SANTA CLARA — Travel fatigue and homesickness hit the 49ers as last season trudged to a welcome end.
So how receptive are they to open this season … on the road again?
They embark on a 10-day trip after today’s practice for games at Detroit and Philadelphia, with a layover next week at The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia?
“It’s just something you’ve got to deal with,” tight end George Kittle answered.
This isn’t as dour as last season, when Santa Clara County’s COVID protocol surprisingly prompted the 49ers to relocate to Arizona their final five weeks.
This isn’t a rare getaway, either.
The 49ers are the NFL’s most experienced drifters when it comes to extended stays the past decade.
There’ve been layovers in Youngstown, Ohio (2011, 12 and ’19). They’ve wintered in Florida for December dalliances (Orlando, 2016; Bradenton, 2019), plus a regrettable Miami visit for Super Bowl LIV two seasons ago. Best yet, the 49ers spent a week in London before beating Jacksonville there, after a 2013 road win at Tennessee.
The Greenbrier is burrowed in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, and it’s where the 49ers hid out last season between wins over the New York Jets and Giants.
“We had a fabulous experience there last time,” Kittle said. “It’s a great place, great fields, great facility.”
Not all went great. Flashback: A truck equipped with MRI equipment broke down on the way there last season, a harbinger of the 49ers’ injury-plagued and dreadful season.
“It’s not like we’re staying at a small hotel,” Kittle added. “We stay at a nice place and the one nice is thing is we do get to hang with all the guys, hang out, play cards and do whatever. I’m looking forward to it.”
When faced with back-to-back games on the East Coast, the 49ers historically have requested the NFL to package them in consecutive weeks, primarily to ease the travel burden on players’ body clocks. It’s worked to the tune of a 10-4 record, not counting last season’s Arizona adventure.
“We’ve got two hard places to play on the road, and we don’t need to battle an extra 10 hours of travel time and battle time zones,” 49ers CEO Jed York said before their 2011 Youngstown trip between wins at Cincinnati and Philadelphia. “It’s just a better way for us to prepare.”
Team ownership, primarily the York family, foots the bill for plush accommodations and as many comforts from home as possible, such as sending the team’s cook to Arizona for last season’s encampment at a Glendale, Arizona hotel, which was not a golf resort and not a commune where players could commiserate while in the NFL’s intensive COVID protocol.
The 49ers already did a five-day roadie to prepare for this season, bunking in Orange County for last month’s practices and preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers. Similar trips dispatched the 49ers in past camps to Baltimore (2014), Houston (2018), Denver (2016, ’19) and, last month, in Orange County.
According to the NFL, the 49ers will travel more air miles (28,260) than any team this season, and although that’s 210 more than the Seattle Seahawks, it’s unknown if that accounts for the miles they’ll save in this two-games-in-one trip.
The Denver Broncos won’t be staying on the East Coast between their opening games at the New York Giants and Jacksonville Jaguars, but the Broncos considered it.
Thus, the 49ers are the only known team staying abroad between back-to-back road games, at least those which are three time zones from home.
On the flip side, the Bay Area served as a hub for other NFL teams on the lamb, including the 2008 New England Patriots (practiced at San Jose State), the 2005 Dallas Cowboys (stayed in Fremont).
The New Orleans Saints have spent past training camps at The Greenbrier, and, if not for the 49ers already having dibs, would have relocated there this month in the wake of Hurricane Ida.
If the 49ers win at Detroit, they may not want to follow the 2015 Arizona Cardinals’ lead. The Cardinals, after a win in Detroit, headed to The Greenbrier before going onward to Pennsylvania, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
OK, enough about Arizona. The 49ers sure had enough of that last season. By the way, their next road trip after this one: Arizona, Oct. 10.
Contributed by local news sources