CLEVELAND -- London is calling, and the Cleveland Browns are set to answer.
The Browns have flown across the Atlantic Ocean to play a regular-season game against the Minnesota Vikings at Twickenham Stadium in London, England on Sunday. It is the first time since the 1989 preseason that the Browns have played in London.
“It is going to be awesome to go over and play in another country and truly represent this area, Cleveland, Ohio, on an international scale,” linebacker Christian Kirksey said. “I think it will be awesome for us also to go play against a very good team in Minnesota and come out with a victory. Why not have a signature victory going into the bye week?”
Although the Browns have struggled to win since their return to the NFL in 1999, they have fan clubs all over the world, including one in the United Kingdom, the British Bulldawgs Browns Backers from Leicester Square in London.
Including the London-based group, the Browns Backers have six chapters across Europe.
When the 2017 NFL International Series was announced by the league office, several members of the Browns flew to England to drum up support for the game, and they came back impressed by the European football fans.
“There were a good amount of Browns fans over there,” offensive lineman Joel Bitonio said.
“It was kind of cool that like every team is represented over there, so there is not one huge group, but I think we are going to have a good amount of Browns fans in the stands. You might hear some dawg chants and things of that nature.”
The Browns have never played a regular-season game abroad, but have done so three times in the preseason.
The Browns first travelled out of the country during the 1988 season when they took on the New York Jets in Montreal, and then, faced off against the Philadelphia Eagles in front of 73,677 fans in London in the 1989 preseason.
The Browns last played internationally during the 1993 preseason, when they travelled to Toronto to play the New England Patriots.
And this year’s Browns feel the responsibility of representing the organization on an international scale.
“As a team, there is a lot that we are playing for,” quarterback DeShone Kizer said. “We are playing for our first victory. We are playing for the tradition that has been created here. We are playing for guys like Jim Brown. What we tend to forget is how many people we touch through stepping on the field. This is a cool opportunity for us and for this organization to go and see some new fans and play for them.
“I think it will bring an interesting environment in terms of the playing field and the way that the crowd works. You never know how loud it is going to get or how a team is going to play, but you can count on quite a few UK backers for us. That is something that helps us big time as far as third downs go and making sure that there is a little bit of crowd noise.”