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After beating the Jaguars, Rams enjoy week in Jacksonville before traveling to London

The Times’ Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry discuss the Rams (4-2) week in Jacksonville before they travel to London to face the Arizona Cardinals (3-3) in an NFC West divisional matchup. 

The five-star resort featured a lush golf course and shorefront rooms that overlooked Ponte Vedra Beach.

The Rams’ temporary headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla., evoked a dream vacation more than a place to hunker down and prepare for a game against the Arizona Cardinals.

“It’s been great,” receiver Sammy Watkins said after practice Wednesday. “Great weather, got to stay on the beach. And we got the win.”

A year after former coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams spent a week in the cold, drizzly English countryside preparing for their game against the New York Giants in London, first-year coach Sean McVay opted for sunshine a few thousand miles closer to home.

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As part of the deal that allowed them to move from St. Louis to Los Angeles, the Rams are playing an international “home” game for the second year in a row. They could play in Mexico City next season and possibly China in 2019 as they await completion of their new Inglewood Stadium.

The Rams have played in London twice. They lost games to the New England Patriots and the Giants, East Coast teams that were able to remain home for nearly the entire week before making a shorter trip to Great Britain.

This season, the NFL appears to have scheduled a more even matchup between two West Coast teams, though the Rams are not thrilled to have lost a true home game at the Coliseum against a division opponent. The Cardinals are playing in London for the first time and made the trip earlier in the week.

The Rams are 4-2, the Cardinals 3-3 going into Sunday’s game at Twickenham Stadium.

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The seven-day stay in Florida was a welcome change for players who made the weeklong trip to London last year following a loss at Detroit. This year’s itinerary made for a better experience, especially after a victory over the Jaguars.

“It’s been nice,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “It’s been kind of like a mini training camp.”

Hotel ballrooms were converted into meeting rooms, and a golf clubhouse was rearranged into buffet line as coaches and players shuffled from meetings to meals throughout the week.

The University of North Florida and its thunderstorm-soaked field provided training ground for practices.

“I’m enjoying it,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “I don’t have to go to London and spend all week being cold.”

The focus throughout the week was to maintain routines, McVay said.

The Rams kept their usual meeting and practice schedules. On Monday, players underwent treatment and studied film at the hotel. Tuesday was a day off. Practice resumed Wednesday.

“Coach has done a great job of getting us in and out of meetings and giving us off time,” Ogletree said. “And just all the stuff that we need to be prepared for this game.”

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The week away from Los Angeles also provided time to bond.

“You get to hang out with all the guys again,” Goff said. “To be around the coaches some more is always fun, and meeting rooms are right near our rooms.”

Watkins said distractions were left at home, as players sat around to talk and laugh about football.

“We connect more on away trips,” he said.

On Tuesday, despite stormy weather, several teammates played golf. Offensive linemen enjoyed a local seafood restaurant.

Running back Todd Gurley expressed concerns about the trip before leaving L.A, — “I don’t like it all,” he said — because the time away took players out of their rhythm.

Gurley appeared to be maintaining his daily schedule, including his weekly Thursday news conference. He made time to visit Zaxby’s, a Southern fried-chicken food chain.

Watkins, a Florida native, said despite Gurley’s concerns he has maintained his routine.

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“As a team, we got in our minds we’re going to get the same work as we would in L.A.,” Watkins said. “We’re just attacking the day.”

If the Rams defeat the Cardinals, this trip could serve as a blueprint — for the Rams and other teams — on how to master playing abroad.

Times staff writer Gary Klein contributed to this report.

lindsey.thiry@latimes.com

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry


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