By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
For nearly all of the Seattle Seahawks, the abrupt move of NWCN Training Camp from Eastern Washington University in Cheney back to their headquarters in Kirkland this summer is a money-saving simplification of camp.
In cooperation with neighboring Northwest University, staying home eliminates the moving expense and the extensive packing, unpacking, then packing and unpacking upon return. That's particularly true for the equipment, information systems, video and medical staffs. Additionally, the strength and conditioning staff uses its own facility and the fields are much softer (thus less wearing) on the bodies of the players in the cooler, wetter climes west of the Cascades.
The move was necessitated by the upheaval to the schedule from the on-again, off-again back-to-back preseason games with the New England Patriots that was to include a game in Beijing, China. But when the NFL postponed the games, it changed things in a hurry for travel and scheduling coordinators Jeremy Young and A.J. Durso.
And that was particularly true for Seahawks chef Mac McNabb and security chief Rick Ninomiya with the limited space at headquarters and at the significantly smaller facilities at Northwest University compared to Eastern.
Rookies, quarterbacks and injured players are reporting July 26 and everybody else on July 28, with the first practice the morning of July 29. Ostensibly, everything was in place last week – save a few odds and ends.
"Well, it was supposed to be," Young said, breaking into a smile. "Logistically, it's a lot easier for some people because they don't have to move. In many ways, it's just a big mini-camp here. It's longer and the volume of everything is greater, but it's comparable. We have a little bit more security because of the environment. Kirkland is very populated and the campus is closed, so people are going to tend to wander over here. It may prove we don't need as much security as we think we do right now, but the last time we were here, there wasn't the media attention on the league that we have today.
"And Mac's got a difficult job. At Eastern, they had a huge cafeteria and a huge staff with an awesome kitchen. They helped him out tremendous by doing all the staffing, and they have a great operation. Here, he's going to have to work out of two different locations. The coaches and their staffs will eat at the main Kirkland facility. The players and the staff will eat down at the college. So there will be a lot of food shuttled back and forth between the two eating areas. The one thing we're experiencing is they don't have the resources Eastern did."
That was understood by the limited number of folks who were still with the Seahawks from 1986-96 when they had camp in Kirkland. They moved back to Cheney in 1997, the original site of training camp from the inception of the franchise in 1976 through 1985. Next year, the hope is the new home of the Seahawks on the banks of Lake Washington in Renton will be finished. To be known as the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, all future training camps and regular season practices will be held there.
That will be then, when McNabb is excited about his new kitchen and dining facilities.
These days, you'll see him seated at a table either in the roomier dining hall at Northwest, or the tiny cafeteria in the basement of Seahawks headquarters – without fail wearing his reading glasses, while toting pen and paper. Keep in mind he's got to feed an average of 150 people breakfast, lunch, dinner and a night snack for the better part of a month.
Part of the deal is the Seahawks paying for some new equipment that will temporarily assist in making camp logistics and permanently benefit the school. At least he picked it out to ease some of the difficulty.
"Everything was always set up for us at Eastern, so I had to completely start over," McNabb said. "Not only did they have that huge kitchen and dining area, but they hired the entire staff and managed them. They ordered all the dry goods, produce, fish and meat because they already had the experience. It was all built-in for us over there over the past 11 years.
"Now I'm doing all the scheduling and ordering and managing. We also have a lot of competition in Kirkland for summer jobs while it was a nice job on campus for a big school like Eastern. We had to hire 20 people and I have to give a lot of credit to human resources for getting me a staff together."
The same goes for Ninomiya and security. Cheney is such a sleepy little college town, multiply that by 10 in the summer. It's a good 20 minutes into Spokane, so between the exhausting of heat and two-a-day practices, plus meetings that last until 9:15-9:30 at night and 11 p.m. bed check, there was little or no time for these guys to head out for any length of time. He also had the benefit of the school's large police squad and hired security.
This is a different deal in Kirkland, with so many of them having families living here – not to mention the proximity to the comfortable haunts in Kirkland, Bellevue, or even into Seattle on occasion.
"There are just a lot more distractions here," Ninomiya said. "Players live here. Instead of getting away to a camp where it's all football and more football … now it's families coming to visit players. We're close to restaurants … everything, so if they have any little bit of time, they can go that way. Every time players leave, we have so many people in for training camp – we have to be aware of them. I've got the King County police department and the state highway patrol working with us.
"You never know what can happen. Most guys are too tired to do anything anyway, but for a chance to go out for a meal with their wife and kids … you never know what can happen. It's just an added responsibility because there are almost twice and many players as during the regular season. But whether it's a starter or somebody who has no chance to make the team, they still represent the Seahawks and that makes them my responsibility."
That's not the only issue. Unlike the huge Eastern practice facilities, which had stands and hillsides on which fans could sit, the Seahawks practice fields are behind headquarters and adjacent to the university. Trees surround both, so there's no room for stands or fans. There's barely room for staff and media to watch practice without being a distraction, not to mention the fact that Northwest University is a tiny closed parochial campus.
The Seahawks will have an intrasquad game in Memorial Stadium at the Seattle Center on Aug. 4 with all proceeds going to Team Seattle, a non-profit organization created to assist the Seattle School District to raise funds in order to supplement existing financial support for athletic programs at all district schools. And they'll also have an open practice Aug. 8 at Husky Stadium beginning at 8:45 in the morning.
Consequently, that eliminates the "NFL Experience," which Durso organized to bring in children for daily autograph sessions with players and the coaching staff during training camp.
All of that will be remedied at the new facility, and the team will hold an autograph session after its scrimmage at Memorial Stadium.