Mercury News Columnist
NEW ORLEANS -- Joe Staley had no trouble naming the best part about the team's flight here Sunday.
"The seats," said the 49er offensive tackle upon arrival.
The seats weren't normal seats. Instead of booking their usual 757 airplane for a Delta charter flight to the Super Bowl, the 49ers upgraded and took a 747 normally used for international trips such as their journey to London in 2010. Thus, the plane featured roughly 30 adjustable seats that folded back like beds, each in its own mini-cubicle. The Big Easy Chairs?
"I was able to sleep," said center Jonathan Goodwin, only in his second season with the team. "Normally I can't do that on a plane. That's the first time we've had those since I've been here."
The collapsible-bed seats were assigned by seniority, Goodwin said. Rookies and the coaching staff, including head coach Jim Harbaugh, sat back in coach. Which is appropriate, right?
The most important news, of course, was that the team arrived in town with no incident -- and that the dreaded "Super Bowl distractions" factor had not yet distracted them. Of course, they'd only been in town for an hour or so.
But in truth, the distractions factor is probably overrated. These are professional athletes. They are used to being in places with crowds and noise, you know? Many of them (as well as Harbaugh) have also been to various and sundry Super Bowls as fans — each NFL player is allowed to buy two tickets every year — and have some idea of what they're facing this week. Although a few do not.
"I just never felt like going," said defensive lineman Justin Smith. "I just figured I would go when I played in it."
"I bought tickets for some friends once but didn't go," said tight end Delanie Walker. "I promised myself I would only go if I was playing in it."
Goodwin, a member of the New Orleans Saints' Super Bowl team three years ago, said his only advice to 49er teammates was to get their family-travel and game-ticket situations settled before they left the Bay Area.
"You've got to eliminate all your distant cousins and new friends," Goodwin said. "My wife told me, 'I'll be the bad guy if you want,' which I appreciate. I think people believe we have unlimited access to Super Bowl tickets. And a lot of people don't realize we have to pay for them."
Each 49er does receive two complimentary tickets to Sunday's game but can buy up to 13 additional seats -- at $950 face value.
"If you mention how much the tickets cost," Goodwin said, "those requests from the distant cousins usually go away."
Staley, who attended the 2009 Pittsburgh-Arizona Super Bowl in Tampa Bay with his father, who is a Steelers' fan, said the experience gives him some idea of what the week here will be like. But he plans to treat it like a business trip.
For most teams, it's unusual to move the entire franchise operation out of town for an entire week. But as Harbaugh noted, it helps that during the last two seasons, the 49ers have spent a week in Youngstown, OH, during a two-game road trip back east. They grew accustomed to holding all meeting in hotels and busing to and from workouts at a remote location. Here, the 49ers will practice and meet at the New Orleans Saints facility with additional meetings at their headquarters hotel.
"I just want us to enjoy the moment, enjoy the preparation, enjoy the competition when the game comes," Harbaugh said.
Sunday, they were definitely able to enjoy the luxury airborne accommodations. The second best thing about the plane ride here, said Staley, was that each of the bed-like seats had its own television with on-demand programming, so he was able to watch several episodes of the former HBO television series, "How To Make It In America."
And the third best thing, Staley said, was the 10-minute nap he was able to take at one point.
"That was pretty fantastic," Staley said.
Everything is always a little more fabulous at the Super Bowl. Even the snoring.