ASHBURN -- Since 2007, 16 games have been played at London's Wembley Stadium. The Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals are two of the eleven NFL teams to never play outside of the United States. That changes this week.
The focus on what's at stake does not. At least that' what coach Jay Gruden, quarterback Kirk Cousins and other players are saying about what is for many a once-in-a lifetime experience.
"Yeah, it’s exciting," Gruden said. "It’s a great place, great tradition. It’s going to be a long trip. It’s going to be historical for these players. It’s going to be something they’ll always remember – which is pretty cool – coaches also. It’s the thought of going and flying that far and the time change and all of that is kind of a grind, but I think once we get out there and we see the history and be in London, I think they’ll really enjoy it, especially if we find a way to win the game."
For Cousins, a football player known for his detailed routine, playing football overseas will be a first. On the other hand, Cousins is one of the handful of Redskins that have been to London previously. The quarterback was in England twice during the offseason to promote the NFL. This time around, Cousins will not be traveling for leisure.
"Between meetings and practices and walkthroughs and bus rides and meals and rest, I don’t think there’s going to be a whole lot of time to see the sights," Cousins said. "It is a business trip – have got to win a football game. Since I did get to see as much as possible this past offseason, just go play a game and head home."
Even though the Redskins are the designated visitors, the side that is actually 10-6 in the previous bouts in London, Washington may have a slight home field advantage thanks to the ground work Cousins laid over the summer.
"I did a fan forum with about 500 fans who were asking questions," Cousins said. "There was a good, good group of Redskins fans over there – very supportive, very knowledgeable about the game and the history and the past players of this organization. I was very impressed. I think we’ll have a good group in the stadium cheering us on."
The biggest adjustment for the Redskins players and coaches will be the time change, which will hit the Burgundy and Gold two-fold. Currently and when the team arrives Thursday night, London is five hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time. But, England begins daylight savings time on Sunday at 2 am local time, which means when the Redskins hit the field against the Bengals they will only be four hours ahead of local time.
Jet lag can be a serious detriment to a team so Cousins is already preparing for the change to his body.
"The goal was to try to just take steps each day," Cousins said. "So I went to bed early last night, got up early this morning and we’ll do that again today and tomorrow."
Washington's quarterback found himself tired during his previous excursion to London so hopes this time around things will go better.
Cousins has not reached out to other NFL quarterbacks who played overseas previously, but is being advised by experts.
"I have people who have helped me and kind of coached me through that," Cousins said. "Not other quarterbacks – people who know a lot about sleep and the brain and how it operates best."
Playing in London may be something the Redskins remember for the rest of their lives, but having an advantage in their preparation can be the difference between winning and losing a critical mid-season matchup.
Ben Standig reported from Ashburn
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