Nfl Travel Plans: When Do Teams Hit The Road?

what day do nfl teams travel

NFL teams travel thousands of miles each season, with some teams travelling more than others due to their location. Teams usually fly to their opponent's city on the Friday or Saturday before a Sunday game, but in 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, some teams opted to fly on the day of the game to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Most teams fly on wide-body charter aircraft, which provide more room for players to stretch out and sleep after games. The New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals are the only teams that own their own jets, while other teams charter flights from major airlines.

Characteristics Values
Number of people travelling 185 on average per road trip
Travel planning starts Early spring
Arrival time At least 18 hours before kickoff
Transport methods Planes, trains, automobiles
Transport providers American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Atlas Air
Team with own jets New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals
Same-day travel Considered during the 2020 season due to coronavirus

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Teams travel in large groups

NFL teams travel in large groups, with team rosters alone comprising 53 players. However, the travelling party also includes coaching, medical, communications, and technical staff. In total, teams can travel with over 100 people. For example, the Baltimore Ravens travelled with around 185 passengers on a trip, according to Bob Eller, the team's then senior vice president of operations. The Miami Dolphins also travel with approximately 180 passengers, including about 69 players, 30 coaches, 70 support staff, and 10 media members.

The size of travelling parties has increased in recent years, with some teams having contingents of almost 200 people per game. These large groups include players, coaches, front office staff, equipment staff, sponsors, security personnel, and doctors.

The New England Patriots, who have two private jets, are the only NFL team to fly their athletes in their own planes. The Patriots purchased two used Boeing 767s, which are the same planes used by American Airlines. The Arizona Cardinals are the only other team with their own aircraft, having bought a Boeing 777-200ER in 2021.

For teams without their own planes, it is common to charter flights from major commercial airlines like American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. These airlines provide wide-body aircraft to accommodate large travelling parties. Teams may also use buses or trains for shorter trips. For example, the Baltimore Ravens use buses or trains for shorter trips to cities like Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

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Travel planning starts early

Even before the season schedule is released, NFL teams know who their 10 preseason and regular-season road opponents will be. Bob Eller, the senior vice president of operations for the Baltimore Ravens, says that "at that point in time, it's about creating dialogue with hotels to check out their suitability for meeting our needs" Teams send out bid sheets, which include details regarding their needs and guidelines about how they will operate during their stay. They then put together preliminary pricing proposals.

Eller says that "once the schedule is released, some of the hotels will eliminate themselves because they might have an event already booked". Teams require a lot of common space and several meeting rooms, so hotels hosting weddings or conventions during the weekend the team is in town are usually off the table.

Each spring, the people who handle travel and operations for all 32 teams gather to compare notes and fill out travel surveys that include ratings and feedback for hotels they stayed in during the previous season. If a team is still unsure about a hotel, they will perform a site inspection before confirming.

When the schedule is released, negotiations with hotels can begin in earnest, covering everything from rates to food and beverage, audiovisual needs, privacy, and security. Contracts with hotels and airlines are then executed, and the major pieces are in place.

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Travel by plane, train and/or automobile

NFL teams travel in parties of over 100 people, including players, coaches, front office staff, equipment staff, sponsors, security personnel, and doctors. Teams travel by plane, train, bus, or automobile, depending on the distance to the game.

Most teams charter flights with major airlines such as American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines. Some teams, like the New England Patriots, have their own planes. The Patriots purchased two used Boeing 767s, the same planes used by American Airlines. The Seattle Seahawks have a similar arrangement with Alaska Airlines and have a 787 Dreamliner that sits in a hangar at Sea-Tac Airport. Teams also truck their equipment to most road cities, except when travelling to the West Coast, when they fly it in the belly of the aircraft.

In some cases, teams may travel by train. For example, the Baltimore Ravens have taken Amtrak from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and the New York Giants have private train cars for trips to Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore, and New England.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, some teams considered flying to their road games on the day of the game to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. Usually, teams would fly to their opponent's city on the Friday or Saturday before a Sunday game, depending on the distance and whether a time zone adjustment is needed.

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Teams arrive at least 18 hours before kickoff

NFL teams travel thousands of miles each season, with some teams travelling more than others due to their location. Teams with their own private jets include the New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots own two Boeing 767s, while the Cardinals have a larger former Delta Air Lines 777-200LR.

Most teams, however, fly on wide-body charter aircraft, which offer more room for players to stretch out and rest. Carriers that operate these flights include American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines. Teams usually arrive at their destination at least 18 hours before kickoff. For a Sunday matinee, for example, teams often land on Saturday afternoon, have meetings, eat dinner, and go to bed by an 11 pm curfew.

In 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic, some teams considered flying to their road games on the day of the game to reduce the risk of exposure to the virus. This would mean that teams would have more control over outside contact, as they would be bussed directly from the stadium to the team plane and back again. However, same-day travel is not feasible for longer flights, such as those over 2,000 miles.

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Teams truck their equipment

NFL teams typically truck their equipment to road games, with the exception of long-distance trips where equipment is flown in the belly of the aircraft. The equipment is packed into 18-wheelers or semi-trucks, which are often decorated in team colours and emblazoned with team logos. These trucks are driven by hired drivers who are familiar with the equipment and its placement in the truck, to ensure efficient loading and unloading.

The equipment includes players' gear, such as uniforms, shoes, cleats, shoulder pads, helmets, and an array of under-pad gear. In addition, training and medical supplies, audiovisual equipment, sideline communication devices, and other miscellaneous items like garden rakes for cleaning up the locker room, are also transported.

For shorter trips, one driver will handle the journey, but for longer hauls exceeding 10 hours, two drivers will take shifts. The trucks are loaded with care, using a special rack system to maximise space, and the loading process can take up to 90 minutes. Upon arrival at the visiting city, the truck first stops at the team hotel to drop off essential items before proceeding to the stadium to unload and set up the locker room.

The equipment staff ensures that everything is unloaded and set up, often with the assistance of the home team's clubhouse attendants. They pay close attention to detail, inspecting every item for any tears or stains, and making necessary repairs or replacements. This meticulous process ensures that players have everything they need, from uniforms and protective gear to personal care items like soap.

Frequently asked questions

Teams usually fly to the opponent's city on the Friday or Saturday before a Sunday game, depending on the distance and whether a time zone adjustment is needed.

Multiple teams opted to fly on the day of the game to reduce the risk of players and team personnel being exposed to the virus.

Teams travel in parties of well over 100 people. The Ravens, for example, average about 185 passengers per road trip.

Most teams fly on wide-body charter aircraft, which offer more room for players to stretch their legs and sleep after games.

Yes, the New England Patriots and the Arizona Cardinals have their own team jets.

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