“I think the guys have done a great job of positioning themselves to get the home-field advantage of course, and the first-round bye,” Holmgren said during his Monday press conference. “We have to use this week to freshen up both mentally and physically, coaches and players. Then wait and see what happens next weekend. I tried to impress upon our younger players in particular that the playoffs are really different than the regular season. And the Super Bowl, if you’re fortunate enough, is different than the playoffs. Now we enter the second phase of this thing.”
Regarding the schedule of the “off-week”, Holmgren said that there will be some changes. “We’re going to have it in two different categories,” he said. “The players will be with Mike Clark, our strength and conditioning coach, for half the practices with conditioning and lifting and things like that. The other part will be with the position coaches and the offensive and defensive staffs. We’re going to work separately; we’re not going to have normal types of practices. We’re going to go out and polish up and rethink some of the things that we’re doing offensively, working on particular sets of skills and do the same things defensively.
While there won’t be a “holiday feel” at Kirkland HQ this week, there will be some half-days. “My hope is that we give the guys a chance to freshen up a little bit. I don’t want to leave their legs on the field…we’re making a real effort not to do that,” said the coach. “Their day will start early like it always does. The training room will be open at seven in the morning, and we’ll get the players out of here by about one o’clock every day so they have time to take it a little bit easy. We get our work done in the morning and then I’ve got coaches working on certain projects in the afternoon.”
Holmgren also discussed the rookie wall encountered by some first-year players, unused to the longer NFL schedule. Seattle will rely on 2005 draftees Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill to make up two-thirds of their linebacking corps. Both players have performed at an admirably high level. Still, Holmgren has been in this game long enough to know the signs and watch for them.
“I addressed those guys about six weeks ago when the normal college season they played already (ended). We still had six (games) to play. We have a special group of young people as you know, and the response by Lofa Tatupu as an example speaking for the rookies was, ‘Coach, I went to bowl games every year, I’m ok. I can do this’”, Holmgren said.
“But it is different, it is real. It is real and I think he wasn’t being flip with me, he was being honest like he is in everything he says. But there is a time that all of a sudden it hits them just a little bit. This is good for them. This is good that they can have a little time off.”
Holmgren also discussed his relationship with the Green Bay Packers and the people of Green Bay. Holmgren coached the Packers from 1992 through 1998, taking the team to two Super Bowls and winning one. He was asked about a sign in the Lambeau Field stands during the Seattle-Green Bay which said, ‘Good Luck Seattle in the Super Bowl’, and the feelings he still has for his old stomping grounds. “If you have never lived there or coached there or played there, it’s hard to describe. The team is very important to the people there. I think as a visiting fan, you can go to a game there. You get razzed a little bit, but you can go to a game there.”
Of course, there were questions about Holmgren’s relationship with Brett Favre, and speculation as to Favre’s future. Would Holmgren reveal what he said to Favre after the game? “I’d rather not,” Holmgren said. “We had a great relationship and over the years, while we haven’t talked a lot, he knows how I feel about him. Obviously, he was the quarterback when we won the Super Bowl when I was there. I’ve seen him grow up on the field and off the field. I‘ve seen his family grow up and it warms my heart to see how he has handled everything and what he’s done. The speculation going into last week about whether he was going to retire or not, that was more a story than the actual football game and you understand that.
“Here is one of the great players ever to play in the league, and (whether) you’re a Packer fan or not, I think you appreciate the stuff that he brought to the table. We just said some personal things. Then later he got on our airplane. We’re about ready to go and he hopped onto our charter plane and sat down with me for a while. Our flight attendants went a little goo-goo for a while. It was nice. He brought his daughter on; I’ve seen her grow up. It was good, all that stuff was good.”
Did it surprise Holmgren to see Favre on the team’s private plane? “Yes, it did. I’m pretty tired after a game and I was just sitting there reading or doing whatever. He has a side to him that’s a little silly at times. He came in and said ‘Hey’ and sits down and I said, ‘What are you doing here?’”
Holmgren was also asked his thoughts on the firing of Packer coach Mike Sherman. Sherman was on Holmgren’s Green Bay staff in 1997 and 1998 as the Tight Ends and Assistant Offensive Line coach, and followed Holmgren to Seattle to become the Seahawks’ Offensive Coordinator in 1999 before being hired as Green Bay’s Head Coach in 2000. “I think we talk about it around this time of the year every year, you guys (the media) and me,” he said.
