LONDON — The Jacksonville Jaguars have grown used to eccentric English questions during their annual trips to London's Wembley Stadium, their second official home field.
Yet their arrival Friday in advance of playing the Buffalo Bills set a new precedent for laughter.
News conference gate-crashers posed a series of strange queries to quarterback Blake Bortles:
Should we support you or the Buffaloes?
Why are special teams so special, and how does this make the rest of the team feel?
Since you're coming to London so often, would you like to stay at our home?
"OK, I'm in. You cooking?" Bortles replied to the English grandma who made that suggestion.
Tight end Julius Thomas was asked, in order, whether he was one of the players who ever got to touch the ball — and, more seriously, whether his mother wished he didn't play such a brutal sport.
"It's safe to say that she doesn't always love the fact that I'm a professional football player," said Thomas, Jacksonville's big off-season free agent signing away from the Denver Broncos, who got his first touchdown as a Jaguar in last weekend's 31-20 home loss to Houston. "I'm sure that it's pretty tough on her on Sundays when she sees guys going out there and trying to hurt her baby."
This whole season's been pretty tough for the Jaguars, 1-5 and at the bottom of the AFC South following four straight losses. They're heavy underdogs Sunday to the Bills (3-3). But the Bills are more banged-up, with starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor and starting wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Percy Harvin out for the game. And Bortles said he thought the 8 1/2-hour flight arriving early Friday in London might be just right for a team needing a new perspective on what it takes to win.
Bortles said London provides "definitely an opportunity to turn our season around. We've been so close multiple times."
If so, third time could be the charm. On the Jags' previous trips to Wembley in 2013 and 2014, they lost 42-10 to San Francisco and 31-17 to Dallas.
The franchise hopes to build a winning tradition on British soil, because the NFL announced Thursday that the Jaguars will remain Wembley's fixed home team in annual games through 2020. The deal reflects owner Shahid Khan's ambition to turn the small-market team into an international brand.
Coach Gus Bradley says his staff and veteran players are becoming adept in the art of beating jet lag.
While the Bills flew over Monday and have been training in London since Wednesday morning, the Jaguars opted to come unusually late — and to instruct players to fall asleep as quickly as possible once on board their aircraft. The team aided the process by booking fully reclining sleeper seats for most of the squad.
Bortles said he'd enjoyed his slumber at 35,000 feet, even though his 6-foot-5 frame didn't quite fit into the first-class seat.
"They're definitely made for people that are 6-feet and under, so some guys struggled," he said. "But it was nice."
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Shawn Pogatchnik, The Associated Press