Super Bowl 48  

 

Secret to Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks? Don't stop the music

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks opened their locker room to the media Thursday afternoon, three days before the flight across the country for a week's worth of Super Bowl XLVIII hype, and, as with Sundays at CenturyLink Field, it was all about the noise.


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While reporters probed various members of the newly crowned NFC champions for their thoughts, Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch stood at his luxuriant locker playing deejay, blasting an eclectic ensemble of hip-hop tunes through his iPhone-programmed portable sound system.

It was Beast Mode meets Beats Mode -- an everyday occurrence at the team's training facility, where coach Pete Carroll and his players have put a 21st-century spin on the notion of Seattle Sound.

Whether it's reggae in the draft room, classic rock on the practice field or Lynch's Oakland-heavy rap playlist in the locker room, there's an omnipresent groove at the Seahawks' training facility, one of the many reasons so many players have come to regard their workplace as refreshing, progressive and enjoyable.

"Look at this," defensive lineman Michael Bennett said Thursday, gesturing toward Lynch as he reclined in a plush leather chair in the middle of the locker room. "It's the Google of football."

That's one reason this Pacific Northwest outpost has become a prime destination for free agents searching for an upbeat environment, a movement the Seahawks' success is only likely to amplify. And the credit should go to the region's most influential power trio since Nirvana: Carroll, general manager John Schneider and owner Paul Allen, all of whom are committed to cultivating an atmosphere conducive to smiling employees.

"We work hard, but we like being here," All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas explained. "We have the best facility. The cooks are great. Across the board, they've placed great people in great positions. And the music is always playing ..."

In a city that has given the world an inordinate share of musical excellence -- claiming Jimi Hendrix, Heart (whose lead singer, Ann Wilson, provided a blistering rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" before the NFC Championship Game), Sir Mix-a-Lot, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Foo Fighters and Macklemore (last Sunday's halftime performer), among others -- the local football team most definitely rocks.

"It's a very relaxing work environment," said All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, who knows a thing or two about volume. "People are most comfortable being themselves. And if you allow people to be in the most comfortable state, they're going to be the most successful."

It might be somewhat of a stretch to equate the constant rhythm at the VMAC (Virginia Mason Athletic Center) with the noise the Seahawks have made on the field since Allen lured Carroll from USC four years ago, with the team's then-CEO, Tod Leiweke, plucking Schneider from the Green Bay Packers' front office shortly thereafter. Yet there is a method to the loudness, something upon which Carroll expounded during our sit-down interview Thursday, for a feature scheduled to air on NFL Network's "GameDay Morning" on Super Sunday.

"Music's always been a big part of my world," Carroll told me. "And I've just found over the years that our game and the environment that we perform in has a beat to it. And there is a pulse and a rhythm to it, and it's always encompassed in noise and sound and all of that. And it's all part of something that is part of what we feel.

"And so I found out, you know, years ago back at SC that if I included the music as much as possible wherever it fit, we might be able to benefit from it. And I found some information, some reports that support that people learn better, you know, when they're upbeat and they're uplifted. But mainly it's just about (the fact that) I like it. I like the feel of it. And I like the way the players respond to it.

"I mean, it's not for everybody. I don't expect everybody to understand that. But it's something that's very special and it's a big part of us."

Carroll, naturally, plays a part in choosing the soundtrack that accompanies the Seahawks' daily routine. There is a deejay on hand for practices -- including those open to the public in training camp, adding some entertainment value to the monotony of 7-on-7 drills and the like -- and he also sets up shop on the sidelines on Sundays at CenturyLink Field, where the pregame mix is routinely popping. And while Carroll doesn't decide the entire playlist, the coach does have input. "If I'm not feelin' it," Carroll said, "I'm gonna let him know."

You would think a 62-year-old coach supervising musical selections for a team of mostly 20-somethings (the Seahawks are the second-youngest team in Super Bowl history) would have the potential to create some serious blowback. Carroll, however, isn't your typical sexagenarian.

"For a 62-year-old, he has good taste," Lynch said. "He listens to all types of music. Sometimes I'll be like, 'What the (expletive) is that that he's playing?' But the majority of what he plays, everybody knows and likes. Even the oldies -- he'll play some James Brown out there, and even the youngest guys on the team will be dancing and singing along."

From his days growing up in Marin County, where he checked out a few shows by the Grateful Dead as they forged their golden road from hippie house band to legendary American rock ensemble, to his decade-long stint presiding over the Trojans' renaissance in Los Angeles, where his celebrity helped him forge a friendship with iconic Long Beach rapper Snoop Dogg, Carroll has stayed in the mix when it comes to musical trends.

His players notice, too. In August, when Snoop Dogg showed up for a Seahawks preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink -- rocking a white Lynch jersey, to boot -- nobody on the 'Hawks was saying there Ain't No Fun in Seattle.

"You have to be a part of it to see how it's run, and how cool it is," said outside linebacker Cliff Avril, who signed with the Seahawks as a free agent last March. "You can't really see it from the outside. We embrace it. Pete himself is an up-tempo, hyped-up guy. If your coach is like that, it kind of trickles down, and you can't help but have fun."

Added backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, who returned to Seattle after spending the 2012 season with the Buffalo Bills: "Look around -- you see it. There aren't too many locker rooms like this. The type of music we play here, it's like home. Music in the locker room, music on the field, even music at meetings. Music's a big part of what we do here."

In the eyes of Bennett, who signed with the Seahawks last March after four years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carroll's insistence on exposing his players to tunes might help them tune out unwanted distractions come game day.

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"I think it's a focus thing," Bennett said. "If you can focus when there's music, when it's loud all the time, it trains your mind to deal with hectic game situations. Your mind is constantly having to think with the noise in the background. Cerebrally, that's one of those things I think (Carroll's) doing -- messing with your psychology."

Perhaps -- but Carroll is also fostering an atmosphere of self-expression, especially in the case of a certain reticent running back. While getting Lynch to conduct an interview (present company excluded) is tougher than tackling him in the second level, he's practically an extrovert when playing locker-room deejay, a state of affairs to which his teammates have happily become acclimated.

"People connect with music," said Lynch, who on Thursday accepted an old-school request, "Don't Fight The Feelin' " by iconic Oakland rapper Too Short -- exposing several amused Seahawks to its raunchy lyrics. "You see it while you're out -- if you put some good tunes on, no matter where you are, people can appreciate that. It's a relaxing environment. It just puts everybody in a good frame of mind."

Follow Michael Silver on Twitter @MikeSilver.

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