The Ultimate NFL Road Trip ; FSU Opens Winston Investigation – But Will It Matter?

road trip

Will Leitch
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The Ultimate NFL Road Trip

The experience of attending an NFL game is not always the most pleasant one. The fans are rougher and rowdier than you’ll find at other North American professional leagues, you spend a depressingly large amount of time waiting for television to come back from commercial and there aren’t many angles you’ll see that aren’t better than what you can see at home. (Often, those watching from their couch can see the game more clearly than the ones playing it.)

But it’s still something everyone should experience. You can learn a ton about a city, and its people, by tailgating with them for a full NFL Sunday: After spending a grueling, sad Sunday in Cleveland last September, I sort of feel bonded with that franchise and their fans. I’d been an Arizona Cardinals fan my whole life, but it wasn’t until I at last flew out to Glendale for a game — a playoff game, no less — that I finally understood what it meant to be a fan of that team. (It’s pain, mostly.) You can see everything on TV. But sometimes you have to be there.

Thus! With the NFL season starting in two days, I thought it was time to put together our annual Ultimate NFL Road Trip. The trick, as it was with baseball and college football, is to see as many stadiums/games in as short a time as possible. With baseball, we put together a schedule that allowed us to see all 30 stadiums in 30 days. (31, actually.) You can’t do it that fast in the NFL — apparently NFL players require more days off than baseball players — but as you’ll see below, you can conceivably see all 31 NFL stadiums (32 if you count the Jets and Giants having different stadiums, which they don’t) by Thanksgiving, before it gets too cold. All stadiums and fan bases are different. Here’s a chance to see every single one of them.

With baseball, we attempted to hit all stadiums without ever driving a car: It was just plans, trains and cabs. That would be the opposite of how college football worked, where you just want to grab an SUV and go. We’ll split the difference here: There would be no way to drive to all of these games — getting from Sunday afternoon games to Monday night games wouldn’t give you enough time for that San Francisco to East Rutherford jaunt — so we’ll calculate how much it would be to fly to each appropriate airport, and then go under the assumption that you can find your way to the stadium, and shack up with whoever comes along. If you want to account for cabs or hotels, or if you just want to drive the whole thing, that is your prerogative: Add budget accordingly. All that matters is that you get the full gameday experience. I bet you can find more fans willing to have you sleep under their tailgate tent than you might think. We’re trying to keep this as cheap as possible. We’re just listing the flight fare here. (Taxes not included.)

So let’s go to it.
WEEK 1

Thursday, Sept. 4: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks, Century Link Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $220.40.)

We’re starting the counter at zero in Seattle, so start walking right now. (Seattle is far away. Walk fast.) No better place to start the season than at the stadium of the defending champions, the most electric home atmosphere in the game. It’ll be rollicking tonight.

Flight: Seattle to Kansas City (via Phoenix). American Airlines. $142.

Sunday, Sept. 7: Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs, Arrowhead Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $32.74.)

Tough to beat Seattle and Kansas City as rollicking stadiums to kick off the 2014 season. It is turning into quite the sporting year for K.C.

Flight: Kansas City to Phoenix (via Denver). Frontier Airlines. $179. (Warning: When we did this for baseball, every time we listed Frontier Airlines, readers informed us of just how unreliable this airline is. While all airlines are inherently unreliable, Frontier appears to stand out. Worth keeping in mind. There’s a United flight that’s 50 bucks more.)

Monday, Sept. 8: San Diego Chargers at Arizona Cardinals, University of Phoenix Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $51.28.)

This is the second of the two “Monday Night Football” openers, and we chose it because it gives you more time to tailgate. Also, the Cardinals’ new-ish stadium is surprisingly loud, particularly with the roof closed. (Which, considering it’s supposed to be 102 next weekend, you can count on it being.)
WEEK 2

Flight: Phoenix to Baltimore (via Houston). United Airlines. $232.

Thursday, Sept. 11: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens, M&T Bank Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $119.60.)

Going this early means you don’t have to watch Ray Rice.

Flight: Baltimore to Buffalo (via Detroit). Delta Air Lines. $203.

