Fay: For the Bengals, the London game is all business, just like any other road trip

Except, maybe, for the fish and chips
Posted at 9:00 AM, Oct 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-28 12:45:05-04

CINCINNATI -- The Bengals' first trip to London is unlikely to be their last. The reason is simple. London games start at 9:30 a.m. That gives the NFL another TV time slot.

TV ratings are down this year -- 11 percent. So if the NFL can put one game where it stands alone, i.e., it's the only game going on, it will boost the overall number of people watching on that given day.

When TV networks are trying to recoup huge rights fees, they're going to push for anything that will draw more viewers.

The NFL also would like to tap into the international market.

The Bengals-Redskins matchup is the third of three games the NFL is playing in London this year. I suspect they'll add more in future years.

Defensive tackle Domata Peko made a trip to London in the offseason to publicize the game. He says Londoners are ready for some American football.

"We were out there for a Play 60 event," Peko said. "All the kids knew the language of football. They knew all the plays. They knew first down, second down, all types of different information about football. They were really hungry to learn. That's what's really cool about going over there."

The TV ratings in England support that: NFL ratings in London are up 80 percent this year, according to the New York Daily News.

Bengals players are excited about the trip.

"We were talking about how this game has taken us to places we never thought we'd be," cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. "It's an honor to go over there and represent the United States in a professional manner."

But Coach Marvin Lewis has made it clear that this is a business trip, not a vacation. I'm guessing a surprise side trip to Buckingham Palace is not on the agenda.

"We've been through this all the way through," Lewis said. "We're playing the Redskins. That's what we're getting ready to do. The people handling the trip have done a great job putting us in the right place.

"Our job is to get the football team ready."

The trip isn't that much different, logistically speaking, from a trip to the West Coast, though the flight is longer -- 7 hours, 40 minutes -- and the time-zone change is greater. The team will be leaving Thursday afternoon, instead of Friday, as they would with a West Coast game.

Playing Thursday nights disrupts the schedule much more than going abroad and playing on Sunday. The Bengals have kept the preparation largely the same this week.

"It'll be different on the back end -- Thursday, Friday -- because we fly Thursday," right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said. "Practice will still be the same. Still got to get better. Still got to learn the Redskins."

Obviously, the players have bought into Lewis' business-trip message.

"Whether we're playing at Kroger or London, we've got to stay on the task at hand," running back Jeremy Hill said. "We're playing the Redskins. It's a good opportunity for us to go over there and play a tough opponent. We're up to the challenge."

This isn't like going to Oakland to play, but you get the idea that the Bengals will do the same amount of sightseeing they would on any road trip. In other words, pretty much none.

"It'll be cool," tight end Tyler Eifert said. "We're over there to play a game. We're not going to be checking out the sights and checking out the city. But it'll be cool to be over there and play a game. We've never done that."

Peko is relishing the return to London.

First thing he'll do?

"I can't wait to get some fish and chips," he said. "I'm a fat boy. I'm a big D-lineman. I can't wait to eat some good, quality fish and chips."