Prep day 2. Now we are into a regular game week. Tuesday is the players’ day off, so treatments in the morning and administrative work in the afternoon. Ordering stock prescription medications to take care of not only the players, but also those family members, flights for our advance staff, and putting the finishing touches on supplies and equipment that will need to make the trip. The newest challenge at this time would be the rumors that if there is inclement weather that effects travel to an obscene amount, the game will potentially be moved to another date. WOW. We could be in NY for 2 weeks, just waiting to play. That brings a whole new logistical nightmare to the equation. Of course this goes back to my philosophy of always trying to anticipate needs.
Of course we are also dealing with the logistics of getting family out to the game. Everyone needs more than what is offered, of course. It is really easy to get caught up in the logistics of the things that initially do not have an effect on the game, but have a great personal effect on how you, personally, try to take care of all of the people who take care of you throughout the long season. Nonetheless, we have a game to prepare for, so we need to take the approach of helping to become part of the solution, not part of the problem. Tomorrow will be SB XLVIII practice #1.
Practice #1 was a lower intensity practice. No helmets or cleats, more of a “fast walk-through” pace. There was more learning going on than actual physical activity. I personally love these practices, because there is less of a chance that we are going to have to schedule diagnostic imaging from an incident during a physical practice. However, we did have a practice squad tight end get dotted in the head by a ball thrown by Tarvaris Jackson… which was more funny than anything.
Post practice a few players checked in with a team physician and we had our nightly injury meeting. Most of our time this evening has been spent in logistics meetings about NY. We want to make sure that we don’t forget to cover any bases on our end. Fortunately we have some very thorough people on the other end who are making most of this experience pretty easy for us, so I personally am not too worried about most of what we have been talking about. My main concern today regarding the trip was trying to find a way to get my dad and my father-in-law out to the game. My dad has been a football fan since I can remember. He was not able to go to Super Bowl XL with me my intern year, and it is very important to me that he make this trip, which he will be. It will be nice to have my dad, my wife and her dad out there to enjoy the experience. I know of people who have been working in the NFL for more than 30 years, and have never been to a Super Bowl. This is my second trip, and I want to take advantage of it, there is no guarantee that this opportunity will ever come around again for my family or myself. Right now, I am happy that part of the planning process has been handled so that I can fully focus on the task at hand. Towards the end of any season, it can be easy for ATCs to sort of check out. I want to make sure that I do not fall into that trap. I keep telling myself that I need to stay sharp for 11 more days. Pay Attention To Detail.
Thursday, January 23, 2014 - SBXLVIII Practice #2
Groundhog’s day as far as treatment goes. In again at 6:00am. Treatment starts at 6:45. The momentum seems to be gaining at this point. I think that the hangover from the emotional game that we played less than 4 days ago is beginning to wear off for everyone, players and staff included. Nothing new to add to the injury report from yesterday, so the usual suspects were in the training room this morning.
One fun observation of the days leading up to leaving for NY/NJ is the gift that the players are receiving. We are very close with Nike, which makes it very easy for them to get to us with a slew of shoes, jackets, hats, fuel bands, etc. There seems to be something new every hour just from them. Add into this mix watches, Beats headphones, speaker systems, cameras and who knows what tomorrow. It actually is pretty fun to see. This reminds me of college bowl games when players started receiving their bowl gifts. Obviously they were not as extravagant or as numerous, but the reactions were the same. Players would be spotted sporting their new gear almost immediately, and even if they already owned a nice pair of headphones, they are probably going to listen to the newest pair for now. Comedy.
Practice started today at 1:30pm. We were outside, which was a nice switch. Even though the wind coming off of Lake Washington was pretty cold. I think that the temp was around 45, but it felt like 32. Players seem to enjoy being outside on the grass rather than inside on the field turf. Most of them simply feel better physically after a practice on the natural grass. Our maintenance staff does an incredible job with our field’s year around, and really keep it looking and feeling spectacular.
Practice was a faster pace today. Helmets and shorts was the dress. Overall it seemed to be a focused, fast day. If we had a game this weekend, everyone who normally plays would see time.