Sunday, Sept. 14: Miami Dolphins at Buffalo Bills, Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $120.)

You don’t get to boo Jon Bon Jovi anymore — not that you can’t go ahead and do that anyway — but considering the uncertainty of this franchise, it’s probably a good idea to check out this cranky, lovely old stadium while you have the chance. The NFL will lose a large chunk of whatever charm it has left if it ever leaves Buffalo. Come and scream with the locals.

Flight: Buffalo to Indianapolis (via Detroit). Delta Air Lines. $164.

Monday, Sept. 15: Philadelphia Eagles at Indianapolis Colts, Lucas Oil Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $55.76.)

Indianapolis, because of its expansive airport and its (mostly) convenient downtown location, has become a popular city to host big events. (The Super Bowl it hosted a few years ago will not be its last.) And it’s even more fun on gameday, because the bars aren’t crowded. Plus, this game will have a lot of points.
WEEK 3

Flight: Indianapolis to Atlanta, nonstop. AirTran. $135.

Thursday, Sept. 18: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Atlanta Falcons, Georgia Dome. (Cheapest ticket on Stubhub: $19.75.)

The Georgia Dome only has three NFL seasons left, as they build that crazy-looking stadium next door. You won’t miss it much, but you should still see it.

Flight: Atlanta to New Orleans, nonstop. Delta Air Lines. $145.

Sunday, Sept. 21: Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints, Mercedes Benz Superdome (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $102.13.)

Well, it’s New Orleans … so obviously you’ll want to get there from Atlanta as soon as possible.

Flight: New Orleans to Newark (via Atlanta). Delta Air Lines. $162.

Monday, Sept. 22: Chicago Bears at New York Jets, Met Life Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $57.)

I put together two separate stops at MetLife Stadium, because a Jets home game is different than a Giants home game, but your mileage may vary. Anyway, Rex Ryan teams are always a bit more fun on national television.
WEEK 4

Flight: Newark to Washington DC, nonstop. United Airlines $93.

Thursday, Sept. 25: New York Giants at Washington Football Team, FedEx Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $37.52.)

FedEx Field is notoriously the biggest ripoff in the NFL — and this is a league that knows of such matters — but you have to get it out of the way. I’m pretty sure Daniel Snyder is going to charge you for reading this paragraph.

Flight: Washington to San Diego (via Atlanta). AirTran. $166.

Sunday, Sept. 28: Jacksonville Jaguars at San Diego Chargers, Qualcomm Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $30.52.)

This might not be the most thrilling game, but we’ve gotta get San Diego out of the way and besides: San Diego in late September is gorgeous.

Now, here, we have our first repeat: Kansas City hosting the Pats on Monday night. Just the way the schedule works out. We’re gonna give you a few days off to talk to your family now, but if you’d like to go to Arrowhead Stadium again, be my guest.
WEEK 5

Flight: San Diego to Green Bay (via San Francisco and Chicago). United Airlines. $370.

Thursday, Oct. 2: Minnesota Vikings at Green Bay Packers, Lambeau Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $173.)

It’s always a pain to get to Green Bay, but if you’ve ever been there, you know it’s worth it. It’ll be fun to watch the entire town take a whole Thursday off.

Flight: Green Bay to Detroit (via Chicago). United Airlines. $209.

Sunday, Oct. 5: Buffalo Bills at Detroit Lions, Ford Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $43.67.)

If you catch a break, maybe there will be an ALDS game just down the road at Comerica later that night.

Time for another Monday night off: The Washington football team is on Monday Night Football this week. No reason to give that guy any more money than you have to.
WEEK 6

Flight: Detroit to Houston, nonstop. Spirit Airlines. $108.

Thursday, Oct. 9: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans, NRG Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $88.)

Whatever “NRG” is, the stadium formerly known as Reliant is supposedly nice, and even low-key. (Well, for Texas.)

Flight: Houston to Tampa, nonstop. United Airlines. $143.

Sunday, Oct. 12: Baltimore Ravens at Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Raymond James Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $36.80.)

