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Bengals stretch for scrum


LONDON _  Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis did his news conference in front of a wall filled with drawings of rugby greats Friday and running back Jeremy Hill did a sound bite for Sky Sports 3 promoting Sunday's game (9:30 a.m.-Cincinnati's Fox 19) against Washington ("Watch me at Wembley"), but other than that it was Lewis' coveted business as usual.

After the Bengals walked off the field at Allianz Park from Friday's walk through, the Bengals  were the healthiest they've been all year despite flying all night with an injury report  listing everyone full go and that includes Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew  Whitworth.  Whitworth, his concussion behind him, was left to wonder about his first time on a rugby field.

"Not in Louisiana. Chase a gator maybe," said Whitworth, when asked if he had ever played it. "I like the sport. I just don't know enough about it. "

At the home of the Saracens rugby club, the Bengals went through their usual Friday routine of stretching and walk-throughs and they figure to be more rested for Saturday's more brisk practice that includes a short mock game at Wembley Stadium, site of the game.

Whitworth called it all an extended West Coast trip even down to the feel of Friday's workout, which he compared to Sunday's workout in Denver last December. But cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick thinks Saturday will be much crisper with a better night of sleep.

"Everything's a blur," said Kirkpatrick, who said he caught four hours of sleep on the flight. "All I'm thinking about is bed … Everybody maintained the focus, but the guys who are out there talking and bring the energy, you didn't really see that a lot today. It will definitely be there tomorrow."

One of the more popular figures at Friday's news conference was 15-year-old Luke Griffin, who made the two-and-a-half hour drive from Gloucester with his parents Shaun and Lisa. Luke Griffin has a muscle disease that has left him wheel-chair bound, but the smile of a life-long Bengals' fan lit up the room. Lisa Griffin showed cornerback Adam Jones a photo of Luke's bedroom papered with orange and Bengals' posters.

"I've been a fan since I was four," Luke Griffin said. "My dad was watching a game and I guess the Bengals were on. I liked the kit (uniform) with the stripes. The older I got and the more I understood, the more I watched."

It helps that his dad played American football back in the day and still does as a middle-aged running back.

"His guy is A.J. Green. (Luke) has the name on his back," Shaun said. "They're very busy, but he got a picture with him."

He also got a Bengals hat straight from the head of Lewis. Before he met the media, Lewis chatted with the Griffins and gave him a parting gift.

DEEP THOUGHTS: Jones and Kirkpatrick fielded plenty of questions about Washington's deep game. No one has caught more balls of at least 50 yards since 2008 than wide receiver DeSean Jackson with 33. And then there's his head coach, Jay Gruden, the former Bengals offensive coordinator who always jacked the ball down field whenever he could.  In practice and games.

And the voluble Gruden never backed down from needling and challenging the DBs.

"(Jackson) can still run. Everyone knows Jay likes to take shots, "Jones said. "We used to talk trash in practice.  Just give and take with the offense and defense. He's a fun guy. Yeah. He'll say something. He won't be disrespectful, but he'll say something."

Jones says, "You have to press his (butt)," and Kirkpatrick says, "You have to make them keep the ball in front of you. That's our No. 1 goal.

"If they don't get the deep balls, it's hard for them to win," Kirkpatrick said. "Because they want the deep ball. They don't want to chip it for five here, six there, eight there. They want the big play. We have to press them. I feel like we're fast enough to keep up with their guys."

Kirkpatrick also has fond memories of Gruden from his first two years in Cincinnati. It was Gruden who told Kirkpatrick to study the red-zone techniques of Denver cornerback Champ Bailey and Kirkpatrick hooked up with the future Hall-of-Famer last summer for some tutorials.

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