole purpose for us is we want the guys to sleep a little bit earlier, so ultimately when they get on this plane, they’re going to be able to get their head down a little earlier, and we’re going to try to phase-shift them, so when we get to Germany, we’re a little bit ahead of the body clock.”
Outside linebacker Anthony Nelson, who made the trip to London as a rookie in 2019, believes in sleep aids enough that he drinks tart cherry each night before he goes to bed, and he’s worn the blue-light glasses at night all week.
“Rolling into our Friday practice is a little different, a little crazy, but I remember that once you push through that Friday, it ends up feeling relatively normal,” he said. “I followed the protocols last time for London and I felt really good for the game. It’s surprising, but good. I’m not complaining.”
(Photo: Sven Hoppe / picture alliance via Getty Images)
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