Other than that big Jolly Roger boat thing, there isn’t much to say about Raymond James Stadium (and there certainly isn’t much surrounding the stadium). You can look at the Yankees spring training facility across the street, maybe?

Flight: Tampa to St. Louis (via Atlanta). Delta Air Lines. $201.

Monday, Oct. 13: San Francisco 49ers at St. Louis Rams, Edward Jones Dome. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $33.)

Yet another stadium that’s about to be replaced OR ELSE — even though it is not even 20 years old yet and is the only reason the Rams moved to St. Louis in the first place — it might be the most antiseptic in all of sports. Even during the Greatest Show on Turf days.
WEEK 7

Flight: St. Louis to Boston (via Atlanta). AirTran. $156.

Thursday, Oct. 16: New York Jets at New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $141.65.)

Even though it’s still Rex Ryan vs. Bill Belichick, this matchup doesn’t have the same kick as it used to. Still: Thursday night in Foxboro? That doesn’t sound unpleasant, particularly because it won’t be that cold yet (and the Red Sox won’t be around to distract anyone).

Flight: Boston to Chicago, nonstop. United Airlines. $99

Sunday, Oct. 19: Miami Dolphins at Chicago Bears, Soldier Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $199.25.)

The stadium has lost some of its charm since they landed an alien spaceship on top of it … but it’s still the Bears.

Flight: Chicago to Pittsburgh (via Cincinnati). Delta Air Lines. $125.

Monday, Oct. 20: Houston Texans at Pittsburgh Steelers, Heinz Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $92.01.)

The best part of being in one of the great football towns in America these days? Bane can’t blow the place up anymore.
WEEK 8

Flight: Pittsburgh to Denver, nonstop. United Airlines. $181.

Thursday, Oct. 23: San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos, Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $124.)

If Peyton Manning is still healthy, the Broncos should just about be ready to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs by now.

Flight: Denver to Jacksonville (via Chicago). United Airlines. $216.

Sunday, Oct. 26: Miami Dolphins at Jacksonville Jaguars, EverBank Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $47.20.)

Hey, you’ve got to knock out Jacksonville at some point. Might as well be during this intrastate “rivalry.”

Flight: Jacksonville to Dallas (via Atlanta). Delta Air Lines. $177.

Monday, Oct. 27: Washington Football Team at Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $26.15.)

If your flight is running late, you can always watch the game on the scoreboard from the plane flying above.
WEEK 9

Flight: Dallas to Charlotte (via Houston). United Airlines. $165

Thursday, Oct. 30: New Orleans Saints at Carolina Panthers, Bank of America Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $66.26.)

This could be a key NFC South matchup, though you’ll probably just wish you were in New Orleans instead.

Flight: Charlotte to San Francisco (via Boston?). JetBlue Airlines. $181.

Sunday, Nov. 2: St. Louis Rams at San Francisco 49ers, Levi’s Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $112.25.)

Your first chance to see the 49ers’ sparkling new ode to the technology industry in Silicon Valley. Just make sure “Levi’s” is punctuated correctly.

Flight: San Francisco to Newark, nonstop. Virgin America. $169

Monday, Nov. 3: Indianapolis Colts at New York Giants, MetLife Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $109.)

If you wanted to skip this one because you’ve already been to MetLife — and because it’s basically a red eye flight — you can, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re surely completist enough to one to see this all through.
WEEK 10

Flight: Newark to Cincinnati (via Philadelphia and Washington). US Airways. $247.

Thursday, Nov. 6: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals, Paul Brown Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $56.50.)

It took you this long to go see Johnny Manziel. You’ll get to see him again next week, though. Also: Totally hard to get to Cincinnati by plane!

Flight: Cincinnati to Oakland (via Los Angeles and Portland). Alaska Airlines. $310.

Sunday, Nov. 9: Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders, O.co Coliseum. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $56.56.)

Man, getting in and out of Cincinnati is a bear. This is a rough weekend, going from the Midwest to the West Coast, then all the way out East. Hang in there, we’re almost done.

Flight: Oakland to Philadelphia (via Seattle). Alaska Airlines. $285.

