12 things we learned from Thomas, Sherman, Wilson, Okung, Kearse & Bennett's #SB49 press conferences

Key takeaways from Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Russell Wilson, Russell Okung, Jermaine Kearse and Michael Bennett's Sunday press conferences ahead of Super Bowl XLIX.

PHOENIX, Ariz. - The Seahawks arrived in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday afternoon and six players were immediately swept from the team plane to fulfill media duties at the team hotel.

Free safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman, quarterback Russell Wilson, left tackle Russell Okung, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, and defensive end Michael Bennett were the first six Seahawks available to open the NFL's championship week.

Below, check out 12 key takeaways from Sunday's sessions with Thomas, Sherman, Wilson, Okung, Kearse, and Bennett:

 

Earl Thomas

1. He Loves University Of Phoenix Stadium

Playing in the NFC West, the Seahawks are very familiar with Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium, traveling to the desert at least once per season to play the division rival Arizona Cardinals.

Personally, Thomas sees the site of Super Bowl XLIX as one advantage he'll have over the Patriots, whose only game at University of Phoenix Stadium was in 2008 - a 17-14 loss to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII. 

"Definitely, yes," Thomas said of whether or not the field favors the Seahawks. "Definitely. Since I was at the University of Texas, we played the [2009] Fiesta Bowl against Ohio State and Terrelle Pryor, and I had a big game that week.

"Every time we play here I love this stadium. So this is kind of like a home game to me because I'm really familiar with this stadium." 

2. He Needs To Trust His Teammates

Thomas suffered a shoulder injury in the second quarter of this past Sunday's NFC Championship against the Green Bay Packers. He returned to play the entire second half after he was fitted with a harness. 

Thomas took two days off of practice last week to rest and saw the field in a limited fashion on Friday. He has vowed to play in next Sunday's Super Bowl, but said his injury will force him to make a first-time adjustment.

"My mindset is I have an opportunity to really trust my teammates," said Thomas. "This is the first game I'm going to have to trust them because of my injury. So I really, really need to trust my teammates, and that's what I'm banking on - my teammates doing what they need to do and I need to come through myself."

Richard Sherman 

1. His Elbow Feels A lot Better

The Seahawks' All-Pro corner Sherman injured his elbow in the fourth quarter of this past Sunday's NFC Championship against the Packers. He didn't miss any game time, but looked in pain as he played the rest of the matchup with his left arm pinned to his chest.

He was a full participant in every day of practice last week and on Sunday said the treatment he's received since the setback has been beneficial.

"It's feeling a lot better," said Sherman. "It helped a lot. The swelling and some of the inflammation obviously has gotten out. I've been able to move it a little bit."

So does Sherman think New England quarterback Tom Brady and the Patriots will test his side of the field more than normal, knowing he may not be at 100 percent?

"I don't know," Sherman said. "Hopefully."

2. He Thinks Seattle's Receivers Are Outstanding

Asked about the job Seahawks pass catchers have done this season, Sherman had nothing but praise.

"They're outstanding," he said. "They do a great job at what they're asked to do - a majority of the time that's blocking, honestly. But when the game's on the line - and it's happened on a few occasions throughout these playoffs and playoffs last year - they step up to the challenge."

Sherman was quick to call-out the group's big-play ability.

"Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse make huge plays for us," he said. "Our tight ends - Luke Willson and Tony Moeaki and Cooper Helfet - have made big-time plays for us. They are as good as we need them to be. I think obviously if they were in a pass-happy offense their numbers would swell just like everybody else's, but they're not in a pass-happy offense. They're in an offense with Marshawn Lynch at the focal point and Russell Wilson and our running game. They do a great job at what they're asked to do."

Russell Wilson 

1. He Thinks People Underestimate The Big Ten Conference

In the Seahawks' Wilson and Patriots' Brady, Super Bowl XLIX will feature two signal callers who played in the Big Ten conference. Wilson played one year at the University of Wisconsin after graduating early from North Carolina State, while Brady played collegiality at Michigan.

With the Ohio State Buckeyes recent College Football Playoff championship win over the Oregon Ducks, Wilson was asked about this being a big year for the Big Ten.

"To be able to play at a school like University of Wisconsin and a great conference to play tough opponents every week - people underestimate the Big Ten, I think," said Wilson. "It was a great experience for me to play in that conference and play big-time football, play in the Rose Bowl, play in the first-ever Big Ten championship and to win the first-ever Big Ten championship.

"It's a pretty cool experience and one that you'll never forget."

2. He Thinks Super Bowl Week Is Kind Of Like The Combine

Wilson, who noted he didn't even have time to take off his jacket and scarf after getting off the team plane before being rushed to meet with the media, was asked how he manages to stay so laser-focused in the midst of all the added distractions a Super Bowl week can bring.