“It’s a tough day for coaches; it’s a tough day for their families and loved ones. We all know what we’re into and about, but it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens and you have to change. The only people that really know the why’s and where’s of the situation are (Green Bay GM) Ted (Thompson) and Mike (Sherman). I know both men very well as you know, and they’re both good men. They are both talented guys. But its kind of a bottom line business as you know so it happens. But it doesn’t make it any easier today. My heart goes out to their families. There are a bunch of guys that had to change today.”
Back to the future – how will Holmgren direct his staff to scout teams this week when he doesn’t yet know who his opponent will be? “I’m not sure when we find out if we have the Saturday or Sunday game, because that kind of changes how we prepare and when we have to start preparing, but I have the coaches working on certain things, certain teams this week.
”It’s one of three teams, Washington, the Giants or Carolina. We played Washington and the Giants, but we haven’t played Carolina. We have to do a little work and see what they’re about. You don’t want to get too rigid with that because all of a sudden you’re planning to play one team and that team doesn’t make it and you’ve put all this work into that. So I want the coaches fresh too. We’re going to touch a little bit on all those teams and glance at them. I’ve kind of split up the staff and I’ve given groups of coaches certain teams to look at and they’re going to put something together.”
Holmgren touched on the subject of injuries, certainly a topic on the minds of the Seahawk faithful after the team rested so many starters in the season finale. The coach seemed to feel that his squad should be in fighting shape for the playoffs. “We should be really good. I met with the trainers (today). There will be a handful of players not able to do much this week. But then I think I have everybody back for the game. The one who is probably the most questionable and I still think I have him back is (OLB) D.D. Lewis, so we’re going to be really careful with him. He has a foot injury.”
CB Andre Dyson and WR Darrell Jackson are two players necessary for the postseason. Dyson suffered a high ankle sprain in the 42-0 Monday night thrashing of the Philadelphia Eagles on December 5th, and Jackson has been iffy most of the year with a knee injury. “(Jackson’s) doing well,” said the coach. “I’ll tell you what he’s nervous about, going on and practicing and having (the knee) flare up so he’s not at his best for the game. so the plan is to let him continue to rehab it this week and be out at practice, catch some balls and do some stuff, but not really running around too much. The week of the game, (he’ll) go and get ready.”
As for Dyson? “With his injury, he had a high ankle, and a lot of times those things linger. I wasn’t feeling really good about that, but Sam Ramsden and the other trainers, they have worked hard. They never get enough credit. Those guys, that’s a good group down there. They have got him ready. They are telling me he’s going to be ready to go for the game.”
Holmgren was happy to take a moment to look back at his first year with new Team President Tim Ruskell, who has been a balm of consistency and expert counsel after a tumultuous six-year relationship with Bob Whitsitt. “Tim is a very positive guy…he’s a very hard working personnel man who has been in this league a long time. So, when Tim came in and then Mike Reinfeldt came back and of course Tod Leiweke came in a couple years ago to get the business side going, the management team here now is really first-class in my opinion. They care about the football team, they are football people and they are positive guys. You’re kind of rowing the boat in the same direction. That is the feeling you get.”
How drastic has the change from Whitsitt to Ruskell been? “I think any time you have changes in upper management, it takes some time on both ends to develop a trust and a feel for the other guy. To say it was just overnight, no, I don’t think anything happens like that in this league. But, Tim and I have been through a season now together and an off season through the draft together, and I know where his heart is and it’s good.
”Like I said, the organization in my opinion is in very, very good shape management-wise now.”
Holmgren ended his press conference with some pointed remarks directed at certain, shall we say, “under-researched” members of the national sports media who have assumed that the Seahawks’ 13-3 season is somehow less than legitimate. “For our football team, it appears at times that we are just fortunate to be here. It was all mirrors and flipping coins how we got here. We didn’t beat anybody, apparently. That’s okay; we’ve said it all season long, that’s okay. We fly under the radar. But, here we are. We’re not going to apologize for it, but we chose to ignore the experts on that particular issue.”
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at email@example.com.