It takes a village to move a village, or something like that. The Eagles leave for Arizona on Sunday - players, coaches, support staff - and when they arrive, the goal is for them to feel like they are at the NovaCare Complex. Only, you know, in the desert with cactus and warm weather inside of South Philadelphia with all of its neighborhood attributes.
To accomplish this massive feat, Eagles Director of Team Travel and Football Logistics Dan Ryan has a team around him planning a home away from home for the Eagles.
"We want the players to focus on playing their best and to not worry about a thing other than playing great football," said Ryan, who has been in Arizona for much of this week. "We take care of the rest."
No detail is spared. The Eagles will practice at the Arizona Cardinals facility and they will do the rest at the team hotel and that's where Ryan and a team of about 10 people from the league office and an additional group of others from the Eagles organization have been focusing their efforts ahead of the Sunday arrival. Hot tubs? Check. Meeting rooms and athletic training areas? All set.
"In a normal game week, we're moving about 200 people," Ryan said. "This is a bit bigger here. With the team itself, just on the team plane, we'll have about 210 people. But we have advanced staff out here in place who will help when the team arrives, so that when they get here, they hit the ground running. We've replicated what we have at the NovaCare Complex so that the players will have the same popcorn, the same hot tubs and cold tubs. We have that all pre-planned and set up. We want them to feel like when they arrive here, they won't know the difference except for the time change."
The same popcorn? That's paying attention to details.
But after the team settles in for the week, Ryan and his people have the next wave arriving: The rest of the organization, along with friends and families and, wow, this a huge travel party all of a sudden!
"We're moving the whole team out here, some more players than usual, and the entire staff that will be here to support the players. That's one piece of it," Ryan said. "We're moving the friends and family of the players, coaches, and staff as well, so that's another piece. We've practiced this a lot, not only this year but in years past and it doesn't hurt that we have a lot of the same personnel who were here for the 2018 Super Bowl (in Minneapolis). We've got the blueprint for it. We're in a good spot.
"With the friends and family component, we will move close to 2,000 people over the course of that weekend. The players have their parents coming in, their wives, their loved ones. The staff have all of their families coming in. Everyone is super happy and super excited to be here and be part of this. We're lucky to have Jeffrey Lurie as the franchise owner because he is so generous to have everyone share in this experience."
The Eagles spent several days in Cleveland and then in Miami during the preseason, so that was a good practice run for much of the logistical challenge. But, Ryan said, a big difference here is the scope of the project that includes the entire Super Bowl experience - there are going to be tens of thousands of fans on hand - and beefing up security is extremely important.
At the end of the day, Ryan wants to make sure the players are zeroed in on beating the Kansas City Chiefs. To do that, they have to have great practices and sharp meetings from one day to the next.
"The biggest thing is limiting distraction and keeping the team focused on what the job is and what the end goal is," Ryan said. We're much more prepared now (than when the travel started for Super Bowl LII in February of 2018). We got out in front of the ball and really got ahead of everything - the travel time, practice facilities, all of that. It helped that we were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and it helped that we were home for the last five weeks, so I had a chance to look ahead and make sure that we all worked together to help this thing go along without a hitch."