The Seahawks quarterback likened his approach to the League's largest stage to the experience he had at the NFL Scouting Combine.

"I think the biggest trick to certain things like this - it's kind of like the combine," said Wilson. "You go to the combine, it's kind of like a meat market almost. You go out there and you're running around and you do all the drills, you have to go to all the meetings, you do all the interviews, and then you have the media that comes and talks to you as well every day, so you just do your best at what you're doing at the present time.

"You don't really look too far ahead, you don't look too far behind, you just enjoy it for what it is. You take the experience in. I've been fortunate enough to play in some big, big games - the Rose Bowl and then obviously the Super Bowl last year and to come back. It's no different, you just go where they tell you to go."

Photos of the arrival and first media appearances in Phoenix, AZ on travel day to Super Bowl 49.

Russell Okung

1. He Thinks This Super Bowl Is "Sweeter" Knowing The Seahawks Started 3-3

The Seahawks started the 2014 regular season with a record of 3-1, but moved to 3-3 after back-to-back losses to the Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams. From there, Seattle won nine of its final 10 games to finish with a record of 12-4, claiming a second-straight NFC West title and No. 1 playoff seed.

Okung said the way this team overcame its early struggles makes this year's Super Bowl appearance more satisfying than the last, when the Seahawks started 11-1 before finishing 13-3.

"It does make it sweeter," Okung said. "Our back was against the wall, but we persevered and we overcame, and we're still overcoming."

Okung elaborated on how the team was able to stay together despite its initial challenges.

"We don't think about the end result," he said. "We only think about what's at hand. We kept things in perspective each week as they went along and we kept challenging, kept fighting, kept scratching, kept striving, and the end result's the Super Bowl."

2. He Doesn't Think There's Anything The Seahawks Offense Can't Do

Okung did a nice job outlining the team's offensive identity when asked about how he's seen the Seahawks evolve since he was drafted to Seattle in 2010.

"We want to be a team that runs the ball," said Okung. "Want to play you tough and then throw the ball explosively over your head."

Even though they're a team that leans heavily on the legs of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks led the League in explosive plays (runs of 12-plus yards and passes of 16-plus yards) this past season.

"We have all those guys that can do it," said Okung. "I don't think there's anything we can't do."

Team photographer Rod Mar travels with the team and gives us the journey from the player's perspective.

Jermaine Kearse

1. He Thinks The Players Are Motivated To Win Back-To-Back Super Bowls

Kearse made the comment that "last year's Super Bowl is not going to win this year's" when asked if the club is better prepared now than they were a season ago at this time. But that doesn't mean players can't use the possibility of back-to-back NFL championships as a little added incentive for next Sunday's game against New England.

"The last time a team won back-to-back Super Bowls was the Patriots and I think a lot of guys have a lot of motivation for that," Kearse said of what New England accomplished 10 seasons ago (2003-04). "We're just going to come out here and try to compete. That's the ultimate goal right there, just compete and make plays when your opportunity shows it."

2. He Thought His Sports Illustrated Cover Was "Really Cool"

Kearse hauled in the game-winning 35-yard touchdown in this past Sunday's NFC Championship against the Packers and that very catch was featured days later on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

"That was really cool, I'm not even going to lie," said Kearse. "Growing up, you don't really think about those types of things. For that thing to happen it's just definitely a blessing. I was definitely excited to see it."

Michael Bennett 

1. He's Not Worried About Distractions 

Bennett, who donned a cowboy hat at today's media scrum in honor of a recently-fallen friend, said the build-up to last year's 43-8 Super Bowl XLVIII victory over the Denver Broncos can only help the Seahawks as they wade through potential distractions the upcoming week may pose.

Not only is there an increased media presence to help hype up February's game, but things like securing hotel accommodations and tickets for family traveling to the Super Bowl can also take their toll. The key, Bennett said, is not letting the moment get too big and ultimately understanding it's just about the game.

"I'm not worried about distractions," Bennett said. "I told my wife I could be her husband next Monday, and a father, too. This is the most important thing this week is just everybody just worrying about the game more than anything."

2. He Wishes He Could Play The Super Bowl Right Now

Enough jibber-jabber. If it were up to Bennett, he would line up against the Patriots as soon as possible.

"It's all the same, you know, with the media and everything going on," said Bennett. "Everybody's talking and you're just ready to play the game. I wish we could just line up and today could be the game instead of waiting another week."

Not to burst Bennett's bubble, but the Seahawks are scheduled to meet with the media Monday through Friday of this week. Bennett won't be in attendance for all them, but Seahawks.com will, and we'll continue to bring you coverage of each day's events.

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