How various Commanders players endure their flights to road games

Commanders players' in-flight activities are quite relatable originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

This coming Saturday, Taylor Heinicke will be looking for gaps in the 49ers’ vaunted defense. That, to most, isn’t relatable. 

Right before that Week 16 showdown, though, Heinicke must explore for a TV show that he can watch on the flight to the West Coast. That, to most, is supremely relatable.

Washington’s travel schedule in 2022 has been quite manageable: Only seven teams will end up facing fewer miles on their itinerary for road games than Ron Rivera’s squad, according to one preseason evaluation of each NFL franchise’s travel that was done back before this year’s slate was released.

It just so happens, however, that the Commanders’ final trip of the season will be their longest, as the journey to San Francisco easily outdoes previous jaunts to places like Philadelphia, New York, Detroit and Chicago. So, what do the players do to pass the time while up in the sky?

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It’s probably easier to begin with what they won’t do.

“You hear about Russell Wilson?” defensive end James Smith-Williams rhetorically chimed in Wednesday as fellow pass rusher Casey Toohill began describing how he’ll try to keep his legs moving on the excursion. “That’s this guy. He’s doin’ high knees.”

Smith-Williams, of course, was referring to the October story of Russell Wilson vigorously exercising on the Broncos’ journey to London, a tale that led to the extremely mockable Wilson being mocked more. Heinicke, too, made light of that funky flight activity, joking that he and Logan Thomas would probably aim to get a handful of high knees in together.

Heinicke did go on to discuss more serious matters, such as the need to identify a new series to binge. He’s currently consuming Amazon’s “Jack Ryan” series, but he thinks he’ll be finished with it by the time the wheels go up for San Fran.

Tight end John Bates is in the same boat (or plane?) as Heinicke, but in addition to his search for a streaming option, Bates has one other item on his to-do list.

“Chug a bunch of water,” he said.

The best part about that? Drink coupons aren’t required.

Multiple members of Washington’s roster revealed that they are greeted with some sort of seating chart when they board, yet because of the size of their aircraft, they can typically claim an entire row to themselves. That’s a positive development in the eyes of Joey Slye, who uses the space to sleep once he eats his customary bowl of Chipotle.

“I’m knocked out as soon as I get in my seat,” the kicker said. “Legs out or curled up in whatever position.”

Slye then went on to joke that sleeping “like a cat” pushes him to meet with the organization’s chiropractor once he and the rest of the club lands.

“I need to see him immediately because my back is all twisted up,” Slye said.

Running back Jonathan Williams is another sleep-first guy; he’s not normally a napper, he explained, but planes and couches are the two settings that help him doze. Should rest evade him, he’ll happily “get into a rabbit hole about something” on his phone.

“I’ll probably be looking up crypto,” Williams said. “I’m big into crypto. So I’ll probably be on something, find something.”

Then there’s Smith-Williams and Toohill, the pair of edge threats whose back-and-forth jabbing in the locker room often appears to be on autopilot due to its consistency. Toohill, who was disrupted by Smith-Williams’ previously-mentioned Wilson zing, was happy to interject when Smith-Williams was outlining his routine.

“I play gin rummy with Jon [Allen], K-Full[er] and Daniel Wise,” Smith-Williams said.

“After you study film,” Toohill reminded him.

“After I watch copious film,” Smith-Williams said.

“Usually I’ll sleep, read — after we watch film,” Toohill continued.

“Ask him what books he reads,” Smith-Williams said. “Come on.”

“I don’t have a book right now,” Toohill admitted. “I might try to get one before we leave.”

“Harry Potter,” Smith-Williams suggested.

Overall, learning about the Commanders’ flying habits ought to be a bit comforting to fans of the team.

When on the field, these athletes are capable of doing things that inspire shock and awe. But when on a plane, they’re pretty much confined to the same couple of choices that almost everyone else, regardless of their size, speed or occupation, is. 

This article was written by WTOP’s news partner, NBC Sports Washington. Sign up for NBC Sports Washington’s free email subscription today.

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