KIRKLAND, Wash. (Jan. 23, 2006) -- The day after the Seahawks earned their first trip to the Super Bowl, it seemed as if all Seattle and the surrounding area was recovering from a Puget Sound-sized hangover.
Even the team was feeling groggy.
"Talking with some of them today, they were still in the stage of, 'Pinch me. Did it really happen?'," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said of his players Monday.
"And some of them looked tired. I don't know if they were celebrating, or what?"
But for the players, that celebration is over and the real pinch begins. Now.
Most of Seattle's game planning for the Pittsburgh Steelers will be completed and practiced before the team leaves Jan. 30 for Detroit and the Feb. 5 Super Bowl. That is also before the annual, surreal experience of hype and excess that is Super Bowl week in the host city.
"This is like nothing you'll ever go through preparing for a game in your life," Holmgren, a Super Bowl veteran, said he told his players.
So, Holmgren said, "We will have a regular practice week this week. It will be like we're going to play the game Sunday."
That means Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and some other film rats will begin reviewing Steelers tape Jan. 24, which is supposed to be the players' day off. The coaches already will have done their film work and will begin installing plays.
Jan. 25 is full team film study, with a morning walkthrough and full practice in the afternoon -- minus pads or hitting. Same for Jan. 26. Jan. 27 will have the normal, light practice.
"We're even working on Saturday," Hasselbeck said, revealing an extra practice day that shows just how much Holmgren wants his staff and players to get done before they leave.
Hasselbeck said he and his teammates were surprised that there would be no easing into the Super Bowl, still 13 days away.
"I'm not sure we all realized that until we came in here today," Hasselbeck said.
But these wide-eyed Seahawks are glued to Holmgren's Super Bowl sermons. Practice all week, as if to play this Sunday? Sure. Practice at midnight tonight? We'll be there.
That's because unlike all but a handful of Seahawks, Holmgren has been to the Super Bowl. Four times. He was Green Bay's head coach in the Super Bowls after the 1996 and '97 seasons. He was also a top San Francisco assistant when the 49ers went after 1988 and '89.
And Holmgren knows which schedules work best. He has won three of those four Super Bowls.
"It was a very comforting feeling today having him get up and talk about, 'Well, when I was in this Super Bowl we did this. When I was in that Super Bowl we did this ... ,' " Hasselbeck said.
Holmgren knows the most important work is done before the rest of the world notices.
"You can do some things there. But you have to have a good practice week this week," he said. "We will practice once a day in Detroit. Here, we will practice twice a day.
"You get squeezed on time with the media obligations and (everything else there)."
It's all part of what league MVP Shaun Alexander called "the biggest game in the world."
For Hasselbeck, it's already surreal.
"I don't know if I ever have the words. At times, it doesn't seem real," he said.
But Hasselbeck said at other times, it all seems quite real.
"You are looking at a very good Pittsburgh Steelers team. And that's real," he said. "Failure in this game is a real option. So we're going to have to work really hard and be as focused as we've ever been."
For Alexander, the dreamy status of being in the Super Bowl ended when domestic realities hit him like a middle linebacker.
Alexander's wife was hosting friends for "a big ol' party" at the family home when he got home from the victory against Carolina.
"Then everybody left. And I was cleaning up the house," Alexander said, laughing. "I love my wife -- she was knocked out. So I was cleaning at about 2 o'clock this morning."
The Associated Press News Service
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