Calais Campbell has grown familiar with London since he became a Jacksonville Jaguar.
It’s essentially a required expectation when signing a long-term deal with Jacksonville, which has annually played one home game in the city since 2013. Make that annual total two in 2020, as the Jaguars will become the first team in NFL history to play two home games in London in the same season.
Some might see the requirement of traveling overseas for not one, but two games as a disadvantage. Campbell has mixed feelings on the matter.
First, for the veteran, two “home” games spent away from home will be a challenge. But not as great of a challenge as some might think.
“Obviously going overseas and playing two home games, you know it’s one of those things where it’s going to be tough,” Campbell said during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “That’s going to be a situation where you are in a new place, but we’ve been there before. We have some history and familiarity with it, but it’s going to be a little bit tougher.”
The history Campbell was referring to is the Jaguars‘ annual trip to London for a home game, a yearly visit that has built up a surprisingly strong Jaguars fanbase in London. The Jaguars are by far the most visible NFL team in the country.
“I don’t think it’s a competitive disadvantage,” Jaguars owner Shad Khan said during a conference call Tuesday, per USA Today. “The next time you see Doug Marrone or Dave Caldwell you can ask them. I think if you look back, we’ve struggled and there’s been seasons when we won three games and one of those wins were in London.”
The familiarity will make the trip less jarring for key players like Campbell. In fact, they’ll get some extra time overseas, creating what Campbell sees as a potential edge by the time the second contest rolls around.
“I hope that whatever one of those teams we play, we will get an advantage over them,” Campbell said. “They won’t come as prepared and that can give us a little bit of an advantage but at the end of the day we’ve got to win them no matter where they are.
“Going over the first week is going to break your routine, especially for a home game. The benefit of playing at home is you have your normal routine that you can do to a T that can get you prepared for a game. When you are on the road, it changes up your routine. You don’t know how the facilities are gonna be. Everything is a little bit different. … Now, we have a routine because we’ve been going there. I’ve been there three times already. This will be my fourth time going over there, so I have a little bit of a routine, but it’s not the same as my regular home game routine. But that second week should be, so hopefully give us a little bit of an advantage.
“I would love to scratch out two wins in London, that would be huge for us.”
A key detail: The London games are considered “home” games for the Jaguars, meaning they’ll have two less regular-season games in actual Jacksonville. That makes for a higher demand for Jaguars tickets in Jacksonville, at least artificially, as the team battles some attendance issues due to lacking on-field performance.
Attendance was a hot-button issue well before Jacksonville’s run to the AFC Championship Game in 2017, as the team’s home stadium had become known for having upper-deck sections tarped off, which were visible on aerial shots during television broadcasts. Khan has twice attempted to address some of these concerns by spending healthily on improvements to TIAA Bank Field, adding massive LED boards and a party deck that included signature cabanas with wading pools in 2014, and spending further on less visible improvements in 2017. As the team improved dramatically in 2017, the tarps went away and have remained in storage, a sign of a once-forgotten franchise turning things around.
Attendance has fallen back to earth in the two seasons since, as the Jaguars have struggled to replicate the wild success the team enjoyed in 2017.
Khan and the city of Jacksonville have attempted to remedy such issues by working together on development projects in the areas surrounding the stadium, which might be a cause for the two London games in 2020, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero:
Some context on the #Jaguars playing two games in London: My understanding is it’s not a permanent scheduling strategy. It’s a bridge through a $700 million project Shad Khan is embarking on with the city to build up the area around TIAA Bank Field. Could be one year only.
ï¿½ï¿½ï¿½ Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero)
February 4, 2020
Whatever the cause, it is interesting to hear the perspective of a 33-year-old veteran on playing two games well away from home and not seeing those replaced on the schedule in actual Jacksonville.
Campbell has become the face of the Jaguars since he arrived in 2017 and has been as solid as they come off the edge for most of his career, never appearing in less than 13 games and finishing with more than 5.0 sacks in all but two of his 12 professional seasons. He’s one of the more unusual types in that he’s been able to cash in twice on his performance, signing his most lucrative deal with Jacksonville at age 31 in 2017.
The Jaguars had to pay extra to convince Campbell to make the jump from the desert to muggy Florida, but it has paid dividends. With a younger group returning and an offseason to make improvements, the Jaguars could produce a bounce-back season in 2020. That would surely delight their Florida-based fans — and their stronghold in London, too, especially if Campbell proves his theory of advantage correct this fall.