By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
One year later, piecing together Seattle Seahawks training camp should have been a breeze for the young duo of Jeremy Young and A.J. Durso.
After all, they had learned from one of the best in Bill Nayes, who was lured away by his alma mater the University of Wisconsin with an offer he couldn't refuse prior to the 2006 season - assistant athletic director and head of football operations. But just the fact it required two people to replace Nayes - coach Mike Holmgren's hand-picked organizational wiz for travel and scheduling - spoke volumes.
Durso was Nayes' intern during the Super Bowl XL run in 2005 and saw everything first hand, while Young was a member of the communications department. Together, they did all the scheduling and travel plans from training camp through the final playoff game during the 2006 season under the watchful eyes of administrative vice president Gary Wright.
"Bill made it all look so easy," Durso said. "It's always great to learn from one of the best. But what Jeremy and I found out was it isn't as easy as it looks."
That particularly holds true for this year, with the camp plans getting turned inside out, then upside down – and ultimately ending up back in Kirkland at the team headquarters, in conjunction with neighboring Northwest University. Official reporting dates are July 26 for rookies, July 27 for injured players, and July 28 for veterans before camp unfolds on July 29. They'll break camp and be out of the dorms on Aug. 17, when they leave for Green Bay and the second preseason game.
Originally, camp was supposed to return to Eastern Washington University in Cheney for the 12th and final season before the grand opening of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Scheduled to open in the summer of 2008 on the banks of Lake Washington in Renton, the new facility will be the permanent home for the Seahawks during the regular season and training camp.
But the NFL announced last winter that the Seahawks would meet the New England Patriots for an additional preseason game in China that completely changed the landscape.
After myriad meetings, they decided it would simplify life to return to Kirkland, where camp was held from 1986-96 with the smaller living and dining facilities of Northwest University (formerly Northwest College) serving as the backdrop. It wasn't going to be easy under any circumstances because of the exhaustive trip to Beijing, so being at home would at least soften the blow.
But just as things began to fall into place, the NFL decided to postpone the game in China and focus on a regular season game scheduled in London between the Miami Dolphins and New York Giants in Wembley Stadium. So now what do the Seahawks do? Do they return to Eastern to sequester the players away from home the way coaches love getting the players away from the norm, or do they make that final break and return to Western Washington for good?
Ultimately, it ended the lovefest between the Seahawks and Eastern, which began with the launching of the franchise at camp there from 1976-85, then returned in 1997 after an 11-year respite in Kirkland.
"It wasn't an easy decision, we had a lot of meetings about it and there was a difference of opinion," Young said. "They've been so great to us over there in Cheney for so long, and they took care of so many things for us automatically, it made my job much easier. They would have taken us back, but Northwest had committed so much to us, we had already started making the plans to adjust so we decided to stay here."
Not only does it alleviate the exorbitant moving expense of five moving vans to haul everything and the hassle of getting everybody to Cheney instead of Seattle, but it allows for the equipment staff to have virtually the same responsibilities as a mini-camp with temporary lockers wheeled in for rookies. The info-technology crew doesn't do anything out of the ordinary and every room at the college has Wi-Fi.
Security will be like years past as the players and staff are staying in the Northwest dorms, and the trainers don't have to change anything except add a few auxiliary hot tubs and cold tubs, and the strength and conditioning staff doesn't alter a thing.
The biggest alteration will come for team chef Mac McNabb because the players and staff will eat at the college, while the coaching staff will eat in headquarters cafeteria. At Eastern, they had a huge dining hall and had virtually their own staff to support him.
"Logistically, it's a lot easier here for most people because they obviously don't have to move," Young said. "Mac's got a difficult job. Here, he's going to have to work out of two different locations. The coaches and their staffs will eat up here. The players and the staff will eat down at the college.
"It's a little more difficult getting help here too because it was built-in for the college kids at Eastern. Here, there are a lot more job opportunities for the college kids in Kirkland. And we have to deal with a few more security issues because of the environment. It's a lot more crowded in Kirkland than it was 11 years ago and the campus is closed, so people are going to tend to wander over here. It may prove we don't need them, but last time we were here, there wasn't the media attention with the success we've been having. There's a little more risk involved because of the sheer numbers."
Durso has doubled up helping Young with the endless stream of details to mop up before camp begins. Scheduling practices and meals in and of themselves are hardly much different than what he did as an intern with Nayes in 2005 or on his own last year. Unlike the large expanses of land and some bleachers at Eastern, practice is closed to the public in Kirkland because there just isn't any room beyond skinny sidelines for media and staff. Durso has been looking into a couple of options for some practices and the annual intrasquad scrimmage.
"Because it's not open to the public here, we're trying to schedule in a few days where we can practice at in front of our fans, and where to put the scrimmage so the public can be involved in camp," Durso said. "That's a little bit of a challenge for us to schedule that over here. The rest of scheduling is pretty much the same. We just want to give the fans some opportunities too because it just doesn't work here. The plan is to have a permanent area for fans during training camp for the new facility.
"You would think now that Jeremy and I are in our second year, it would get easier. But now that we're staying here, there are a whole new set of challenges. In Cheney, they did such a great job there were a lot of little details that got done without us even knowing about it. It was automatic stuff. Because they were so great to us, you hate to say it's just easier to be here, but in the big picture, obviously it is."
When all is said and done, there is only thing that matters is making certain that neither team president Tim Ruskell nor coach Mike Holmgren notice anything out of the ordinary at camp.
"It's been stressful, but it's good for me too," Young said. "Last year was such a smooth operation at Eastern they helped me get everything right from the beginning and I just worked out the details once I got here. Here, I'm starting from scratch. It will be kind of funny if we do have the new facility done for next training camp, it will be three locations in three years, so I'm learning a lot more on how to set everything up than I normally would have. If the facility is not finished for some reason by training camp, then we just do it right back here and the set up will be easy because we will have done it here already.
"The key is to create a camp environment where everybody is concentrating on football and there are minimal outside distractions. That's why coach liked to get away from here in Cheney - so the guys can feel like they're at home in a strictly football situation, comfortable and do their thing. Just let them play their video games and hang out. We're trying to help it be as much as possible like camp has been in Cheney the past 11 years."