ADVERTISEMENT

The Buffalo Bills prepared Wednesday to embark on what shapes up as a not-so-excellent West Coast adventure. The Bills leave for San Francisco on Saturday to face a 49ers team that was one win shy of the Super Bowl last year and has won 17 of its last 22 games. After the game Sunday night, they will fly straight to Phoenix and spend the week in Arizona preparing to face a surprising Cardinals team that is 4-0 this season. “As a player you try not to look ahead to the next game or games coming up,” Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said. “But we all know the schedule, and we know going to the West Coast and playing is a tough thing. We’ve got two of ’em in a row. We’re gonna put all the focus and effort into San Francisco. But this is a stretch of games where we’ll really figure out what kind of team this is.” The Bills have played only three games in the Pacific or Mountain time zones in the past six seasons. Buffalo has not played back-to-back games in the Pacific or Pacific and Mountain time zones since 1968. After the NFL schedule came out in April, Bills coach Chan Gailey called 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh to discuss the merits of staying on the opposite coast between games. San Francisco stayed in Ohio last year between games at Cincinnati and Philadelphia. The Niners did it again last week. After playing at Minnesota, they trained in Ohio in preparation for last Sunday’s game against the Jets at New York. “San Francisco’s done it the last couple years,” Gailey said Wednesday. “I talked with Harbaugh. He thought there was some real positives of not making your team fly back and forth, putting them on a plane for five or six hours both ways and adjusting to the time change twice during the course of a year. That was the decision. I’ve never done this, to be honest with you, but it made a little bit of sense to me to not put your players through that.” “It’s a little bit of a pain for everybody else that’s involved – for the coaches, for the video people, for equipment, trainers,” Gailey said. “But it’s better for the players, and that’s why you’re doing it.” In a conference call with Buffalo-area reporters, Harbaugh initially downplayed the benefit of spending a week away from home. “I don’t know how much it helps to be honest with you,” he said. But then he acknowledged some benefits. “As soon as the first game’s over and you’re staying over somewhere, you don’t really feel the benefit until the next Friday or Saturday, whenever you would have traveled,” Harbaugh said. “You’re not making a 5-hour, 6-hour flight. That’s when it all seems worth it.” “One thing that’s really important is that your team enjoys each other’s company,” Harbaugh said. “It’s like a second training camp in a way, where you’re all together, you’re all at a hotel practicing and you’re on the road at one site. There’s more time to spend with each other and get to know each other. I think it’s a real benefit, especially if your team is one that respects each other.” The Bills will practice next week at Arizona State University in the Phoenix suburb of Tempe. The campus is just 5 miles from their hotel. “We’ll be able to do our job, hopefully without the jet lag and all of that being a major issue, taking that out of the equation,” Gailey said. Bills linebacker Kirk Morrison is a California native who spent his first five seasons in Oakland. He says going out West is not a big deal. “West Coast to East Coast is definitely harder,” Morrison said, referring to the fact a 1 p.m. East Coast game feels like a 10 a.m. start for a West Coast player. “East Coast to West Coast is not that hard. It actually feels a lot better, especially when you get out a day ahead of time. You get acclimated real quick. ... You get up, eat breakfast and watch the early games, get into the mood watching the other guys playing.” email: mgaughan@buffnews.com