RENTON — If anything, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s belief that a team’s locker room culture and atmosphere matters greatly in its success has only grown through the years.
And to Carroll, a key ingredient in that culture and atmosphere is fun.
“You don’t work football, you play football,’’ Carroll said Wednesday. “If we are not having fun I feel like I am screwing up, to tell you the truth.’’
How, exactly, Carroll makes that happen is often kept behind closed doors.
But a manifestation of the Seahawks’ culture under Carroll was open for all to see recently, resulting in one of the more indelible images of Seattle’s season — receivers Tyler Lockett and David Moore wearing onesies emblazoned with the Canadian flag as they arrived for the pivotal game Monday against the Minnesota Vikings.
The outfits were an homage to tight end Luke Willson, a product of Windsor, Ontario, who had given encouragement — in his unique fashion — to the two receivers as they battled a flu bug that swept through the locker room and ended up touching seven or eight different players.
But it has its roots in a trip Moore and Lockett took to Vancouver, B.C., last January, and tracing the chronology helps illustrate exactly how Carroll envisions his locker room working.
Moore and Lockett have become good friends since Moore joined the team as a seventh-round draft choice in 2017, and trips to Canada have become a regular part of their social routine, Moore said.
“We just go up there and hang out a little bit,’’ Moore said.
They found themselves again in Vancouver last January, Moore said, when some people they met led them into a Canadian souvenir shop.
The minute they saw the onesies, Moore said, he looked at Lockett and they had the same thought — “Let’s get them,’’ Moore said with a smile.
“He asked if I’d want to wear them to a game one time and I was like, ‘We could do that,’’’ Moore said with a little laugh.
They hadn’t gotten around to doing it yet, though, until the Vikings’ game, which leads to the next part of the story.
Moore and Lockett were part of the team’s “flu bug’’ crew last week, Moore saying “I had bed rest for three days.’’
(For those who wonder, the team does indeed offer flu shots. Moore said he couldn’t speak for anybody else, but he said he has always declined flu shots in part because he’s gotten the flu only one other time in his life. “I don’t usually do it so that’s why I didn’t do it,’’ he said, adding he wasn’t really sure if he’d get a flu shot next time. “It happens (getting the flu). It’s kind of hit or miss.’’)
Lockett also missed two days of practice last week, and the two called each other regularly to make sure the other was doing OK.
But Carroll also decided to put Willson — who couldn’t practice all week with a hamstring injury — on the case. The tight end lockers are at the same end as the receivers, and Willson has likewise grown close to Lockett and Moore through the years. Carroll asked Willson to keep tabs on the two, even coming up with a name for the task.
“Juice master,” Carroll said. “He was the passion coordinator. … We’re talking energy. If a guy needed it, he would do whatever it takes.”
Said Willson: “They had the flu, they are sick. My dumb ass is sitting here with a bum leg, not sick, but unable to perform. I was like, ‘You know, I might as well do something.’ Pete kind of gave me the role of watching my guys D-Mo and Lock, make sure they are vibed up. Show a little support.’’
But as anyone who knows Willson might expect, this wasn’t necessarily support in the traditional sense — he wasn’t feeding them chicken soup at home or anything.
Among other things, such as having helped give birth to Techno Thursdays during his previous run with the Seahawks, Willson is known to come up with random names for teammates. This year, he’s taken to calling guard/center and heavily-bearded Jordan Roos “Chewbacca,’’ and lineman Ethan Pocic “Sid’’ due to his resemblance to the evil kid in Toy Story.
So how did he help “vibe up” Moore and Lockett while they were sick?
“It was more just me shouting random things when I did see them,’’ Willson said.
Among the things Willson yelled was “flu game,’’ a reference to Michael Jordan’s legendary 1997 NBA Finals performance, or, specifically to Moore, “Rat in a Cage,’’ a line from a song Willson likes by The Smashing Pumpkins.
But if you’re looking for a deeper meaning to it all, you’re looking at the wrong crew.
“I don’t really know what these things mean,’’ Willson said with a laugh.
Neither does Moore.
“Honestly, I didn’t (know what it meant),’’ Moore said. “But the face that he made every time that he did it, it kind of helped me out. It was a crazy face. So I guess it was a crazy rat in the cage.’’
Ultimately, it was the thought that counted.
Both Moore and Lockett began to feel a little better by the time Monday rolled around, when they hatched an idea — to wear those onesies they’d gotten almost a year ago in Vancouver.
“Luke being out and him having to be our hype man for the whole team — we kind of just did it for Luke,’’ Moore said.
Willson had no idea until he began getting word before the game. As is the custom for injured players, he had gotten to the field early and was doing a pregame workout ahead of active players.
“That caught me off guard,’’ Willson said. “I was on the field and everyone was like, ‘You’ve got to see D-Mo and Lock.’’’
The rest of the world might have known before Willson — the Seahawks tweeted out a short clip of the two receivers arriving two hours before kickoff that had 509,000 views by Wednesday.
“I mean, I was hyped,’’ Willson said. “I feel like they are Canadian legends, you know?’’
Moore recovered well enough to catch a 60-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson in the third quarter as the Seahawks beat the Vikings 37-30 to move into first place in the NFC West and the second seed in the NFC.
Maybe he would have caught it anyway, but maybe somewhere there also was a little “Rat in the Cage’’ involved in the play, as well. Carroll certainly is happy to think so.
“It should be a good time,” Carroll said of his program.
And much as the story of Seattle’s season shows no sign of ending anytime soon, Willson promises there will be another chapter in the Lockett/Moore onesie saga to come.
“I don’t know how I’m going to repay the favor,’’ Willson said. “But I’ve got a few ideas.’’