When Giants rookie running back Eric Gray took his first NFL road trip in August for joint practices and a preseason game in Detroit, he expected to have a roommate in the team hotel — like he had in college.
“We stayed there for a week, and you had 90 guys on the squad then,” Gray said. “I’m thinking everybody’s not going to have their own room with 90 guys, but we did.”
Gray experienced first-class travel accommodations while playing for college powerhouses Tennessee and Oklahoma. But having his own room on the road was a perk he didn’t experience until he reached the NFL.
“That was pretty sweet,” Gray said.
Every aspect of an NFL road trip is designed to maximize performance and eliminate any of the stresses of commercial travel. For players, the trips, which typically span about 36 hours from start to finish, are an enjoyable part of the NFL experience.
“I love road trips,” wide receiver Parris Campbell said. “It’s always fun, just being in a new city, new environment, trying new food.”
2024 NFL Draft order projections: What are the biggest needs for teams in the top 10? Giants tight end Darren Waller prepares to board a plane that will take him and his teammates to Buffalo ahead of their Week 6 matchup with the Bills. (Matt Swenson / New York Giants)
Planning for the Giants’ nine road games this season began immediately after the schedule was released on May 11. Vice president of team operations Jim Phelan and director of team operations Jeff Conroy led an effort that got input from departments throughout the organization.
Phelan and Conroy need to find a hotel in each road city that can accommodate a traveling party that ranges from 175 to 220 people. They conduct visits to scout potential hotels in cities the team hasn’t played in recently, prioritizing service, the layout and proximity to the stadium and airport.
There are also charter buses to and from the airports in both cities and a chartered plane to fly the players, coaches and other employees to games. And then there’s the 20,000 pounds of equipment packed in trunks and loaded onto the team plane.
While the operations team handles all of those logistics, the players have simpler concerns, such as their pre-flight food on travel days. Rookies are responsible for catering lunch for their position group. Chick-Fil-A, Popeye’s and Wingstop are popular options.
“Before we go to walk-through, the rookies usually DoorDash the food and after walk-through, it’s usually here,” Campbell said. “So everybody is in (the locker room) with plates and eating food, getting ready to get on the bus.”
The team flight typically departs in the early afternoon on Saturday for a Sunday game. Buses pick everyone up at the Giants’ facility in East Rutherford, N.J., and drive them directly to the hangar at Newark Airport where their plane is waiting.
The security process is nothing like commercial passengers waiting in serpentine lines in terminals.
“You have to give your ID to TSA, and TSA randomly selects guys,” Gray said. “So if you get picked, you have to go through a metal detector. They check your bag and you go to the plane. But if you’re not picked, you just go straight to the plane.”
Giants’ effort vs. Saints ‘not good enough’; DeVito mania vs. ‘Linsanity’?Once on board, players take assigned seats. Like on any flight, first-class seats are the most desirable. There’s an expanded first-class section on the Boeing 767 plane the Giants typically use, so many players are afforded the extra comfortable seats for the flights. Head coach Brian Daboll and the three coordinators also get first-class seats.
“In Indy, all of the players sat in the back of the plane, which was kind of wicked,” said Campbell, who signed with the Giants this offseason after four years with the Colts. “Everybody had their own row, but you still had to snug in. It was bad. When I first got here for our first away game, I was about to go to the back of the plane. Then they were like, ‘No, no, no.’ I was like, ‘OK, say no more.’ It’s a nice perk, for sure.”