By Scott M. Johnson
KIRKLAND – With an air of uncertainty hovering, the Seattle Seahawks took the practice field Wednesday in preparation for Sunday’s home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Whether that game will even take place won’t be decided until sometime today.
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue held a conference call with some of the league owners Wednesday, and is expected to announce today whether Tuesday’s terrorist attacks will prompt the league to put off this week’s games.
While that decision was being weighed, the Seahawks took the practice field with heavy hearts.
“Obviously it’s a difficult situation, but practicing gives you a moment when you can take your mind off everything that happened (Tuesday) and concentrate on your job,” safety Marcus Robertson said. “But in the back of everybody’s mind, it’s still there. It’s almost like disbelief. You never thought anything like this could happen.”
The Chiefs are due to fly into town Saturday, but those travel plans – like others across the nation – are on hold.
Much like the Seahawks, members of the Chiefs are torn over whether they want to play Sunday’s game.
“I kind of waver back and forth,” Kansas City quarterback Trent Green said. “Sometimes I’m sitting here thinking we really should move forward, and maybe the games this weekend will take people’s minds off it for a couple of hours. Then the next minute I’m sitting here thinking that’s kind of shallow, to be thinking that football is going to replace something that’s this devastating.”
Of course, the main concern about playing the weekend’s games is security. Although agencies are on alert in the wake of Tuesday’s tragedies, some might consider it risky to fill stadiums with tens of thousands of people.
“With forty, fifty thousand people in one area, that’s a prime target,” safety Reggie Tongue said. “I really don’t think anything else is going to happen because (the terrorists) did what they set out to do. But (the concern is) there. There will be a lot of people in one area. They closed down the malls (Tuesday) for that reason; baseball’s not playing for that reason.”
Because of safety issues, NFL Players’ Association executive director Gene Upshaw has reportedly lobbied against playing games this weekend. Some of the Seahawks seemed to agree.
“My concern is the safety of the players and the fans that support the NFL,” Robertson said. “If the NFL feels that it’s appropriate, then we have to abide by it. So my opinion is irrelevant.”
The Seahawks already have sold more than 50,000 tickets for Sunday’s game. One season-ticket holder, Chris Brown, said the threat of violence won’t scare him away.
“We cannot let anybody knock us off our path of normal life, so if the NFL chose not to cancel the game, I would definitely go,” Brown said. “I’d go and carry a flag and show my love for the country and my support for the country.
“I’m usually pretty loud as a fan, but I’d probably be more subdued.”
Kansas City coach Dick Vermeil said he has no concerns about safety.
“I trust our leadership – in the National Football League and in our world and our country,” Vermeil said. “If they feel it’s safe to go (to Seattle), then we go. I would feel very comfortable that way.”
Seahawks linebacker Chad Brown also is in favor of playing the game.
“I think it’s best we move on,” Brown said. “Obviously the league is going to do whatever they have planned; we have to go along with that. If we keep canceling things and keep giving in to this, then we are giving the terrorists what they want. It’s up to our lives to change the way we feel about things.”
The last time the NFL had to make a decision like this, it was after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That took place on a Friday, and then-commissioner Pete Rozelle decided to go through with the games two days later – a decision that was widely criticized.
For the Seahawks, the day after the tragedy looked kind of like another day at the office. The only visible change was that coach Mike Holmgren postponed his weekly Wednesday press conference until today.
But while they went through a typical practice, the players’ attention was distracted.
“Football is insignificant compared to what our country is going through,” center Robbie Tobeck said. “If they want us to play, maybe it will help people forget about some of the other things that are going on for a couple hours. Maybe it doesn’t; maybe it’s not worth it. I don’t know. That’s for the league to decide.”
Tobeck’s 21-year-old brother Jonathan is in the Army and unsure where he may be headed in the coming days or weeks.
“I talked to him (Tuesday),” the Seahawks’ center said. “I just told him, ‘I’m proud of you.’ Thank God we’ve got guys in this country who will go lay it on the line and do what it takes to defend this great freedom that we have.”
Like any other American in any other walk of life, the events two days ago have certainly put things in perspective for the Seahawks. Suddenly, playing their first AFC West game of the season doesn’t seem so important.
“It’s still just a football game,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “If they decide to postpone it, so what? If they decide to play it, I’ll go out and do my job and play football. Whatever they decide, it’s no big deal. It’s just a game. It really doesn’t matter.”
Notes: Cornerbacks Shawn Springs (hamstring) and Ike Charlton (knee) and tackle Chris McIntosh (neck stinger) did not practice Wednesday, and are listed as questionable for Sunday’s game. Defensive lineman Lamar King (foot) also did not practice, but he is listed as probable. … Practice squad offensive lineman Bruce Wiggins was not at Wednesday’s practice because of national travel restrictions. Wiggins had gone home over the weekend to spend time with his family because practice squad players do not travel with the team.