Bears ready to rock in London despite long flight, Matt Nagy’s thunderous snoring
The Bears landed in London on Friday and got to work with an afternoon practice. They’re in a strange, new world and they’ll get limited time to explore it before facing the Raiders on Sunday.
LONDON — It’s certainly a hassle to throw a transatlantic trip into the middle of the already exhausting NFL season, but Bears right guard Kyle Long would like to recalibrate everyone’s perspective before they go overboard about what a hardship it is.
“In all reality, we had a 6½-hour flight and we had practice today,” he said. “It’s not like we ran a marathon, you know? I had Skittles in my seat. And they kept bringing me water. And the ladies had lovely accents.”
The hardest part of the flight was trying to sleep through coach Matt Nagy’s thunderous snoring.
“You didn’t have to be close,” Long said. “I was on the tarmac and I heard it.”
Nonetheless, it was a sharp shift from the Bears’ usual schedule, and that can be challenging when the weekly work routine is sacred.
The Bears flew Thursday evening, landed in London the next morning, took a long bus ride to their hotel to settle in, then bused to rugby venue Allianz Park on the outskirts of the city for practice at 4 p.m. local time.
“I felt great,” Long said. “Getting to land and not knowing what day it is but not really giving a [crap] and just going to practice and doing my job is really all I’m concerned with.
“I like different. Sometimes you fall under the spell of monotony and you lose sight of the details.”
The Bears rolled with it, and Nagy was quite chuffed with their effort on the pitch. Friday’s practice was their last tune-up before they take on the Raiders on Sunday at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. It will be the first NFL game played in that venue, which was finished in April.
Nagy kicked off the practice by waking everyone up with a dance-off between linebacker Josh Woods and running back Tarik Cohen. Woods appeared to win by doing a backflip from a standstill.
The electricity stayed high from there.
“It’s actually pretty impressive,” linebacker Khalil Mack said. “These guys came out here with a lot of energy. Everyone was focused. Not a lot of mental errors.”
Tiring of London-related questions, Mack said, “You could put us in Australia, China — the Chicago Bears are going to be ready to play ball on Sunday.”
But Mack was especially generous, fielding questions even though he already spoke at Halas Hall earlier in the week and would prefer to never speak at all. He even granted one of the local London reporters a selfie on his way to the bus.
There were a lot of quirky exchanges like that. One reporter greeted Long — 6-6, 332 pounds — by exclaiming, “You are a big guy!” Another prefaced a question for wide receiver Allen Robinson by noting that Robinson had scored a lot of points for the reporter’s fantasy team the last time he played in London.
The British media were also fascinated by Club Dub, the Bears’ locker-room dance party after victories.
Kicker Eddy Pineiro received an award from a Nicaraguan ambassador to honor him for being the first player of that heritage to play in the NFL. Long noticed a bunch of the rugby memorabilia in the facility and took an interest in the highly successful Saracens men’s and women’s teams. He said he planned to spend his evening watching clips on YouTube. That spun into a discussion on whether he would be any good at rugby.
“I’d be all right,” he said. “The only sport I would say I don’t want to do is soccer, professionally, because I know I can’t run with those guys.”
Rugby sounded fun, though. When it was pointed out that rugby players don’t wear helmets and that Long was sure to get his face rearranged, he replied cheekily, “I’m not that handsome.”
As for tourism, the plans vary by player. Mack scoffed at the idea of sightseeing: “I’ll come back and do that vacation stuff later.”
The offensive line, meanwhile, planned its own activity.
“Yeah,” Long said, smirking. “We’re all gonna take a nap at the same time.”
He added, “Separate rooms.”
The Bears are staying a short cab ride from Buckingham Palace, and if they indeed venture out, they’re sure to notice Bears fans have taken over the heart of London. Trafalgar Square was full of them Friday.
There also were fans at Heathrow Airport, greeting the Bears and snapping photos of them upon their arrival.
“There was a nice little crowd,” Robinson said. “Guys came off the plane looking like zombies, but it was a good crowd.”
It was an odd 48 hours for the Bears, but at some point Saturday it’ll start feeling normal again. They’ll have meetings at the hotel and a sensibly timed bed check, and it won’t be much different than any other road game.
“I’m looking forward to getting the win,” Mack said. “It’s only going to add on to the feeling that you go into the bye week with. It’s going to be a good feeling, hopefully, going back across the pond.”