Jet lag, home sickness, and fatigue are all inevitable hurdles to overcome when NFL players endure long road trips. Usually, for the Bengals, that means traveling anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 miles to the western part of the country to play teams like the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks.
The Bengals don’t have one of those long Western trips this year, but they are traveling nearly 4,000 miles to the east this weekend to meet the Washington Redskins for a Week 8 game in London, England. It’s a demanding trip, the likes of which the Cincinnati Bengals have never had to endure. That’s why, according to defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, the Bengals are making every effort to make this trip as normal as possible.
“Just try to keep the schedule the same,” Guenther told Paul Dehner Jr. of Cincinnati.com. “The players like routine. The closer we can keep it to what we do (in Cincinnati) the better.”
Another pitfall when it comes to international travel, is the temptation to enjoy the experience that city, in this case, London, has to offer. That could impact a player’s preparation. Luckily, according to Domata Peko, Guenther is right to say that the players like routine.
“At the end of the day, we’re going down there not to eat fish and chips, not to see the Queen,” Peko said. “We’re going down there to handle some business. That’s why we’re going.”
That’s exactly what the Bengals’ aim was heading into this week, according to head coach Marvin Lewis.
"We said we were going to make it as close to a normal [trip] as we could," Lewis told Katherine Terrell of ESPN.
Normalizing such a big trip with the kind of fanfare that comes with an organization’s first time ever playing overseas can be tough. In such a scenic and historic city, you can imagine why some players might want to take in the sights more than others. But, Lewis understands that his players need to remain focused, because the consequences of losing that focus can be dire.
"We played two teams -- last year Buffalo, the year before Jacksonville -- they were leaving after we played them, we beat them in both games, beat them up, and their teams [were] all over the place, because guys were hurt, they've got to do this, they've got to do that, and it just causes anxiety," Lewis said. "So, in my opinion, the best way to operate is to get everything done [first]."
It’s hard to ignore just how well the Bengals played in both of these games, against teams that were ill-prepared to come back from it during their big London trips. Both the Jagaurs and Bills lost in London after giving up a combined 67 points to the Bengals the week before they left. The Bengals are lucky enough to be coming off a big 31-17 win over the lowly Browns as they head to London. But, every chance the Bengals can get to keep things on their routine track will make Sunday’s game that much smoother.
This week, as much or more than any other week in the history of the Cincinnati Bengals, the team absolutely must remain focused. Back when this game was announced last November, Bengals right guard Kevin Zeitler expressed this exact sentiment right away.
“I’m all for them trying to keep us on schedule as possible,” Zeitler told Jim Owczarski of Cincinnati.com. “That’s great. Just the way I am, it is going to be such a business trip that I’m not going to be able to enjoy anything the way everyone else will be able to. It is what it is. Trying to spread the game, that’s great, it’ll be a business trip for me and I’m just going to go there and do what I have to do.”
So far, the Bengals seem to be doing a good job of keeping things normal. It will be crucial because Marvin Lewis-prodigy Jay Gruden is almost certainly preaching the exact same thing to his coaches and players. In particular, Bengals linebacker Vincent Rey has noticed just how good of a job the Bengals have done at tempering their excitement and sticking by business as usual this week.
“It’s similar, we are trying our best,” Rey said. “I know coaches are trying their best to make it the same but it’s different, man. The schedule for Friday and Saturday walk-through, those are the same. The shorter practice on Saturday, that’s the same as normal. It’s just on another continent.”
In the offseason, Bengals players will have plenty of time return to Europe to get the full vacation-in-London experience if they like what they see this weekend. But, this week needs to remain all about figuring out how to win a football game against a team with a winning record. This game just happens to be in a different country.