After the injury meeting and a short workout this evening, I took 2 of our athletic trainers (1 staff member and 1 intern), 1 equipment manager and our head of field maintenance to the airport. They will join some other advance party members from the organization tomorrow morning, and start getting the team squared away as far as the equipment room and training room goes. One of the most time consuming parts of this experience is the planning phase. Moving across the country for 1 week. I have no doubts that our guys will have the hotel training room set up as well as a solid lay of the land over at the Giants’ practice facility once the balance of the organization, including the players land in NJ on Sunday night. The goal of the two athletic trainers who went early is to have us almost completely operational when we get there, to the point that we would be able to get the team ready for practice the minute we get to the hotel… obviously that isn’t going to be the case, I will most likely be ready to either go to bed or have a beer. Down 2 personnel tomorrow for SB XLVIII practice #3.
Friday, January 24, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #3
In again this morning at 6 am with treatments starting at 6:45. Friday’s always look a little different from the other days with our 11:00 walk-through rolling right into a 11:30 practice. We were shorthanded today with CJ and Adam already in NJ, so there was quite the frenzy between us to get the field setup, the players prepped and the field covered in a schedule that, by design, does not allow for a great deal of time between the end of meetings and the start of walk-through.
Practice ends earlier today and there are no meetings afterwards, so the players are out of the building fairly quickly once they sort of get themselves squared away for the trip. Head Athletic Trainer Donald Rich and I took on a special assignment this afternoon once the players were out of the building, we started putting together and charging 150 Sony cameras just to help out our equipment guys who were grinding still packing the team for the trip. Initially on the surface, this doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult. Once we take the camera out of the package, insert the memory card and battery, plug the cord into the camera, plug the camera into the wall, let it charge for 90 min, unplug everything, repackage the camera and set it aside we realized that those are a lot of steps to do 150 times. D and I charged 91 cameras yesterday, 41 at a time. #machines
Today is the day that we try to pack a lot of our personal effects. Work clothes along with casual clothes, basically trying to pack twice for a place that is not going to be warm… at all… zero heat. So this takes a particular amount of planning and exclusion. You start off by trying to bring everything, and then start to make cuts and pair down to an active roster… somehow a pair of swim trunks made the cut. Not really sure how that worked out, but I will pass them off as special teams dedicated. Tomorrow will be a player off day, and we need to turn our checked bags in as well. We will run short treatments. Personally I will tie up some loose ends at home, get some bills paid, take care of some things around the house and spend some time with my wife before we head out Sunday morning to NJ. Right about now, everything is starting to feel very real, and the excitement, at least for myself is starting to build.
Sunday, January 26, 2014 - SB XLVIII Travel Day
Today is our travel day. I got to the facility around 7:00 am, was able to get a workout in prior to leaving. No treatments today, just an opportunity to get ourselves together and get on the bus. One of the most exciting parts of the day was when the players got their cameras and 24k gold Beats headphones, a gift from pro bowl corner Richard Sherman. These things were amazing, packed in hard cases lined with custom foam, like they were the hope diamond or something. Incredible.
As Always, I left early with our EQ staff to the airport to help them get the rest of our equipment and bags on the plane. The route to the airport was absolute insanity. Miles of fans on the streets, massive traffic jams, flags, painted cement mixers, and fire trucks… that was all 30 minutes before the players even left the facility. From what I saw from their cameras, there was 1 lane of traffic each way after they got off of the interstate, people were standing in the streets… wild. 5 hour flight until the next bit of craziness.
I am getting text message picture from family of their televisions as our plane is pulling into the hangar at Newark International Airport. Looking out of the window of the airplane there is a red carpet and media galore! The walk from the plane to the busses was surreal; people were chanting SEA-HAWKS! The SB XL experience was nothing like this for me. I was the advanced person in 2006, so like CJ Neumann and Adam, I arrived a few days before the team and did not get the glitz and glamour part of the fiasco.
Arrival to the Westin Jersey City was similar to arriving at the airport. Coach Carroll was doing an interview immediately after stepping off of the bus, fans and other media were everywhere, and the hotel staff was lining the lobby screaming their heads off. Ready to unwind a little tonight, get my room set up and bags unpacked. Tomorrow is SB XLVIII Practice #4 at the Giants’ practice facility.
