MUNICH — For the Seahawks, Wednesday segued into Thursday without the benefit of a night’s sleep other than the fitful one on an interminable plane flight from Seattle across the Atlantic Ocean onto another continent.
“It felt like one big day,” quarterback Geno Smith said.
And yet there the Seahawks were Thursday afternoon, on one of the soccer fields of FC Bayern Munich’s vast practice facility, stepping lively as the familiar music from their weekly “Techno Thursday” playlist blared. It was as if the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton had been transported to Germany.
Bleary-eyed Seahawks players nevertheless danced and bobbed their heads rhythmically. At one point the entire team became engulfed in one big group hug, jumping up and down like the Mariners after they clinched their playoff spot.
Joked Smith afterward, “It was OK, but I felt there were a couple of songs they missed. I’m pretty sure Will Dissly will be on them about that, because he’s the techno captain.”
That the Seahawks could be so chipper barely an hour removed from the 12-hour flight across the pond, with only a brief stop at the team hotel to drop off their bags and freshen up a bit, speaks to the positive mindset with which the entire organization is embracing this trip. And that might be their secret weapon as they prepare to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday in the first NFL game played in Germany.
That’s not to say the Bucs are blowing off the game or griping about the inconvenience. It’s as important to their playoff hopes as it is for the Seahawks, as both teams try to protect their division leads. But when the Seahawks easily defeated the then-Oakland Raiders 27-3 in 2018 in London, their only other foray into Europe, coach Pete Carroll felt the ballclub hit upon the perfect mixture of attitude, science and logistics. They are trying to replicate all that this week.
The logistical part involved the complex task of moving so much necessary equipment and accouterments more than 5,000 miles. The science revolved around the optimal time to travel as well as the best sleep patterns to minimize the debilitating effect of the nine-hour time difference, for which Carroll credited “our no-sleep R & D department.”
But coaxing buy-in from the players in a situation that could easily bring out negativity is Carroll’s bailiwick, and of course he mirrored the desired attitude. The 71-year-old coach was his usual fount of enthusiasm as he flung the football around during their brief walk-through, as well as during the news conference afterward. Carroll likened it to a college bowl trip and said players are excited about the opportunity to play in front of what they hope is a Seahawks-centric crowd.
“To me it’s really about the attitude — the attitude you put together, how you go about it, and that you don’t take it as a drag, a burden, ‘It’s hard,’ all that kind of stuff,” he said. “You turn it in the right direction, and then you try to make the very most of it. We are patterned very much like we were in London, and that worked out well for us.”
Asked about the team’s energy level, Carroll replied, “Did you watch practice? They went nuts out there today. … I don’t want to make light of this. It’s important, it’s fun, and our guys are jacked.”
That certainly was the takeaway from two of the players made available to the media, Smith and safety Quandre Diggs. Also speaking, appropriately, was Anton Donkor, a linebacker from Germany who is on Seattle’s practice squad with a special exemption as an international player.
“I feel it’s a field trip with great friends and teammates,” Donkor said.
Diggs said the experience of practicing Wednesday in Renton, leaving for the airport to fly through the night and then immediately practicing again Thursday, brought him back to his youth.
“You’ve basically pulled all-nighters before, so it was just like you’re 16 again,” he said, adding that fatigue can be controlled. “It’s mental. Tired is a mental thing.”
Diggs, however, joked that his ability to sleep on the plane was undermined.
“You’ve got the bigger guys up there snoring, so you can’t get enough sleep. I think that was the worst part of the trip.”
That wasn’t a problem for Smith, who said that after he broke down some film, he put on his headphones and earbuds, turned on music and was out like a light.
“I was probably one of those guys snoring,” he said with a laugh.
Smith embodies the attitude that Carroll is seeking from the Seahawks.
“I think everyone on our team is excited, coach included,” he said. “It’s definitely not a nuisance. Anytime you get to represent your country internationally it’s a big thing. I liken it to being on USA Olympic basketball or something like that, where you go overseas and you’re playing your sport, but you’re also representing your country and bringing new fans to the sport as well. I know there’s a big following out there [in Germany], and I look forward to putting on a show for those guys.”
Carroll’s master plan is for the novelty and adventure of the trip to be sustained through Sunday.
“They were excited going into the travel, and they were excited coming off the plane here tonight,” Carroll said. “We’ll have a big day [Friday], and then we’ll get ready to play.”
Their last practice in Renton before leaving for Germany was one in which turnovers are stressed — preventing them by the offense, getting them by the defense. Near the end of practice, who should come up with a pick-six interception but Donkor. Carroll immediately blew the whistle to end practice so the team could get on the bus en route to Donkor’s homeland.
“It was too perfectly poetic,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks will be looking for some poetic perfection Sunday, and another validation of their “good vibes only” international strategy.