Lions living in lap of luxury overseas
Bagshot, England — Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and a few other players have two-story rooms. Center Dominic Raiola said he has a heated bathroom floor and a huge bathtub.
The training facilities at the beautiful, 123-acre Pennyhill Park Hotel are impressive, too. The hotel and spa is headquarters for the England's national rugby team, but will host the Lions until Friday when the team moves to a hotel in the city of London.
Lions president Tom Lewand expressed appreciation to the rugby team for allowing the Lions to use the space, which has a football-length field made of grass and turf, a weight room and many other amenities.
He also thanked the Atlanta Falcons for choosing to stay at The Grove in Hertfordshire to give the Lions a chance to stay at the luxurious Pennyhill. As the home team for Sunday's game at Wembley Stadium, the Falcons had first choice of where to stay among several options.
"For us, it really couldn't set up any better," Lewand said Wednesday. "It's almost like a mini training camp setup. It's very efficient. Everything is very proximate; guys can walk down to the locker room; they can walk down to the practice field."
Lewand said team executives took three trips to London to evaluate their options of where to stay for the week, and Pennyhill was at the top of the list. Room rates start at $585 per night and top out around $2,000 for a suite, and that doesn't include the cost of visiting the 45,000-square foot spa.
"They're lovely," Suh said of the accommodations, which includes a pillow menu, calling them "first class without question."
"I could stay here all week," Raiola said with a smile. "I haven't even been to the spa yet."
Running back Reggie Bush visited the spa Tuesday after the Lions returned from a Play 60 event at the Surrey Sports Park, saying he used the cold tub, hot tub and had a massage.
Although the Lions used a cargo container to send things from office supplies to medical equipment for the week, having amenities available will help the players feel at home as they prepare for Sunday's game.
While the spa adds yet another option for the players, Lewand said the team began shipping equipment months ago to ensure all services would be available. The team even brought an Xbox One, so the players could play "FIFA15," which they do regularly in their free time at team headquarters in Allen Park.
"We also have all of our own training staff, equipment, modalities," Lewand said. "It's a logistical challenge, but it's also a real opportunity for us. And I really give tremendous credit to our staff on how they responded to that."
Coach Jim Caldwell said he had yet to visit the spa as of Wednesday morning.
"I haven't been there yet, but my wife is here. And I'm sure she'll tell me all about it," he said.
Caldwell also joked Pennyhill would be a nice place to hold training camp, though the feasibility of that is quite slim. The coach, though, isn't receiving the royal treatment of some players as his room has just one level.
"That's a little above my pay grade," he said. "But my room is very nice. I think all of the guys have certainly enjoyed where they're staying thus far."
Linebacker Tahir Whitehead said his room is "amazing" and probably one of the best hotel rooms in which he's stayed, saying it compares more to an apartment.
It's not quite home, but under the circumstances, the players are glad to have a cozy place to spend the week.
"It's not Union Lake, but it's all right," Raiola said. "It's going to do."
As nice as the facilities are, the Lions are trying to maintain their focus for Sunday's game against the Falcons. Other than a goalpost that was askew, the field at Pennyhill, which Caldwell called "impeccable," will serve the team well for practice this week.
"We certainly appreciate England's rugby club to give us an opportunity to use the facilities," Caldwell said. "The field is fantastic, the weight room is outstanding, just the whole operation has been absolutely splendid to this point.
"We've enjoyed it and the guys have been able to focus, and that's the thing that I think that you find often times you get concerned about as a coach. But they've been able to focus and we're off to a good start for a Wednesday."
THE PILLOW MENU
A look at the Pennyhill Park Hotel's pillow menu, as described by the hotel website:
The Airstream Hotel Pillow
"This unique pillow has an inner chamber of springs that gently cradle your head and neck. It has 100 percent hollow fiber filling which the air moves throughout helping those with neck problems and allergies!"
The Jacquard Hotel Pillow
"The 'closest synthetic equivalent to down.' This allows the filling to mold to your head — great if you don't move about in bed!'
The Oriental Hotel Pillow
"The deep structure of this hand crafted pillow combines with softness a bit like Rigby and Peller — support with comfort!"
The Adjustable Hotel Pillow
"This unique pillow can be adjusted to suit the way you sleep. It has a zipped pocket full of removable clusterball fibers that can be adjusted to suit the way you sleep. Great for restless sleepers!"
The Support Hotel Pillow
"With a 100 percent polyester fiber filling, 100 percent cotton cover and a naturally V-shaped contour, this pillow gives extra support whilst relaxing. Useful for reading in bed!"
The Perfect Hotel Pillow
"For all hot headed people! This pillow helps keep your head cool all night long and has a soft "peach skin" finish for extra comfort.