SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The Baltimore Ravens are remaining out west for the entire week in preparation for Sunday's game at Oakland, and coach John Harbaugh was asked whether he's hoping for a return trip to the Bay Area in February, when Super Bowl 50 is played at Levi's Stadium.
"Certainly, but we better get a couple wins here in September to make that a possibility," Harbaugh said.
That commitment to get back to the Super Bowl is evident based on a hefty investment that's designed to give them an advantage. Baltimore will spend over $1 million this year for extended trips to Philadelphia (for joint training camp practices with the Eagles), to San Jose (for the week in between the Broncos and Raiders games) and to Phoenix, Arizona, (for the week after the 49ers game and before the Cardinals game), according to team sources.
This money allows the Ravens to avoid taking a cross-country flight to Baltimore and then turn around four days later to board another six-hour flight back. It also provides more time for team bonding, because this becomes another training camp where players room together and eat together at the hotel.
This decision was made by Harbaugh, but only after getting feedback and some research results. When the Ravens learned their schedule would feature five road trips in the first seven weeks (including four games out west), Baltimore did its homework and found that teams have a better success rate when they stay out east or west. The Ravens' player leadership council unanimously voted to remain out west because there is less fatigue with fewer cross-country flights.
Then, John Harbaugh talked to his brother Jim, who is a strong advocate of remaining on that side of the country in between back-to-back road games. Under Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers won both games after staying there the week before.
"Really, more than anything, you go with your gut," John Harbaugh said. "I talked to Jim a lot about his trips east, and he really felt great about it. That was the overriding factor."
It took two months for the Ravens to find a hotel that had the space and availability to house 150 members of a football team (players, coaches and support staff) for an entire week in the busy Silicon Valley. The Ravens will practice and use the weight room at nearby San Jose State, but their locker room and meeting rooms will be recreated at the hotel.
The team rented hot and cold tubs, airlifted football equipment like blocking sleds from Baltimore and even brought along the people who repair their practice jerseys.
"I think everybody realizes that it’s not going to be the Owings Mills [Maryland] training facility," said Bob Eller, the Ravens' senior vice president of operations. "But everyone will get what they need in preparation for the Raiders."
The Ravens will have a similar road trip next month, when they play at San Francisco and then go to Phoenix for the week leading up to a "Monday Night Football" game at Arizona.
Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco acknowledged that no one really knows whether staying out west is the right decision, but he believes this has to be better than the alternative of enduring a total of eight cross-country flights.
"I know how you can feel when you get out there after the long trip and getting your body going," Flacco said. "I think guys are just intrigued by the fact that it might be the good way to do it and we might feel fresher because of it."