Monday, January 27, 2014
This is our first morning in New Jersey. Treatments started in the hotel training room at 9:00 am and we had a surprising turnout. Quite a few guys came in to take care of themselves, which we always love as athletic trainers. Not soon after treatments started, the first wave of medical staff left for the Giants’ facility in our designated vehicle. We do this so that we can get everything squared away prior to the team showing up, even though our advanced guys have already done most of the leg work. The team buses on this occasion left at 10:30 am for the practice facility, which also carried the balance of our medical staff, 4 athletic trainers and 2 chiropractors. None of our doctors went this time, due to the “walk-through” pace of practice.
Once to the facility, we were able to change into our “work clothing” and started prepping the team for “walk-through”. This is a little off-putting when you are in a place that is not completely set up like a visitors locker room, so you have some trouble trying to find out where everything is as well as working in a different space, with the same time constraints that you have at home on a regular work day.
Practice was interesting. “Walk-through” was more of a very fast practice. This is nerve racking to us as we look onto the field, and one of our starting corners is covering wide receivers running at near full speed in flimsy tennis shoes. As Sam said, it doesn’t take much. Could you imagine a player, during the week of the Super Bowl, rolling an ankle, or worse, be cause he was running around without proper foot attire?? I tried to talk to him, and get him to change shoes, but to no avail, he was set. After “walk through” we only had one MRI and an Xray scheduled for a possible strained hamstring and a thumb injury respectively…. So not too bad. The medical staffs involved in the Super Bowl are amazing. From transportation to hospitals on a given day, to a non-football member of the travel party needing medical attention has been covered. These guys have answers to everything, and it’s really quite refreshing. The Giant’s athletic training staff is first class, as always. These guys have been in contact with us since Monday following the NFC championship, and have opened their home to us, unconditionally. The Giants’ facility is great. It is very new and spacious with modern internal architectural designs. At one point in time, I walked into the player’s locker room while the music was playing and I felt like I was in a club. Lunch was amazing as well. The facilities’ kitchen staff was manning the whole ordeal, and they did an awesome job, a la carte pasta, sandwich bar, salad bar, ice cream machine, etc. Really first class, the Giants’ players are fortunate.
Once we all had lunch, our staff switched travel roles, and the 3 that came to the facility early went back on the team buses. The remainder of us was able to chill with some of the stragglers and chit-chat with Byron Hansen and Steve Kennelly from the Giants’ AT staff before we hopped in our rental and headed back to the hotel. Staff dinner with us and the equipment staff tonight at Carmines, which should be awesome. We are only a short subway ride in to Manhattan, which is VERY convenient. Media day for the players tomorrow, which is always a circus to watch, and always very fun and entertaining.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014 – Media Day
Today the big deal is media day. We ran treatments shortly for about 90 minutes this morning, then got on the buses with the player to head to the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. This particular event is a circus. When the team arrived to the center, we were all shuffled into a waiting area. In this area there were some couches, tables, televisions, sandwiches, breakfast food, etc. We waited here for about an hour taking pictures of each other and waiting for the Broncos players to clear out completely.
Once it was our time on the floor, the frenzy began. Media outlets from all over the world were there with massive cameras, huge boom microphones, etc. The players were in sort of carnival-like booths for the most part, set up with microphones and small mounted cameras. Depending on the player, there was more or less media at their section of the booth. Players like Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman, had stand alone booths in the middle of the floor where the media frenzy was even more intense. It was crowded and hot on the field with so many bodies, everyone with some type of camera gear or a television personality with a camera person following them around. Mix in the fans in the stands just watching, and I could see how this could be overwhelming for a person, especially some of our players, who are fielding questions constantly and trying not to slip and say anything inflammatory. This is a fun day for the medial staff, there are not many opportunities where we can break character and get to simply be fans. We were all walking around, listening to the guys that we work with everyday answer questions and snapping photos ourselves. Overall this is a fun experience, mostly because we get to relax a little and watch television personalities who we all watch from ESPN, NFL Network, ABC, CBS, etc. react to the answers of the guys that we know so well.
