PHOENIX – Pete Carroll had two words for his players before they boarded a charter flight on Sunday morning for the trip to begin on-site preparations for Super Bowl XLIX.
And the advice from their coach resonated, because selected players repeated those words and the ideals they're rooted in during the media session that they walked into almost immediately upon arriving at the resort that the Seahawks will call home for the next eight days.
"Guys are really focused in on the task at hand," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. "For us, it's just about the game, honestly. Last year, you thought it was going to feel different because you're in the Super Bowl. But honestly, it was just like a preseason game. The fans were the same. The game was just playing. And ultimately, it just comes down to playing football."
Just as the Seahawks have all season, especially in winning 11 of their past 12 games following a 3-3 start that left them looking like anything but the defending Super Bowl champions.
"That's always the mindset – try to not make any game bigger than this game," Bennett said. "You hear a lot of teams saying, 'This is the next game. This is a championship game.' But in this organization, every game is a championship game. So we've been in this situation 18 times already."
Having been to the Super Bowl last year will help in dealing with the media scrutiny that will shadow the Seahawks this week as they prepare to meet the New England Patriots next Sunday at University of Phoenix Stadium in nearby Glendale.
"It's helped tremendously," quarterback Russell Wilson said. "It's kind of a roadmap to try and be successful. You don't know what's going to happen in the game. The game is Sunday. So it's down the road. You just get prepared. You get ready to go. And you kind of use that roadmap that we had last year and you kind of feel our way through it.
Team photographer Rod Mar travels with the team and gives us the journey from the player's perspective.
"There are a lot of potential distractions, in terms of the media and all that stuff. But it's never been a problem for us. We handle it well. We go about our business. We do one thing at a time. And then focus on the next thing, go to the next meeting and the next thing you know it's kickoff."
But having won the Super Bowl last season – and in such emphatic fashion, 43-8 over the Denver Broncos – also plays into Carroll's words of advice that also were a warning. The Seahawks not only are a team of underdogs, they use being overlooked to stoke their competitiveness and they use being underrated to fuel their desire to prove people wrong.
With success, however, comes adulation, the limelight and, yes, even recognition.
It happened Sunday morning during the ride to the airport, through thousands of cheering and adoring 12s. It happened again as the buses were leaving the airport here and a large group of 12s were waiting just the fence to cheer them on more. It happened again once they arrived at the resort, and made their way to the interview tent where the media was awaiting their every word.
"Coach Carroll even had to give us a speech before all this stuff happened," All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said. "He was telling us, 'Keep being humble.' Because what we're about to go through with the helicopters in the sky, and you just see everybody along the highway and at the gas stations and they've got their different signs."
One of the signs of how – and why – Carroll is such a good coach is that he doesn't talk just to hear himself talk. There is wisdom in his words, and a reason for everything he says.
"I think this is a good challenge," Carroll said. "Like I told the guys today, this is a challenge to maintain the humility that you need, that is necessary. There is so much pomp and circumstance and following and praise and everybody's patting you on the back and all that kind of stuff.
"We need to stay balanced and stay in the middle, and make sure we don't sway from where we normally are and hold on to the mentality and the focus that helped us get to these kinds of situations. I think that's the big deal. We've been through the playoffs and the matchups and those kinds of thing and that kind of conversation. But it's more about how this whole media thing elevates the focus and attention, and we want to do it really well and handle it really well and make sure that we're ready and capable of playing like we're capable come game time."
Sunday was a Super Bowl-sized step in that direction.