OXNARD, Calif. — All that was required to move an NFL franchise across the country was transporting 25,000 pounds of equipment, juggling trucks and drivers so two men could take turns sleeping and driving to keep things rolling 24 hours a day, finding hotel rooms for 180 people, obtaining favors left and right, and making sure no one forgot the three-hole puncher, because not having one really irritates coaches.
Usually, the Dolphins have three months to figure all that out.
This trip, they had two days.
All the while, they were dealing with the same problems everyone else had related to Hurricane Irma.
Perhaps you think the Dolphins easily popped up for a week’s worth of practice in Southern California for Sunday’s game against the host Los Angeles Chargers.
“No one has any clue,” said Scott Bullis, who as senior director of team operations was in charge of all aspects of travel.
Fifty-three men wear the uniforms of the Miami Dolphins, but behind them was another team of 80 whose job it was to uproot Davie and plop it down in Oxnard.
For players, it was “a typical work week,” Bullis said.
For the staff, it was anything but, especially for equipment manager Joe Cimino, trainer Ryan Grove, video director Mike Nobler, network technician Josh Pritzker, help desk coordinator Patrick Oliver and coach’s assistant Jay Kaiser.
“These guys were nonstop,” Bullis said. “They’re sleeping a couple of hours a night.”
Finding hotel space and borrowing the Dallas Cowboys’ summer training facility were the two biggest headaches. Plenty more followed.
Think you were stuck in traffic on the Turnpike? That truck next to you might have been one of three transporting the first 18,000 pounds of Dolphins gear. That obviously wasn’t working, so they took two of the trucks, crammed everything into one 18-wheeler in Dallas, put two drivers in it and told them not to stop until they hit Oxnard. (No, Burt Reynolds wasn’t among them.) The other 7,000 pounds of equipment flew to California.
Some staffers work crazy hours in a normal week, arriving around 5:30 a.m. and not leaving until 8 or 9 at night. Most of the time, it’s thankless work, the assumption being if they don’t hear from players or coaches, it’s a great sign.
“On this trip?” Bullis said. “Yes, because it’s different.”
One complimentary voice is via defensive end Cameron Wake, who tried to grasp the enormity. Normally when an NFL team moves abruptly, it’s the Colts bolting Baltimore, the Browns exiting Cleveland or Al Davis leaving everywhere.
“Take the Miami Dolphins’ training facility and move it all the way across the country and place it down so we’ll still be ready to play a game on Sunday?” Wake said. “It would probably take me a month and a half to do this. … Two days’ notice? I don’t even — it blows my mind.”
Coach Adam Gase might have paid Bullis’ staff the greatest compliment with a one-word response Friday when asked if there was any limitation on what could occur in practice this week.
“No,” he said.
One fortunate break was that the Cowboys use the Residence Inn in Oxnard not only to house players during training camp, but also because it features a practice field steps from their hotel rooms. The Cowboys also stash weights for their weight room, which the Dolphins borrowed.
Having all the comforts of home required bringing items you might not associate with professional football. Electronic boards that display daily schedules. Photo copiers. Paper. Laminators. Yes, three-hole punchers.
“A coach will go nuts if he can’t find a three-hole punch to get stuff into his binder,” said Bullis, in his ninth season with the organization. “Little things like that make a big difference for these guys and if can keep them where they don’t get aggravated, that’s our goal. We know what they want. We will bring it as long as we can fit it.”
The effort extended beyond those on the Dolphins’ payroll. Vendors who work in conjunction with the organization and are on standby during hurricane season, pitched in by helping players, coaches and staffers board up homes. As far as everyone could tell Friday, no one suffered major damage, although some still lack power.
Whether the Dolphins win or lose Sunday, at least they had a fighting chance.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard the word ‘no,’ ” Gase said. “These guys move quickly and they get things done at an extreme rate. This getting put together as fast as it did and how efficient it’s been, and what’s been available to our players and coaches and everybody that’s really been out here, has really been unbelievable.”
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