EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – The Giants have changed their west coast flight plan.
Since Tom Coughlin's first year as head coach in 2004, the Giants have followed basically the same schedule whenever they played in the Pacific time zone. They would depart the afternoon prior to the game – perhaps leaving an hour earlier – and return to New Jersey immediately. The only road trip exceptions were Super Bowls XLII and XLVI and when weather forced them to audible (an east coast blizzard forced them to spend two extra nights in Appleton, Wisc. in 2010).
This week, the Giants will follow a different itinerary for their game against the Los Angeles Rams in brand new SoFi Staduim.
When the NFL schedule was released in May, coach Joe Judge said during his eight seasons as an assistant coach in New England, the Patriots traveled to California, Seattle or Arizona on Friday, and the Giants might do the same. "We'll have a game plan to go out there early," he said then, "and be prepared to cancel the extra day if we need to as we get a feel for how our team goes throughout the season."
Today, he revealed a hybrid schedule – part old Giants and part Patriots, plus other elements.
"To be honest with you, we're going to kind of take a page out of a couple different teams' books, along with the place I was," Judge said. "We're going to go out there early Saturday. A lot of teams travel on Friday, kind of reset that circadian rhythm. We're going to go out there Saturday. We're going to get out there early, get our guys in the sunlight for a little bit, kind of get them in the UV rays, which should help reset their body clocks a little bit. Being as though it's not a primetime game at night, it's less than 24 hours of a trip for us. It shouldn't affect us overly in terms of that window we're going in there. We're going to go ahead and stay in east coast time as much as we can and wake up the next day ready to play."
The Giants' plans will change most radically on the return trip. Instead of flying through the night on Sunday, the Giants will leave Los Angeles "around lunch time west coast time" on Monday, Judge said. They are scheduled to arrive at Newark Airport around 8-8:30 p.m.
"The one thing I think that stands out that we're going to do a little bit differently, like several teams have done lately, is we're going to stay out there after the game on Sunday," Judge said. "Instead of returning back immediately afterwards, we're going to stay out and make sure the guys get a good night's sleep. We'll get the film graded that night, watch with the players the next morning and get that all cleaned up. We'll fly back, give us an opportunity as coaches to work on the next opponent going forward (Dallas, also on the road)), give the players a good amount of time between Monday night getting home and Tuesday as the off day.
"We're really looking to avoid some of that jetlag time coming back and trying to keep the players as fresh as possible. This is something we talked about in the offseason when the schedule came out with a lot of coaches around the league and things they've done in the past. It was something that we thought could really help our players, not just for this week, but also with next week's trip back to Texas."
*The Giants today added rookie cornerback Madre Harper to their roster. He filled the opening created when another corner, Brandon Williams, was placed on injured reserve yesterday.
Harper spent the season's first three weeks on the practice squad of the Las Vegas Raiders, with whom he signed in May as a rookie free agent. He played his final two collegiate seasons at Southern Illinois.
"He's a guy we've known about for some time now, to be honest with you," Judge said. "Obviously, there's no preseason games, so the exposure early on at the 53 cut was a little bit limited. He ended up staying in Las Vegas being a part of the practice squad. But he's a guy we've had our eye on. He's a good athlete. He's a long, rangy guy with good speed. He's definitely a developing player. I like the competitiveness he plays with. He's definitely somebody that we're anxious to get on the grass and start moving forward with him.
"Because of protocols, we just got him in the building today and got everything official. We'll see where he goes in terms of his involvement for this week. Getting someone on Thursday, we'll see how much we can kind of get him going and get him caught up on, and if there's a role or not in this week's game plan. But we'll probably take that up to the wire and decide what we're going to do with him this week. But we're excited to have him in the building and get working with him."