Seahawks: Preseason Greatness

Photo- Kate Kruller

Hello and Ahoy, friends! Football is back!

It was an active off-season indeed, with the scouting combine, free agency, a super fun draft and a touch of contract suspense. Plenty to keep a fan engaged, I suppose, but not as satisfying as the  regular season. It’s a little bit like sucking on an ice cube when what you really want is to guzzle down a glass of water. But alas, now we are in the preseason, the final approach to the promised land and the last opportunity for young players to show their mettle before the requisite roster cuts on August 29. For me, the preseason is a little like Christmas Eve, a bachelorette party and a surprise birthday party, full of excitement, promise and fun. Over the past  week, I’ve had the good fortune of attending a couple of cool training camp events. Here’s what I’ve got.

Seahawk Football Fest and Mock Game- Lumen Field

The stadium opened about an hour and  a half before the game. As we approached, the ever-titillating  Blue Thunder drumline rocked the plaza on Occidental Avenue, setting the perfect tone for the experience ahead. Inside, fans were treated to a blue and green carnival with food trucks, more music, games and photo ops with Seahawks mascots Boom and Blitz. The sun was out. Everyone was smiling. Joy was in the air.

After kicking around that party for a bit, we made our way to our seats. For a mere twenty or so bucks, we were able to sit in seats that would easily run a grand or more during the regular season. For the mock game, we were able to enjoy the perks of  affluence, faux as it was for the evening. The view was perfect.

There was a whole lot going on down on the field. Players – both stars and unknown hopefuls- were everywhere, stretching, tossing balls or simply wandering around. Coaches, trainer, and referees paced the field and sidelines. Music blasted. Footballs flew through the air from various directions. Fans were hollering.  Players wore blue or color-crush green jerseys, depending on which “team” they were on, and most sported the enormous mega helmets used during training camp. These helmets make the players look like they have turtles on their heads.

Photo- Mary Fertakis

The game featured Seahawks vs Seahawks, with teams of different configurations, mostly starters vs backups. It was a first peek at top draft picks Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Devon Witherspoon, as well as many other up and coming rookies. It was also a chance to see all the fan favorites doing their thing again. The return of Bobby Wagner was particularly sweet. The play was aggressive  and high-energy. Guys are battling it out for roster spots, and it showed. The game lasted about an hour or so (I wasn’t paying attention to the clock.) and the starters got the win, 20-17.

After the game, players signed footballs and threw them into the crowd. Much to my surprise,  left tackle Charles Cross dropped a beautiful pass right into my waiting hands. Who’d have thought? That could have easily been the perfect cap to a great evening. But there was more! At a post-game fan gathering at a local bar, running back DeeJay Dallas made an appearance. And so, I met him that night. I asked him if he thought he was going to have a great season. He said, “Yes. I always try my hardest.”

Training Camp-VMAC Athletic Center

Mere days after the mock game at Lumen, I attended my first Seahawks training camp. It was a terrific, nay important, rite of fan passage. If the mock game gave me a buzz, then training camp sent me into full vertigo of the best kind.

Just getting to the VMAC is a bit of an adventure in and of itself. Fans gather in front of the Seahawks Pro Shop at The Landing (a mall in Renton, WA to the uninitiated). Here, everyone checks-in and then jumps on the bus that will ferry them to the Seahawks practice facility. Conventional wisdom is to arrive early and wait at the front of the line in order to catch the first bus. By getting on the first bus, ahead of the herd, the better your chances are of getting a much coveted spot on “the rail” which runs right along the side of the field in close proximity to the action. We went by way of conventional wisdom and arrived about two hours before check-in. It felt a little nutty at first, but the wait wasn’t bad. The scene was a party with a DJ, the Blue Thunder (again), Seahawks dancers and an army of fans decked out in their best Seahawks regalia.

Photo-Mary Fertakis

We did indeed get a spot on the rail, and I’m glad we did. It was the best possible way to experience the practice. After we settled into our spot, there was roughly another hour to wait until things got underway. There was so much to take in that it didn’t matter. Blitz was hanging out near us a lot of that time and kept everyone thoroughly entertained. (Side note: In my next life, I want to be a mascot. You can be as weird as you want, and everybody loves you.)

The practice itself was a bit of a sensory overload. Again, there was a lot going on. Position groups in different spots, working on drills. Loud music. Various and sundry media people and other staff moving around on the sidelines. There was even an emcee, at intervals anyway. From our vantage point, we could see all the stars- both current and former- and all the activities. Position groups ran drills and rotated across multiple spots around the field. We got to see some interesting stuff with special teams and then the secondary. We also watched Jason Meyers make a series of kicks, from increasingly deeper spots on the field.

Eventually, the whole team came together for other exercises. There was an eight-play red-zone series. There was also a 12 play match-up between different configurations of  defense and offense. That was at the far end of the field, and our view was slightly obstructed by media apparatus of some sort. I could go on and on about specific players, but that would take a whole other post. There’s plenty to be excited about. For now, I’ll make one note: Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the real deal. Good lord, that kid will be fun to watch this season.

After the practice ended, a handful of players came to the rail to sign autographs. It felt a bit like a mosh pit, but our position on the rail was favorable. We met linebackers Uchenna Nwosu and Joshua Onujiogo who graciously signed our swag and put up with our fan dorkiness. It was a great day, the best really.

The first pre-season game is  tomorrow night with the Seahawks taking on the Vikings at home on Lumen Field. Some people are dismissive of pre-season games. But my feeling is that any football is better than no football. Needless to say, I’ll be watching. A friend says that football is my happy place. That’s an apt characterization. I liken it to a morphine drip. It’s hard to explain, but everything is better with football. Especially me. Go Hawks!

Photo- Mary Fertakis