CLEVELAND -- Coaches at all levels of sport talk about the importance of building strong bonds among teammates, especially during times of isolation from outside distractions.
And Cleveland Browns coach Hue Jackson sees this week’s trip to London to play the Minnesota Vikings in the 2017 NFL International Series at Twickenham Stadium as a bonding experience, especially with nearly two dozen players with three or less years of professional experience.
“Anytime you can go away together, be in a different environment, and have to really depend on each other and hold each other accountable that way, I think that’s how you grow as a football team,” Jackson said after the team arrived in London.
“This is a great experience for our whole organization. There are a lot of people within our organization, our football team, our executive team that are here, and so, I think it will be a great experience for the whole Cleveland Browns organization this whole weekend, and it’d be awesome if we could come away with a win.”
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.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity for our football team to be here, to represent Cleveland,” Jackson said. “We’re excited about playing, excited about getting another opportunity to go out and compete against a really good football team in Minnesota.
“We understand that it’s a tall challenge for us, but that’s what the National Football League is every week, so we’re looking forward to it. I thought we had a really spirited and good practice. I didn’t see any guys dragging or anything like that. I don’t sense any jet-lag or anything like that. I think our guys are excited about being here and excited to play, so we’re looking forward to it. Hopefully, we can go play well.”
Jackson and his coaching staff gave the Browns Friday night to tour the city of London before reporting back to the team hotel. However, Jackson did not join his players, choosing instead to continue focusing on the Vikings rather than touring the city he once coached in during his time in the World League.
“In order for us to have an opportunity to win this game, we’ve got to play our best game of the season,” Jackson said. “It’s just that simple. That’s what I’ve told our guys. We make no bones about that. Again, it’s going to be a great experience for us all, and it’s going to be a heck of a football game.”