After media day, Director of Player Health and Performance Sam Ramsden and I went with a few of our players to the Giants’ facility so they could get into the hot and cold tubs, hit the sauna, etc for about an hour and a half. Later tonight we will hop on the Subway and head up to Hoboken to have dinner with a few of the Gatorade reps at City Grill, which will be nice. Tomorrow morning will be a semi regular Wednesday, back to the grind for a few days.
Wednesday, January 29, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #5
Today has already been a little bit of a weird day. Treatments started at 7:45 am in our training room at the hotel. The players’ first meeting started at 9:00. So we saw some guys from 7:45 till about 8:50. Meetings went up until the buses left for the practice facility at 11:30am. The reason that this has been a strange day is because the schedule this morning has changed twice since we have woken up this morning. The final schedule has the players getting to the practice facility and going straight into meetings. This postpones, what was once a 12:30 lunch to 2:00 and starts practice at 3pm, which has us leaving the facility around 5:15-6pm tonight. There is a similar schedule set up for tomorrow, but potentially a little later. Of course we have all had some plans here and there to go into the city and have dinner or something to that effect, and the schedule change definitely changes those plans.
Upon arriving to the athletic training room at the practice facility we were able to run into Leigh Weiss and Steve Kennelly. These guys have been awesome, They make sure that everything is up and running here from the sports medicine aspect of things, as well as the stadium athletic training room, where they have already gone over there to make sure that the hot tubs and hydrocollators are working, etc. Even though we will be going over there on Friday to set up the locker room, it is nice to know that the things that would have taken some time to get going have already been taken care of. Gatorade is also doing a great job taking care of us. They have delivered enough product to probably last a college team an entire season or two to the practice facility and the stadium, which their crew has already stocked in visi-coolers, and unpacked coolers and other products. They did this in both at the Giants Training Facility and Stadium, which is a huge help because that type of stuff can be very time consuming.
Practice prep was normal, but time constrained. Taping seemed to be very crammed into the schedule, guys were out of their regular routines and forgot to do a lot of things that they normally do. I think that this has to do with a change in schedule and new environment. Most players have a very regimented routine that they have put together to help them cover their bases daily. It is kind of fun watching guys try to get back into some type of normalcy. Practice today was a regular Wednesday practice, fast and physical. The players did a very good job governing themselves. Monday was a little bit of a turned up session, players and coaches were really amped up. I think that this group is starting to realize that they need to be prepared to play in a football game, and not the Super Bowl.
After practice, a few of the medical staff stayed behind with some of the stragglers, guys who wanted to take their time, eat dinner, get into the tubs, etc. The others will make sure that everyone who is back at the hotel gets everything that they need. Afterwards we are probably going to go into Manhattan or Hoboken and get some pizza. Nice part of being in this area, GREAT food.
Thursday, January 30, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #6
Similar type of morning this morning as yesterday. We ran treatments at 7:45, saw maybe 3-4 guys, then off to the practice facility after kind of waiting around for a few hours. This morning during the down time we really kind of hashed out the plan on how and when we are going to pack everything that we have brought to the hotel as far as athletic training equipment. This can be a little tricky because some of the things that we have at the hotel need to make it to the stadium today so that we can set up like we normally would on a Friday.
The most interesting thing about the day today is that this is the day that the families arrived. This includes players’ wives, coaches wives, children, etc. So there is much more of a hustle and bustle around the hotel this evening. My own wife, father and father-in-law are here as well. It was good to see my dad, since I haven’t seen him in a very long time… almost 2 years. This will be his first Super Bowl, and his first football game in 2 years. Both my dad, and Courtney’s dad are very excited to be here. They are staying in the New Yorker hotel, which is another “team hotel” that a lot of Seahawks’ staff and family are staying in as well. Courtney and I flew my dad in commercial from Sacramento and her and her dad came in on the family charter. It was funny to hear about their experience on the jet, since that is something that we take for granted since we travel like that all of the time. They were impressed with the service, the food, being able to step off of the plane directly onto a bus, etc. They had a blast, which is fun to see. Families coming in did have their fair share of problems. For some reason my father-in-law’s bag did not make it to his hotel in Manhattan, rather to ours in Jersey City. This proved to be quite inconvenient at 10pm after working for 13 hours today. So, Courtney and I hopped on the PATH train, which took us to about 5 blocks away from their hotel, dropped off the bag and got some NY pizza from Pizza Suprema. It was pretty good, not sure it was worth the trip, but seeing the dads was. Courtney and I ran into Donald and his crew on the way back to our Hotel in Jersey City on our way back around 12 am, I think that we had a little bit of a longer night than we anticipated, but still having fun.