Monday, Nov. 10: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles, Lincoln Financial Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $97.54.)

Another red eye flight, but well, well worth it. By this point, I fully expect Chip Kelly to have the Eagles scoring 94 points a game.
WEEK 11

Flight: Philadelphia to Miami, nonstop. American Airlines. $148.

Thursday, Nov. 13: Buffalo Bills at Miami Dolphins, Sun Life Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $30.52.)

Did you realize the Bills swept the Dolphins last year? The Dolphins probably don’t even remember that, but hey, you never know, maybe they want a bunch of revenge or something. We’re stretching here. It has been a long trip.

Flight: Miami to Cleveland, nonstop. US Airways. $213.

Sunday, Nov. 16: Houston Texans at Cleveland Browns, FirstEnergy Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $31.09.)

Johnny Manziel will either be out for the season after suffering some sort of debilitating injury, or leading the Browns to the Super Bowl his rookie year by this point. Or he’ll just play every game shirtless. Sky’s the limit with this guy.

Flight: Cleveland to Nashville (via Detroit). Delta Air Lines. $124.

Monday, Nov. 17: Pittsburgh Steelers at Tennessee Titans, LP Field. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $74.99.)

Are the Titans the dullest team in the NFL this year? They might not be at the beginning of the season, but by this point? Very possible.
WEEK 12

You can take off the Thursday night game, because who wants to go to Oakland again? This means you have just one stop left.

Flight: Nashville to Minneapolis (via Charlotte). US Airways. $300.

Sunday, Nov. 23: Green Bay Packers at Minnesota Vikings, TCF Bank Stadium. (Cheapest ticket on StubHub: $110.51.)

The Vikings will be playing at the University of Minnesota’s stadium this year while they’re waiting for their fancy new stadium to be built, so this is a one-time only deal. You’ll love that stadium, though. And it’s weirdly fitting to end this insane trip … at a college football stadium.

So, how much did it cost? Let’s plug the numbers in. Going with the lowest current price on StubHub and the lowest current flights (and assuming that you find some lodging and cab fare, however you do that), the answer is …

$8344.65.

OK, so that’s a little bit more than the NFL Sunday Ticket package.

***

Email me at leitch@sportsonearth.com; follow me @williamfleitch; or just shout out your window real loud, I’ll hear you. Point is, let’s talk.

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jameis winston 14
What FSU’s Investigation Could Mean For Winston – @TheBuzzeronFOX
by Kevin Vaughan
Fox Sports

Florida State University administrators have launched an investigation into a woman’s allegation that she was raped by quarterback Jameis Winston in 2012, FOX Sports has learned.

John Clune, an attorney who represents the woman who alleged that Winston sexually assaulted her at his off-campus apartment, said she was interviewed in early August by Florida State officials as part of an investigation into whether the Heisman Trophy winner violated the school’s student conduct code.

A criminal investigation, which was put on hold by Tallahassee police and then resurrected by the state attorney in Tallahassee, ended last December without any criminal charges being filed against Winston, who subsequently won the Heisman on the way to leading the Seminoles to the BCS National Championship.

This new investigation cannot lead to criminal charges, but if Winston were to be found guilty of a serious violation of Florida State’s student conduct code, it could spell the end of his college football career.

Winston, through his attorney, has contended repeatedly that his encounter with the woman was consensual.

Clune said Florida State officials vowed to thoroughly investigate her assertions about what happened at Winston’s off-campus apartment on Dec. 7, 2012.

“They assured my client and her parents that this code of conduct process was going to go forward,” Clune told FOX Sports.

Browning Brooks, a spokeswoman for Florida State, said she could not discuss the investigation.

“While we cannot comment on any individual case, in general, complainants control the timing in our process,” she said.

David Cornwell, an attorney who is serving as an adviser to Jameis Winston’s family, asserted in a statement that after Clune and the woman’s other attorneys “created a media frenzy alleging that Florida State University failed to comply with its Title IX obligations” she “had to come clean and admit that she previously refused to cooperate with the university’s Title IX inquiry.”

