The Redskins' trip to London has players excited for a different experience, but also has them wary of its distractions before a big game.
Redskins safety Josh Evans will make his fourth consecutive trip to London on Thursday after the team finishes practice, one of just several NFL players to make the trip in four straight years. That could be a reason to grumble – another long flight, another short stay, another weekend of jet lag – but Evans said he's embracing the opportunity.
"Any time you get an opportunity to leave and go somewhere different than what you're used to is cool, being around a different environment," Evans said.
Before signing with Washington on Oct. 5, Evans played his first three seasons with the Jaguars, a team that's made the excursion in each of the last four years, which has made him a helpful concierge for Redskins players and coaches alike. He, like several of his teammates with London trips on their resumes, prefers a shortened, business-trip schedule instead of adapting to a whole week across the pond.
"We got a chance to adapt to the culture out there, the time zones. That was a plus, getting a few days earlier," Evans said. "But after that first, second time [out there] you're like, 'Man, OK, we're too long, I want to get in, get out, get the work in."
Once players arrive Friday morning, they'll have a short amount of time before they head to their first practice, a turnaround that has some a little nervous based on how much sleep they get on the plane ride. Defensive end Ricky Jean Francois, who spent a week in London with the 49ers several years ago, is carrying a positive attitude throughout the process.
"You got to adjust on the run, that's what they pay us for, no matter what the situation is," he said. "It [doesn't] matter how we get our sleep or the time change, we just have to adjust on the run."
Instead of holing up in his hotel, as quarterback Kirk Cousins and other teammates plan to do, Jean Francois hopes to sightsee as much as possible. When San Francisco played in London, the team stayed in a hotel outside of the city. Not the case for the Redskins, which means Jean Francois is ready to explore with camera in hand.
"A lot of people say I'm going to be tired when I get there. Believe me I'm not going to be tired," Jean Francois said. "Once practice over with, I will be on the road going around taking pictures."
Left tackle Trent Williams, dealing with an injured left knee, knows the plane ride will be a bit of a challenge in terms of comfort, but doesn't see much of difference between a trip overseas and a long west coast trip.
"It's a long flight. You go out there a day or two early, you deal with the time change and you go out there and play," he said.
Linebacker Mason Foster visited London as a rookie with the Buccaneers but doesn't have as many plans for this abbreviated trip. He feels blessed with the opportunity to play the game there again, however, and is doing his best to help out locker mate Will Compton with some advice.
"Just taking care of your body has kind of given us the breakdown of how the schedule is going to work, harping on us to find ways to maximize our rest when we do get chances to rest," Compton said of the advice he's received. "Everybody's being professional about it, and I know everybody is going to do their thing with it.
"I know guys have been setting their alarms a little earlier just to prepare for it," Compton added. "Our expected night's sleep is supposed to be on the plane, because right when we land in London, in that next hour we start our whole Friday day. It's going to be pretty stressful, but it's all about managing it and being pro about it."
Talk to enough players and that's the common theme – "being pro about it." A trip overseas in the middle of a work week with an important game before the bye week isn't necessarily an ideal situation. The distractions will have to be muted as much as possible.
"I learned that this game actually counts," said safety Will Blackmon, who has been to London twice with the Giants and Jaguars. "It's not an exhibition game. We can be excited to go out there, but at the end of the day, we for real have a game to play."
Come Sunday, however, that much will be clear. Evans remembered as a backup with the Jaguars that London fans knew his name and asked for his autograph during the week's events, while Blackmon recalled walking into Wembley Stadium and the barrage of noise and excitement from the fans.
"The energy the atmosphere, it's very, very similar to the Super Bowl. It's pretty explosive, it's pretty cool," Blackmon said.
"You're going to see a lot of fans that love the game," Jean Francois said. "The fact that we're there and playing in a historical stadium, many people in the NFL can't say they've played there before."