Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

COVID-19 could alter 49ers’ East Coast travel plans

Aug 3, 2020 at 5:54 AM--

The San Francisco 49ers received a gift from NFL schedule makers when their two East Coast road games — against the New York Jets and Giants — were scheduled in during back-to-back weeks in September. The team planned to make a 10-day trip out of it, avoiding a rigorous back-and-forth travel plan from coast to coast, much as it did last year between road matchups against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals to open the season.

"Just being on the West Coast, and the time change, how it is a little tough for your body to adjust to those 10 a.m. (Pacific time, 1:00 p.m. Eastern) kickoffs if you're not used to it," head coach Kyle Shanahan explained last year. "Once you do that for one game, and when you have them back-to-back, to fly (back) out here, how much it messes you up throughout the week, trying to just get back to normal. And then to have to fly back again on that Friday, then you're messed up again."

The hope in May, when the schedule was released, was that the concern surrounding the coronavirus pandemic would be diminishing by September.

That isn't the case.

Now, the 49ers may not be allowed to stay on the road for an extended period of time, creating a significant disadvantage for the team, which may have to make back-to-back-to-back-to-back cross-country journeys.

"The eight teams that have such back-to-backs will probably have to file 'IDER plans,' which stands for infectious disease emergency response," wrote Peter King of NBC Sports. "These are detailed travel and sequestering plans that the league and the union will need to approve before a team is able to stay on the road for that length of time. I'm told the league is going to strongly urge teams not to stay on the road that long, despite the inconvenience for the teams involved. Stay tuned for that one."

And it's not just the back-to-back East Coast matchups that may be impacted. San Francisco typically travels for road games on Fridays after practice. They will then hold a walk-through on the road that Saturday in preparation for a Sunday matchup.

That may have to change too.

"The NFL is also likely to put a rule in for this year that no team can travel two days ahead of a scheduled game," added King.

That's because players will need to undergo their final pre-game COVID-19 tests on Friday mornings and wait 24 hours for the results. That means teams may not know if a player can travel until Saturday morning and could expect a late arrival at their destination — with a game the next day.

Other than the Week 2 and 3 matchups against the two New York teams, San Francisco is scheduled to play the New England Patriots during Week 7. The team is also slated to face the New Orleans Saints in Week 10. While that last one is not an East Coast game (Central Time Zone), it still involves a significant amount of travel for the defending NFC champions.

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