London scenery aside, it’s business as usual for Rams as they prepare for Cardinals

Los Angeles Rams’ wide receiver Tavon Austin warms up during a training session at Pennyhill Park Ho
Rams receiver Tavon Austin warms up during a training session at Pennyhill Park Hotel in Bagshot, England.
(Tim Ireland / Associated Press)

As rap music blared from a speaker, Rams players emerged from a rugby training building and made their way onto a field surrounded by trees tucked in the English countryside.

Several bundled themselves in sweats and beanies to stay warm in the chilly fall weather. Coach Sean McVay appeared energized in his trademark blue shorts.

About 40 British reporters and camera operators stood on the sideline to watch a portion of the Rams’ only practice in the London area before they face the Arizona Cardinals at Twickenham Stadium on Sunday.

“Definitely excited to be out here,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said, “and just ready for Sunday.”


For the first time since 2006, the Rams are 4-2. The Cardinals are 3-3.

After defeating the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday at EverBank Field, the Rams spent most of the week practicing in Jacksonville. They departed Thursday on an eight-hour, red-eye flight to London, and arrived shortly after 9 a.m. local time.

Several players said they slept on the plane.

“It was hard,” defensive lineman Michael Brockers said. “But once you get in the air and you get rocking and turbulence hits a little bit, it just rocks you to sleep.”


After landing in London, they bused 40 minutes to their secluded hotel resort, where they ate breakfast, rested their legs, and then attended meetings before the late-afternoon practice.

Players handled the itinerary well, McVay said.

“They’ve just kind of continued to just go about their work in a very businesslike manner,” he said. “But still allowing themselves to have fun doing it.”

Brockers said he was unsure how his body was adjusting to the five-hour time change from the East Coast.

“I’m just in limbo,” he said. “I was tired a little earlier, and then talking about football and going in the film room kind of got me up.

“And after that I’m like, ‘I don’t know where I’m at. I don’t know if I’m tired I don’t know if I’m ready to go see London.’ ”

Todd Gurley, an outspoken opponent of international games throughout the week, didn’t change his tune when he met with reporters.

The Times’ Gary Klein and Lindsey Thiry attended the Rams practice in London and preview their game against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. 

Gurley criticized the NFL — “Whatever floats their boat,” he said — for scheduling an NFC West game abroad.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” he said. “We play Arizona, it’s a 45-minute flight, but instead we’ve got Arizona and us, if we were to travel all the way from L.A., that’s 13 hours.”

The Rams travel to Phoenix to play the Cardinals again in December.

McVay said the trip to London was “a great opportunity to compete in a different place” but agreed that the travel circumstances were “not ideal.”

Last season, former coach Jeff Fisher and the Rams spent a week in London, with time to take in sights and attractions, before playing the New York Giants.

This time, Ogletree said there was only one thing he wanted to do.

“I’m trying to win a game,” he said.

Popular punter


Sunday’s game features Gurley, Rams quarterback Jared Goff and other star players such as Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer, running back Adrian Peterson and receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

Fans, however, are apt to save their loudest cheers for Rams punter Johnny Hekker and other specialists.

That has become a norm during international series games.

“You get a lot of recognition because it’s a familiar deal for them,” Hekker said. “A lot of their sports out here involve a lot of footwork and kicking the ball.

“So, especially soccer, their football is a lot more foot-oriented.”

Hekker also has raised his profile by participating in ambassadorial trips to Great Britain. Last summer, he was the subject of video about his first afternoon tea.

Hekker, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, is averaging 46.9 yards per punt.

“When you match up great personality, great person and great production as a player I think you get a special combination of things,” McVay said. “And that’s really what Johnny Hekker represents for us, and it’s easy to see why when he comes over here he becomes a popular player for us.”

Hekker said he looked forward to Sunday, and watching fans continue to learn about American football.

“I love to see them getting a grasp on what other players do,” he said. “The sport here has grown a ton.”


Linebacker Mark Barron (thumb) was limited and is questionable for Sunday’s game. Safety Cody Davis (thigh) did not practice and is doubtful. Safety Lamarcus Joyner is expected to start after being sidelined for three games because of a hamstring injury.

Follow Lindsey Thiry on Facebook and Twitter @LindseyThiry