Tomorrow is the day before the day before. I know that our guys are excited to play. Practice this afternoon was awesome. The players were flying around, but taking care of each other at the same time, it was really cool to see. If the Broncos win this game, it is not going to be because our guys were not ready to play, that’s for sure.
Friday, January 31, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #7
Today started a little later due to the schedule change; we did not open for treatments until 8:30 am. The fun part was the proverbial fire that we had to extinguish when the hotel came into our unpacked training room to tell us that they needed the room by this afternoon, rather than tomorrow night. Sweet. We had nothing packed up yet, and even if we did, the truck to take the gear back is not going to be to the hotel until 8 am tomorrow morning. So now we have to pack the training room, and find an empty room to store our stuff until tomorrow morning. So, CJ has been running around the hotel trying to find an answer to this dilemma, while everyone else started getting things packed up. Eventually we found a room to move stuff to, and we left CJ and Adam behind to finish the packing and moving at the hotel, while the balance of the staff headed over to the practice facility with the team. Fun times for sure. Sam told me a few years ago that the best thing that you can do to get ready for your day is wake up and expect something to go sideways. So when something goes wrong, you are expecting it, and if everything goes right, then it’s a bonus!
Practice was a regular Friday practice at a walk-through pace without helmets. Afterwards we packed up our training room at the practice facility and loaded everything onto a truck bound for Metlife. Right now we are into our normal Friday before a road game. Our stadium set-up crew consists of all of about 6-8 equipment managers and 4 athletic trainers. We spent about 4 hours meticulously setting up the locker room, athletic training room, coaches and staff locker rooms and bathrooms. If you can think of it, we have it there. From mouthwash to diagnostic ultrasound for musculoskeletal injuries, we have it covered. And this is nothing different than what we do for any road game except for the number of people that we have on this trip of course. This is always a good night, even though we are working late, we all enjoy each other’s company and have fun getting the team ready behind the scenes. It didn’t hurt that we had a little bit of time, and had a chance to watch a little bit of Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers rehearsal for the half time show.
Back at the hotel, the remainder of the staff is taking care of the team, dispensing medications, light treatments, etc. Once we finished with the stadium, we head back to the hotel, this is around 10:00 pm and CJ and I went out to meet his girlfriend and my wife with Michael and his wife.
Saturday, February 1, 2014 - SB XLVIII Practice #8
This morning was a rough one. We had to move our hotel gear, again, this time from the room that we had to store it in to the truck. The reason that this was a little challenging, is that we are working with the hotel staff, who at times can get things a little mixed up. All is better after a little breakfast prepared by our team chef, Mac, hits the stomach, however.
From the hotel, we traveled with the team to Metlife, where the players had an opportunity to check out the locker room and the field. We do this before every road game, but normally we do it after our walk-through, instead of before. Once that field trip was over, we headed over the practice facility so the players could have meetings, team picture, walk-through, and lunch before we headed back to the hotel.
Players have the rest of the afternoon off. We will have a staff dinner in New York tonight before team meetings start at 7pm. After that, curfew is at 11pm, when we all wake up tomorrow; it will be Super Bowl Sunday
It has been a long week. Planning, prepping, moving, getting up early, going to bed late and constantly putting out fires. Not to mention family needing a piece of your time as well. I know that I am ready for the game and the players are as well. To be quite honest, I am exhausted, which unfortunately outweighs my excitement at this time. I know tomorrow that will change, but right now I feel like I need a week long nap!
