- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 27, 2016

Unlike some teams that have chosen to arrive as much as a week ahead for NFL games in London, the Redskins decided to minimize the team’s time in England — arriving early Friday after an eight-hour overnight flight.

But even with a Friday practice and a Saturday walk-through at Wembley Stadium, the site of Sunday’s game with the Cincinnati Bengals, several Redskins said they plan to make time for sightseeing in one of the world’s great cities.

“A lot of people said I’m going to be tired by the time I get there, but, believe me, I’m not going to be tired,” said defensive end Ricky Jean Francois. “Once practice is over with, I will be on the road and around taking pictures.”

Francois has been to London before as a member of the San Francisco 49ers, but the team stayed in the countryside, outside the city. He didn’t get a chance to much of the city then. Now, he intends to make up for lost time by visiting some of the city’s top attractions.

Francois isn’t the only Redskin excited about playing in England. Wide receiver Pierre Garçon, who’s never been to London, plans a visit to Buckingham Palace. And, no, he won’t mess with the guards.

“Nah, nah, nah, they told us not to get arrested,” Garçon said. “We’ll just go to take a picture and move on. We’ll just be regular tourists.”

Cornerback Josh Norman is even taking in a professional soccer game.

“I’m going to the Tottenham game [against] Leicester City,” Norman said. “Leicester City, they gave me a jersey last year. They’re one of the underdog teams. They sent me one of the jerseys, and it has my name on the back and everything. Shoot, matter of fact, I might just bring that from my house.”

For others, the trip is strictly business. Safety Will Blackmon has been to London twice. He’s excited he gets to take his family along, as his wife has never been, but Blackmon wants to spend most of his time sleeping and focusing on football.

“I don’t have time, man,” Blackmon said. “We barely have time. I think Friday we’ll have some time after practice to hang out and do stuff like that. I think [my wife and I] just might dine, walk around.”

In fact, Blackmon said he’s already looking forward to coming home.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins is happy to go back to London to play football. He went twice over the offseason. But Cousins said he won’t spend time sightseeing. He will instead focus entirely on preparing for the game. In fact, Cousins said that he has been going to bed at around 7:15 at night to help him adjust to the time difference.

“When I went over there this offseason, I had a hard time adjusting,” Cousins said. “I was only there for about three days and it was tough. I was sleeping in until noon or 1 p.m. just because of how tired I was, so I want to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

The time difference could be a difficult adjustment for some. London is five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone. The Redskins were scheduled to leave at 7 p.m. Thursday for their eight hour flight, meaning an 8 a.m. landing in London. The team was set to take the practice field five-and-a-half hours later.

“I know once I get on that plane, I’m going to be out,” tight end Vernon Davis said. “Maybe I’ll take a Tylenol PM, but I have to get my sleep. It’s imperative that I do that, and the guys on the team know that as well. We have to get ready and be prepared for Sunday.”

Not only will the Redskins have to adjust to the time difference, but they will have to adjust to the London field itself. Wembley, the temporary home of the Premier League soccer club Tottenham Hotspur, has a mixture of turf and grass, and, according to safety Donte Witner Sr., who played there as a member of the 49ers.

“The grass is a little bit higher, a little bit thicker,” Whitner said. “So, when it rains, you can slip and slide, so we had to really make sure that we change our studs in the bottom of our shoes.”

That’s no problem for running back Chris Thompson. Thompson said he’s been wearing several different pairs of cleats this week to get a better feel for what may end up working at Wembley.

“When we get a chance to go out on the field on Saturday, I’ll take a few pairs out there, get a good feel for the field,” Thompson said. “You know, I might slip one time just with nerves going or I may be running too fast or whatever the case may be in the game. But once I get a feel for the field, I will be fine.”

The 4-3 Redskins, coming off a loss, are looking to keep make up ground in the NFC East on the Eagles and Cowboys, who face each other Sunday night. Francois said the team knows — London or no London — the game against the Bengals is a must.

“It’s important, we got to win, we have no other choice,” Francois said. “We got to win this because we got that trip back and a bye week, we do not want to leave on an ‘L.’ That taste … you just can’t get it out of your mouth, especially coming from a beautiful place like London.”

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