As is their custom, the Washington Football Team traveled to Arizona after Friday’s practice to avoid a long flight right before Sunday’s game.
Unlike past visits, their stay in the desert will come with a number of restrictions.
Travel is one of the biggest obstacles for NFL teams as they aim to remain coronavirus-free throughout the 2020 season. The chartered jet will be restricted in the number of passengers it can carry, and all must be a part of the NFL’s daily testing program. At the hotel, the team will use a separate entrance and stay on floors that are off limits to even most hotel employees.
That means spending Saturday together, having team meetings, playing cards and video games, and finding ways to fill the time without going out or visiting family.
“You’re just kind of tucked into the hotel,” said Arizona coach Kliff Kingsbury, whose team traveled to San Francisco last week. “It was a very similar process to what it normally is, you just stay socially distanced. The food is a little bit different — it’s not a buffet style like it’s traditionally served. Other than that, it’s kind of business as usual.”
Washington hasn’t had any positive tests since reporting for training camp. Receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden and tight end Logan Thomas both contracted the virus during the offseason; Gandy-Golden had mild symptoms, Thomas had none.
The team received a personal appeal from coach Ron Rivera, who was diagnosed this offseason with squamous cell cancer, and emphasized the importance of not getting the virus while he undergoes treatment.
Because the treatment causes Rivera to wear down easier, he had an IV during halftime of last Sunday’s game in Philadelphia.
He said he anticipates having to do that again but otherwise doesn’t anticipate any issues unique to the road game. The Sunday temperature in Phoenix will be 103, but the Cardinals play in a retractable-roof stadium.
The rest of the team said they continue to be inspired by Rivera’s dedication to the players.
“Coach shows us every day his drive and his determination,” receiver Steven Sims said. “That tells us, hey, when you get up, you have nothing to complain about, nothing to worry or dread on. Look at our coach.”
Once the game starts, the traditional home-field advantage won’t be as noticeable without fans in the stadium. It’s something quarterback Dwayne Haskins experienced in Week 1 against Philadelphia.
“I missed the boos,” Haskins said. “I miss the Philly fans screaming at us on the sideline. That’s probably the most fun thing about football, not the interactions with fans but all the different stuff that you can hear on the field — just trying to stay locked in and not letting the atmosphere of game day get in your head and let it distract you from playing well.
“I miss the trash talking, even though the Eagles did a great job of doing that.”
The Philly players were chatty for most of Sunday’s game, which could be heard even in the upper levels of the stadium.
Haskins said there will be one other difference, after the game. He wants to swap jerseys with Kyler Murray, the Arizona quarterback whom he’s known since high school.
They’ll have to organize that by mail once they return home.