Sunday, February 2, 2014 - 2.2.14 SB XLVIII
This morning came… finally. We have been waiting for Game Day for 2 weeks. Last night was fun. We went out in Times Square to a couple of different spots. It seemed like we had more fans that Denver. At the restaurant we were eating dinner, people started yelling SEAH-HAWKS! About every 15-20 minutes… no joke. This morning my wife and me went out for coffee and a little bit of breakfast around 9 am. It was nice to sit and chill before stuff started getting crazy. Sometimes before a game, I will sit and think that in a few hours, I am going to be in an intense fast paced environment with 70,000 fans coming down on top of me… it makes me appreciate the serenity of a cup of coffee before the chaos. After we returned to the hotel, work started right away. Tending to some of the coaches and player needs, getting the stuff together that we were going to need to take to the stadium, meeting our catering order for the afternoon, etc., the whirlwind starts before we even leave the building. Don’t forget that we added on seeing family and friends prior to leaving the hotel, you almost relish the ride to the stadium and the 90 minutes prior to the team showing up to collect yourself with no outside distractions.
Once we arrived to the stadium we quickly moved our gear inside and started getting ourselves squared away as well as final touches of the training room, and of course, eat. Today there are a lot more pictures being taken due to the gravity of this being the Super Bowl and all. Pictures on the field, in the locker room… really trying to document the moment. It was fun.
Soon the players start rolling in and it is business as usual. Barely time to take a breath - soft tissue work, taping working from one player to the next. Each guy has his own routine; our job is to help him manage that routine. This period flies by. Constant movement for 2 hours before the team heads out to pre-game warm ups. Once we finally get ourselves together, we head out after the team. This is usually pretty benign; mostly we have a chance to catch up with some of the athletic trainers from the opposing team. That is always fun for me. I like seeing other professionals from around the league. Regardless of the ramifications of the game, you are in the same boat in a lot of ways as your counterpart from the other team. Today I had a chance to talk with Greek and Corey from the Broncos’ staff. Their whole staff is great. Nice guys, have done a lot for the athletic training profession as a whole, as well as PFATS. If they were to have won today, I would genuinely be very happy for that crew.
The game, from my POV… I saw about ½ of it. We were busy today. The heightened importance of the game and overall sense of urgency was tremendous. We are trying to anticipate and react simultaneously to situations. Communication during game day is almost the most important thing we do. Fortunately we have had plenty of practice throughout the season, so it is second nature in this environment. We worked tirelessly today, observing the field, reacting to different injuries, communicating status to the coaches, playing go or no go calls, and managing an extra long half time. Near the end of the game, I looked up and we were winning… by a lot. WOW. Then Richard Sherman goes down with 12 minutes left to go in the game. Due to the nature of his injury, I am more worried about his prognosis, than I am losing our pro bowl corner against Peyton Manning. The game seems in hand, I am worried about Sherm’s ankle now. We shoot him back to x-ray (the medical coordination for this game was nothing short of phenomenal) exactly the way that it was rehearsed through conversation. Dr. McAdam and I determined that 1. He was not going back into the game and 2. We can immobilize him and put him on crutches and back out to the field. This isn’t the normal protocol for an injured player, but I was not about to let Richard miss the confetti shower and everything that goes along with the on-field celebration that comes with being a World Champion. In my mind, he has worked too hard for this, and players can go 15 years in the NFL, never experiencing this. I am not sure that he realized what I was trying to do, but he complied with every instruction that I gave him, and I am sure that he was grateful for the opportunity to celebrate with his teammates. Selfishly… I was happy to be out there too.
7 days a week since July 21st. 10-13 hour days. Missing time with family and friends. Dealing with personalities that sometimes are not the best every day. Guys getting injured, and working their tail off to get back. All of these things along a journey with major emotional and physical peaks and valleys to emerge… at the end… with over 120 million witnesses… Super Bowl 48 Champions. The feeling is indescribable. I am not going to sit here and say, “This is why we do it.” But it is a REALLY nice bonus.
After the celebrations and the confetti clears, there is a party back at the hotel. Paul Allen (Seahawks’ Owner) and his band are having a massive jam session in the midst of an open bar. Hip Hop artist Macklemore also did a few songs as well. No shortage of smiles which I am sure will continue when we return home to the 12thMan!