Playing International Series games never has been one of Todd Gurley’s favorite pastimes.
The Rams’ star running back enjoys the fans but over the years has not been shy about voicing his disdain for the extended travel and the crimp it puts in players’ regular routines.
Two years ago, during the team’s stay in Jacksonville before departing for London, Gurley used the word “terrible” to express his thoughts on the matter.
But on Thursday, after the Rams completed a practice at Georgia Tech and prepared for their international flight to London for their game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, Gurley sounded as if he was looking forward to the trip.
“Yeah, a little bit,” he said. “I like London, but during the season — I wish we could’ve been there all week. … At least we’re not in Jacksonville.”
Gurley played in college at Georgia, so his spirits were lifted by spending four days in Atlanta after the Rams defeated the Falcons last Sunday. The 37-10 victory ended a three-game losing streak and improved the Rams’ record to 4-3.
Gurley visited with friends throughout the week.
“Just spread it out each day, just try to do something different and see everybody for the most part,” he said.
Against the Falcons, Gurley returned from a thigh bruise that he suffered two weeks before in a loss to the Seattle Seahawks. The injury forced him to sit out the next game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Coach Sean McVay rotated Gurley and rookie Darrell Henderson in the victory over the Falcons. Gurley played 46 snaps, rushed for 41 yards in 18 carries and also made a spectacular touchdown catch. Henderson played 26 snaps. He rushed for 31 yards in 11 carries and caught one pass.
“It was cool,” Gurley said. “Obviously, my first game coming back … so we had a plan and we were able to get things going and rotate and stuff like that.”
Said Henderson: “If you’re getting a lot of reps, it’s going to help you be more comfortable because you get all the bubble guts and everything out that you’re feeling and you just relax.”
McVay described it as “a nice little balance” of the running backs.
“You want to be able to get Todd in the rhythm of the game,” he said. “I thought we were able to do that while still getting Darrell some touches. I thought that worked out pretty good for us.”
McVay has limited Gurley’s touches in an effort to manage the left knee issue that sidelined and slowed the three-time Pro Bowl selection late last season. Gurley has not rushed for 100 yards in a game since a NFC divisional-round playoff victory over the Dallas Cowboys last January.
That might change Sunday: The winless Bengals are giving up a league-worst 189 yards rushing per game.
With running back Malcolm Brown still sidelined because of an ankle injury suffered against the Seahawks, Gurley, Henderson and second-year pro John Kelly will be active Sunday.
Gurley has played in two International Series games. In 2016, he rushed for 57 yards in 15 carries and caught six passes in a 17-10 loss to the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium.
Two years ago, at the same site, he rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in 22 carries, and caught four passes in a 33-0 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
The Rams were scheduled to play the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City last season, but the NFL moved the game to the Coliseum because of poor field conditions at Estadio Azteca.
The game Sunday will be played at Wembley Stadium. Gurley anticipates a similar atmosphere to the one he experienced at Twickenham.
“Those fans are a little different over there — pretty much get excited for everything,” he said. “It’s cool just to be able to have the opportunity play an international game. ... A good opportunity for a lot of guys to get a little stamp on their passport and go over there and experience everything.”
Cornerback Troy Hill (hamstring) did not practice but McVay said he is expected to play Sunday. Linebacker Bryce Hager (shoulder) did not practice. ... The Rams are scheduled to land in London on Friday morning, and will go through a modified walk-through in the afternoon, McVay said.