There is a long list of reasons why NFL players’ lives are better than most everyone else’s. But how the Dolphins flew to London should be near the top.
Pretty much anyone expected to play Sunday against the Saints got his own sleeping compartment on the nonstop Virgin Atlantic flight from Fort Lauderdale.
The retail price of that ticket, if you booked commercially?
Around four grand.
“[The beds] are still not big enough for most of those guys,” Adam Gase quipped here Friday.
Perhaps not, but for guys like Ndamukong Suh, they beat trying to get eight hours sitting upright.
So for the Dolphins, it was worth every penny. The organization knows that it can never get back the time lost by Hurricane Irma and a surrendered home game. But it can help its players maximize the time they have to spend away from home.
Sunday’s game here against the New Orleans is the end of a long and winding road for the Dolphins.
Since they left for Los Angeles on Sept. 8, Dolphins players have slept in their own beds no more than 10 times. By the time they return from London early Monday morning, they will have flown 16,790 miles. Keep in mind, we’re just in Week 4.
The Dolphins have traveled more in a month than 14 teams will travel this entire season.
“Frequent flyer miles are up,” Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi joked.
The good news for the Dolphins, if there is any, is this: They know what to expect this weekend.
Only a handful of them have not made this trip before.
Even guys like Gase and Jay Cutler, who were not with the Dolphins when they played in London two years ago, have done it before.
The organization may have changed coaches (twice) since its last trip abroad, but it didn’t change its approach. The Saints have been here all week. But like the Dolphins did in 2015, Gase decided to again fly overnight Thursday, arriving Friday and practicing at a rugby stadium almost immediately.
“Without us having a bye week afterward, we’re trying to keep it just as short as possible, because we’re going to have to transition after this game. We’re going to have to go back, got to get ready for the next game, so we’re looking at it big picture and just felt like that was the best thing for us.”
Gase said that Friday, probably more tired than he was letting on. Jay Cutler likewise could have used a nap when he stepped to the podium. Even with the comforts of his own sleeping space, a bumpy flight kept him up for part of it.
“Today is the hardest part,” Cutler said Friday. “I mean technically yesterday was a travel day but today, getting through that, you kind of have to fight through today, get on London time and [Saturday] we should be okay.”
They should — but only if they followed the blueprint crafted by experts inside the organization, including Wayne Diesel, who is the team’s director of sports performance.
Planning for this week began even before the league released the 2017 schedule. The Dolphins requested that the league not slot their bye immediately after this game, so the plan was they would get a Sunday off later in the season.
Irma, of course, scrapped those plans. Instead, the Dolphins had their bye in Week 1, and will have to play 16 consecutive weeks — yet another reason why they are trying to minimize the impact of a five-hour time change.
(Throw in the Minnesota preseason game and the Los Angeles season opener, and the Dolphins are playing in four different time zones in a span of 31 days.)
“Really the big point of emphasis has been, for us, the hydration and making sure that everybody’s taking care of their bodies, putting the right things in their bodies, getting rest,” Gase said. “The big thing was for us to just get out there and move around and really get our minds going, get our bodies going and just get ready for this game.”
This week will be a good case study in which approach works — spending all week here, or just parachuting in for 60 hours.
For the Dolphins, who need a win after falling to the Jets last week and with the heart of their schedule still ahead of it, their season might depend on the outcome.