By Joe Kay
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Coach Marvin Lewis opened a notable week in the Bengals’ history by insisting that they’re not actually traveling to London for their next game.
“We’re not going to London,” he said. “We’re playing the Redskins and it happens to be in London.”
Oh. OK then.
Lewis also challenged a question about their 8-hour flight, emphasizing that they don’t have an 8-hour flight. That’s technically true — it’s slightly less than 8 hours. He told his players that their game at Wembley Stadium will be no different than if they were playing in the aisles of a local grocery store.
“I think Marvin said earlier today that whether we’re playing at Kroger’s or we’re playing in here or playing over there, we can’t lose the task at hand and that’s beating the Redskins,” running back Jeremy Hill said.
Lewis’ avoid-the-obvious comments show how much he’s concerned that the Bengals (3-4) could get knocked out of whack by the franchise’s first trip to London. They play Washington (4-3) on Sunday in a game they desperately need to win.
The defending AFC North champions got flattened in Dallas and New England before beating winless Cleveland 31-17 at home last week. They’re only one game behind division-leading Pittsburgh, which is missing injured quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
A win over the team coached by former Bengals coordinator Jay Gruden would leave Cincinnati in the middle of the chase heading into its bye week. A loss would send the Bengals into their bye with more of that unsettled feeling they’ve had this season.
“It’s huge, which is why (Lewis) is trying to make this as much of a home game, as much of our normal schedule as possible,” tight end C.J. Uzomah said. “It’s a huge week for us.”
The Bengals fly to London after practice Thursday. Their only soak-up-the-moment event will be a reception at the Tower Bridge on Friday night. Players will have a few free hours as well. Otherwise, it’s all about football.
“At the end of the day, we’re going down there not to eat fish and chips, not to see the queen, but we’re going down there to handle some business,” defensive tackle Domata Peko said.
The Bengals have another reason to wish they were staying home: It’ll count as one of Cincinnati’s home games, which means they lose one at Paul Brown Stadium.
Several players are big fans of what’s known as football in England, and they’re looking forward to playing in a place with such history as Wembley.
“Oh yeah, I think there’s been a lot of great matches played on that pitch, and I think for us it’s going to be another good one for us to go there and play on Sunday,” said Hill, who’s a fan of Real Madrid.
The coaching staff has told players to make sure they get plenty of rest leading up to the game, given how the time change will affect them. Also, they’ve been told there’s no wireless access on the flight, so they’ll have to entertain themselves without the internet.
“I think this will be a good bonding experience for the team,” Uzomah said. “We’re going to be on a plane together for 8 hours, cramped. We’ll get up and you’ll hear people say, ‘Ah, this sucks.’ We’ll be going through all that together, which will be nice.”
NOTES: LT Andrew Whitworth watched practice in a shirt and sweatpants on Wednesday. He suffered a concussion in the win over Cleveland and hasn’t been cleared to return. Lewis says he will be cleared for the game in London. … G Clint Boling also was held out of practice with a sore shoulder. … CB Dre Kirkpatrick was limited by a groin injury. TE Tyler Eifert had a full practice after getting into his first game of the season on Sunday.