The Seahawks will leave Seattle Wednesday to head to Munich, where they will face the Buccaneers in the first NFL game played in Germany.
Playing overseas takes considerable planning and adjustment, especially for a team on the West Coast, but two days before his team leaves, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll isn't making too big of a deal about the challenges facing his team.
"The challenge is one that both teams have," Carroll said. "It's going into the newness and adapting on the road, so I don't think it's that big of a deal, I really don't. We have a big travel thing to endure, but so do they. It's a bit of a competition in that regard, to put all of the elements that it takes to get this whole thing on the move, transfer us to a new country, and figure it out. We have such a great group around us and people that can function so well together and they are so well organized that it's not going to be a big deal. We are just going to play another away game."
From sending staff members to Germany this summer, to packing up equipment that was shipped ahead of time, a lot of work has gone on behind the scenes to make things go as smoothly as possible once the team arrives on Thursday with the likes of director of equipment Erik Kennedy, director of team travel Jeremy Young, VP of coaching operations Matt Capurro, VP of health and player performance Sam Ramsden, head athletic trainer David Stricklin, and team performance dietician Andrea Vanderwoude all playing big roles in getting the team ready.
And what should make this trip a little easier is that the Seahawks played in London four years ago, and are following a lot of the same plans and schedule they used for that trip, which resulted in a 27-3 Seahawks victory.
"This is like an NFL bowl game; you pick everything up and you go," Carroll said. "The fact is that we did it, we did it really well last time, and we learned a lot. Matt Capurro is the star player in this whole thing, he makes the whole thing work. Really, we are going to get on the bus, get on the plane, we will sleep a little bit longer, and we will be in a different country. It's really not that big of a deal."
Carroll said this week's plan is "really close" to what the team did for the London game, including the Wednesday evening departure that, thanks to the nine-hour time difference between Seattle and Germany, puts the team in Munich the following afternoon. And like four years ago, the Seahawks will start their practice week on Tuesday, usually a day off for players, rather than Wednesday, meaning they'll have gotten in two full days of work and practice before leaving town.
"It's very close to how we did that," Carroll said. "The practice schedules, timeframes, and all of that stuff, the focus on rest and re-capturing our sleep is all part of the plan."
And while the main focus this week will be on preparing for an upcoming game, just as it would be any other week, Carroll is looking forward to his team being part of a unique experience. The Seahawks have one of the biggest fanbases on any NFL team in Germany, and when you also factor in the presence of Tom Brady and Buccaneers team that won a Super Bowl two seasons ago, there is a lot of excitement around this game.
"Somebody said that there have been three million requests for tickets, which is a staggering number of requests," Carroll said. "I can't imagine, but they are excited, they are really pumped up about it. We are going to try and put on a show, make them see our football, and experience it in a way they never have before. It's an honor to do that and we will respect the heck out of every aspect of this."
On Sunday, quarterback Geno Smith said he was excited to be part of the game, noting that the "first time to play a football game in Germany and really be an advocate for our country is really good. So I'm very excited and looking forward to it."
And business trip or not, Carroll doesn't want his team to miss out on the fact that this is a special occurrence. The key is to find the balance between making sure the team is prepared to be at its best while also appreciating the experience.
"It's like a bowl game," he said. "Everything around it, there is somewhat of a celebration everywhere you go as you travel and at the airport. It just seems like there is an added level of attention to it that makes it fun. The last thing that we are going to do is diminish the fun part of it. We are going to enjoy the heck out of it. We aren't going to go and live it up in Germany, we are not doing that, we are going to go play a game and all of that, but we are going to enjoy that which we can and really play our butts off, so they can see what this game looks like and try to do it in great fashion. There is something that goes along with that."