Exclusive Seahawks Ticket No Fees Offer

Take advantage of no transaction fees for Saints & Jaguars games

GamedayCovers_StoryHeader_2020-11-15

This is the Seahawks Gameday Magazine feature story for Week 10 of the 2020 season, presented by Delta Air Lines. Visit our Game Center for more information related to Week 10 vs. the Los Angeles Rams.

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way people travel throughout the world, and it's no different with the Seattle Seahawks.

Between limited capacity and required distancing in so many public places, traveling with just yourself during the pandemic can be difficult. In the NFL, teams are regularly traveling for road games while having to accommodate for over 100 people.

These unique hurdles are something the Seahawks – and all NFL teams – have never gone through. It's been a complete change of routine for many players, coaches and staff members that have had the same road game ritual for years.

As the only NFL team located in the Pacific Northwest, the Seahawks often cover more ground than any other franchise. A flight to divisional opponent Arizona runs for over two hours, and trips outside the division often run even longer. This year, with the NFC West playing the NFC East and AFC East as part of their regular schedule rotation, travel has become even more tenuous.

The Seahawks will fly 28,878 miles this season with Delta Air Lines, which is 3,393 more than any other team. With all that mileage, the Seahawks are essentially taking a trip around the world this season – which is just around 25,000 miles.

Through the first eight games of the season, the Seahawks have already made three trips across the country to the East Coast. In the final eight weeks, Seattle will head east twice more to play in Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

"There's so much that's different on these trips," head coach Pete Carroll said. "Just getting on the plane and getting through the process. Everything is a different mentality and everyone's going through the same thing, so it's a shared experience for all the clubs. It's just about staying within the protocols and staying spaced and all of that.

"There's just a different sense of awareness with everything that we're doing that's all about just staying in compliance."

The process of traveling for road games begins at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Players, coaches and staff arrive at the VMAC before taking buses to the airport. This year, with more distancing requirements, the team takes seven buses as opposed to the usual four. The team usually has 165 people in a travel party but that has been reduced to 139 this year, according to Jeremy Young, Seahawks Director of Team Travel. Each person is assigned to a particular seat on a particular bus.

"We've obviously checked with the veteran leadership and make sure they're sitting where they want to sit, then we fill in around them with everybody else," Young said.

After arriving at the airport, the team goes through regular security checkpoints. Before the Seahawks board the plane, it is completely sanitized by Delta. All aircrafts are sanitized with an electrostatic sprayer that clings to all surfaces. The spray kills 99.99% of germs, including viruses. All parts of the plane – tray tables, seat-back entertainment screens, seat belts, arm rests – are wiped down by Delta prior to boarding.

"As the official airline of the Seattle Seahawks, Delta takes pride in providing the team with industry-leading service as well as the Delta CareStandard—a multi-step process to create the most clean and safe travel experience," Bill Wernecke, Managing Director of Charter Sales & Ops for Delta Air Lines, said.

Similar to the bus situation, everyone on the Delta plane has an extra seat or two in between them. There is also social distancing throughout the boarding and deboarding process. The flight crew, rather than serving meals like normal, remains in the galley with masks on and are mostly just there for emergency purposes.

"Delta has been great," Young said. "Per the league protocols, we've got to socially distance as much as possible, so we have a larger plane this year. We are spreading guys out as much as we can. So everybody, including staff, has a seat or two in between them, and players have even more space."

Once the team arrives at their hotel, they are placed in their own section so as to limit contact with anyone outside the organization. Like on the buses and Delta planes, face masks are required in the hotel when leaving your personal room.

If the team arrives at a hotel on Saturday, there are multiple meals on each day for every player, coach and staff member to eat. Andrea Vanderwoude, the Seahawks' Performance Dietician, gets all of the food orders to the hotel, and then they set up a pickup spot with hot boxes, refrigerators and anything else needed for meals.

"It's been fun to see everybody in the travel party volunteer to help out wherever necessary," Young said. "Our strength coaches jump in to help the food service handing out food to the guys. They bring an energy to it. They were jacked up in Miami getting guys awake. You've got Matt Thomas and John Schneider handing out and collecting the tracking devices on game days and after the game. The PR guys are jumping in and helping check out guys as they're getting onto the buses. Everybody's just doing a little bit extra, which makes it fun, and it's encouraging that everybody's stepping up to do that and make it smooth for everybody."

For Carroll, the dynamic of delivering food to all the players is the most challenging task. After learning what worked and what didn't with the league protocols for their first road game in Atlanta, the Seahawks' second road game in Miami went smoother.

"One of the big aspects of it is meals and how you get food to the guys," Carroll said after the Miami trip in Week 4. "Our people did a great job and it was so smooth. Can you imagine – they've got three meals a day plus a snack at night, everybody orders their own meal and everybody gets what they ordered. Just think about how complex that is to get that done – and you have to do it with spacing and the (COVID-19) procedures. Our crew just did it great."

The team undergoes COVID-19 testing on Saturday and Sunday's while on the road in accordance with NFL protocols. Depending on the hotel size, the team may or may not have enough space for in-person team meetings with distancing. If the hotel doesn't have the size to accommodate, some groups conduct virtual meetings.

"We talked to Coach Carroll early on that we're just going to have to be flexible throughout the season depending on what hotel we're at, and what that hotel can accommodate," Young said.

After the game, the travel process is still only halfway done. With Delta, the return flights home have been just as smooth as the flights out. The extra precautions put in place on the Delta flights have made flying home efficient and, most importantly, safe.

Being flexible is mandatory in a season unlike any we've seen before. These are obviously unprecedented times and the Seahawks know they are lucky to be able to play as the world tries to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic.

In times like this, Carroll's constant mentality of "controlling what you can control" is rubbing off on his team. So much of this season and all the protocols are out of anyone's control – all you can do as a team is embrace every moment of it.

"Pete knows a lot of stuff and is interested in a lot of stuff, and he's very well-read with what's going on with COVID," Young said. "And he's made the coaches and staff aware, 'We're not immune, but we can control it to every extent possible.' That means the guys being careful, watching where they're going. All the basic stuff – wearing masks, physical distancing, washing hands. He's just been drilling it into these guys, all offseason, all summer, and obviously into the season. It has been very beneficial to us and will continue to be as we go through the season."

The Seahawks have done a good job navigating the unorthodox road game routines, with two big wins against the Falcons and Dolphins. Recent close losses to the Cardinals and Bills were a small hiccup, but the team is becoming more comfortable as they get used to the new protocols.

"All of our travel partners, hotels, bus companies, Delta in particular, they want to protect us and protect their people, and they want to make it smooth," Young said. "So, everybody's doing extra to make sure everyone is comfortable and safe."

Partners like Delta have made the travel process just that – comfortable and safe. Through nine weeks, the Seahawks have had zero COVID-19 positive cases. Continuing to follow league protocols, as well as cleaning and distancing on Delta flights, will hopefully ensure safety as the season enters the homestretch.

Go behind the scenes with the Seahawks as they navigate the unique challenges of road trips during the 2020 season, with help from partners like Delta Air Lines.

back to top

Related Content

Advertising