“Now that she has finally done her Title IX interview,” Cornwell said, “this is the fourth time (she) has told her story. We anticipate the same conclusion that followed her previous three statements to the Tallahassee Police Department, Florida’s State Attorney’s Office and in the FSU Code of Student Conduct hearing. Jameis Winston did not sexually assault (her).”?

The woman’s attorney disputed Cornwell’s assertions.

“That’s a little backwards,” Clune said. “There is only one student who has continuously refused to talk with the school in this process, and it’s not our client.”

The new investigation is being carried out under Florida State’s student code of conduct. It comes as Florida State is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, launched to examine whether the school followed the federal gender equity law known as Title IX in its handling of the case.

Title IX requires that school administrators conduct prompt investigations of alleged sexual assaults involving students and take whatever action is appropriate.

“This is what they’ve been required to do all along,” Clune said. “I guess it’s surprising it took so long. … I guess better late than never and she’s fortunately still willing to cooperate with the process.”

Title IX is often seen as a law that guarantees women equal access to sports as men. However, it is also a powerful tool in the fight against sexual assault. The federal government has more than 50 active Title IX investigations underway, each of them centered on the handling of sexual assault or sexual harassment cases.

From his success on the field to troubles off it, Florida State QB Jameis Winston’s 2013 season was certainly noteworthy. Here’s his season’s story in nine images.

“We definitely can tell that there are some good people at this university that want to do the right thing and actually see Title IX complied with, but there’s also a very powerful athletic department that’s housing the No. 1 football team in the nation,” Clune said. “I think we’ll all see pretty shortly who has more clout at the university.”?

Guidelines issued by the Department of Education contemplate a 60-day timeline for most investigations. Given that the woman was interviewed in early August, the investigation appears to already be 30 days old.

At the center of the case is the woman’s allegation that she’d gone drinking at a Tallahassee nightspot, downed a shot that someone had purchased for her, ended up in a cab with several people and ultimately found herself in an unfamiliar apartment. There, she said she was raped, then driven back to campus on a scooter by her attacker.

She told investigators she did not know her attacker.

The woman called a detective about a little more than a month later and identified Winston, at the time a freshman who had yet to appear in a game, after seeing him in a class.

Tallahassee police later shelved the case, contending that the woman did not want to pursue a criminal prosecution – something her attorneys have disputed – then resurrected it last November and turned it over to the office of State Attorney Willie Meggs. After conducting a new investigation, Meggs concluded there was not enough evidence to file criminal charges.

By then, Winston had burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman quarterback and taken Florida State to the top of the national polls.

Among the factors that played a role in Meggs’ decision were the woman’s inability to remember portions of the night – some investigators suspect she may have been drugged – and the statements from two of Winston’s teammates, defensive end Chris Casher and defensive back Ronald Darby, who both described the encounter as consensual.

“We definitely can tell that there are some good people at this university that want to do the right thing and actually see Title IX complied with, but there’s also a very powerful athletic department that’s housing the No. 1 football team in the nation. I think we’ll all see pretty shortly who has more clout at the university.”

Casher and Darby were both brought up on code-of-conduct charges after admitting they watched a portion of the sexual encounter between Winston and the woman. Casher, who admitted to police that he taped a portion of the encounter on his phone, was placed on disciplinary probation after being accused of violating student code-of-conduct rules addressing sexual misconduct and invasion of privacy, FOX Sports has learned. Darby, who also said in a sworn statement that he watched part of the encounter, was cleared of wrongdoing.

School administrators carry out code-of-conduct investigations at Florida State, according to a copy of the university’s rules governing such inquiries. Sanctions for a student found to have violated school rules can range from a verbal or written reprimand up to expulsion from the university.

That’s what happened to three University of Oregon basketball players accused of raping a woman. They were not charged criminally but were found guilty of violating the school’s code of conduct. The three were expelled and banned from campus for at least four years – and as many as 10, depending on how long their accuser is a student there.

At Florida State, the student conduct code prohibits everything from alcohol and drug abuse to sexual misconduct, which it defines in several ways. For instance, “any sexual act that occurs without the consent of the victim” constitutes sexual misconduct.

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