JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Crunching through the gray curbside snowpiles, the Seattle Seahawks walked through the same doors they did six weeks ago.
Police and their cars lined the streets awaiting the arrival of the NFC champions. Packed into buses, they pulled up to the Westin hotel on Washington Boulevard in resurgent Jersey City just as they did for the Dec. 15 game against the New York Giants.
A few distinct differences this time. Dozens of officers and security personnel were present. Almost as many cameras were at the hotel entrance. There were cameras when the plane landed, prompting coach Pete Carroll to wonder about the importance of documenting deplaning.
The lobby was filled with “NFC Champions” material for sale. Other booths draped in NFL logos were set up.
That was just the start of the chaos. Once Carroll and six players — quarterback Russell Wilson, cornerback Richard Sherman, center Max Unger, free safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Cliff Avril and wide receiver Doug Baldwin — made it upstairs to the conference room, the first large dose of what this week would be like began.
Sherman’s interview table was engulfed by television cameras before the Seahawks reached the hotel. Reporters stood four-deep to get a view and sound from Sherman, who has rocketed to an amplified level of national fame following his interview after the NFC title game. One reporter
joked to another, “You’re obstructing my inability to see.”
This is part of the pregame battle to be waged. More news conferences follow Monday, preceding Media Day on Tuesday, a day Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey view with pride.
The Seahawks, as it has been noted, have little Super Bowl experience. Backup wide receiver Ricardo Lockette was at last year’s Super Bowl while with the San Francisco 49ers. Outside of that, no player has dealt with this scenario.
“We’ve had a process to deal with the biggest occurrences we could deal with,” Carroll said. “If we just started talking about it this week, I don’t think we’d have a chance. But we’ve been preparing to be a championship team all along.
“We’re not going to try to live up to the moment. We’re not going to try to elevate to this wonderful setting that we’re in. We’re going to try to do the things we know how to do.”
Carroll joked that he did not have Lockette make a presentation to the team about how to be prepared. But he was serious when talking about another mental element for the Seahawks to handle.
The NFC title game came with an almost equal amount of pressure considering the opponent. There is no bloodlust between the Seahawks and Denver Broncos the way there was with Seattle and San Francisco. Satisfaction with that win and making the Super Bowl is something the Seahawks are guarding against.
“That’s an issue,” Carroll said. “OK, we got here, we got that done. Or just the sense of relief that you’ve arrived here. We had great matchups down the schedule, and there were none bigger than the San Francisco matchup. Though we’re young, I think they’ve got a mature perspective of what it takes to perform really well, and that’s what we’re relying on.”
Each player had to be extracted from his designated table by public relations workers. Following a packed send-off from their practice headquarters in Renton on Sunday morning — fans spilled into the road, slowing the bus — the Seahawks were done for the day.
Carroll will begin to figure out if the Seahawks will be practicing inside or out. The typical Northeast January has frozen practice fields, though it is supposed to warm as the week goes along. Wilson will go back to studying film. He estimated three hours of film watching during the 41/2-hour flight to Newark, N.J.
Seven days before the organization’s second Super Bowl appearance, the Seahawks received their first dose of demand. Things are just getting started.