On Sunday, they will play a game as the home team more than 5,000 miles from home.
Shortly after arriving here Friday morning, an eight-hour red-eye flight sitting like sludge in their systems, the Chargers found themselves practicing football inside a stadium built for rugby in a city where the very word “football” has a different meaning.
And yet, despite being bombarded by the unfamiliar, the players were able to cling to something comfortable.
“Practicing in this stadium definitely felt like a home game,” wide receiver Keenan Allen joked. “You see how small it is, right?”
Allianz Park, home of the Saracens Football Club, seats only 10,000, giving it less than half the capacity of StubHub Center.
So, even though he was mostly kidding, and even though the Chargers and Tennessee Titans will play Sunday in 90,000-seat Wembley Stadium, Allen hinted at an important point.
In just their latest most significant test of the season, the Chargers certainly could aid their chances by acting — and playing — like the home team against the underdog Titans.
“Both teams are in the same situation,” cornerback Casey Hayward said. “We all had to take the same flight over here, the same 8½ hours. Someone’s got to win. So why not us in London?”
The Chargers have won three in a row to improve to 4-2. Only three teams in the league have better records.
Under normal circumstances, they’d be playing Tennessee at StubHub Center, where they’ve won seven of their past eight.
“I think having a bye plays a part in this,” Allen said. “We know if we can sacrifice for one more week, block out everything and commit to getting this win, we’ll get a week to rest.”
Since 2006, the Chargers have started only one season with a record as good as 5-2. The 2014 team began 5-1 before losing three straight and eventually finishing 9-7.
In Tennessee, they’re facing an opponent that was shut out at home last weekend by Baltimore and hasn’t scored a touchdown since Sept. 30. The Titans are searching for much more than just their next victory.
Still, all this is happening in an environment that can be as foreign as paying for dinner using pounds. Even if the game itself is unchanged, the Chargers on Sunday will be part of a larger event.
“Let that be a sidebar to the game, playing in London and all of those things,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “We have to make sure we do whatever we have to do to win and get to 5-2 at the bye .… If you would have told us that in August, I think we would have all taken it.”
The Chargers began this trip by winning in Cleveland 38-14. They then remained in Ohio for four more days before traveling to London.
Such a schedule is unusual in the NFL, the Chargers behaving more like a team prepping to play, say, the Cotton Bowl, meeting in hotel ballrooms and practicing in another team’s facility.
Several players have talked about all the time spent together being an opportunity to jell. As one example, someone posted a photo of a bunch of Chargers attending a movie premiere.
“It’s kind of cool,” defensive lineman Damion Square said. “It’s like this whole gladiator mentality. You’ve got to move on the run, figure out things on the run. But we’ve still got business to handle.”
The Chargers will be back to business soon enough, facing an opponent this franchise has beaten nine times in the past 10 meetings.
This is a game the Chargers are again favored to win, but a game that might require a bit more focus to win.
On another continent, in another stadium — like StubHub, made for soccer — in their home-way-far-away-from-home.
“We need to keep it going,” Rivers said. “We know that the great teams sustain that over the long haul. We’re not great. We’re trying to get there. To me, this game is huge.”
The Chargers downgraded Melvin Gordon (hamstring) to questionable Saturday and promoted undrafted rookie Detrez Newsome from the practice squad.
Gordon missed part of the team’s practice Friday after injuring himself but came back and therefore was taken off the injury report. But he returned a day later, the addition of Newsome an indication that the Chargers are concerned about Gordon’s availability.
If Gordon is unable to play against Tennessee, Austin Ekeler would move into a more prominent role. Rookie Justin Jackson also could be used more.
Gordon has emerged through six games as one of the team’s most versatile weapons. He leads the Chargers with 466 rushing yards and has scored all six of their touchdowns on the ground. Three of those scores came last week against Cleveland. He is second on the team with 30 receptions for another 279 yards.
To make room for Newsome, rookie linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee was waived.