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Holmgren prepares his troops early for the Super Bowl experience

Associated Press

Kirkland, Wash. — To Matt Hasselbeck, the best thing about Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren right now is not his game planning. It's not how he handles his players or assembles a staff.

For the Seattle quarterback, the most impressive thing about Holmgren is that he's been to the Super Bowl.

And now he's going back with a third franchise.

"It was really a comforting feeling today for him to say, 'When I was in this Super Bowl, we did this, and in that one, we did this,"' Hasselbeck said Monday, his first full day as quarterback of an NFC champion. "I feel we are really prepared."

Holmgren is going to make certain of that. Oh, sure, he let the Seahawks celebrate Sunday night and relax Monday. They have the day off Tuesday, although many will deal with the logistics for Detroit — a chore in itself.

"Players and coaches who have gone through the game, that helps," said Holmgren, who was an assistant with the 49ers when they won the 1989 and '90 Super Bowls, then head coach with Green Bay for a victory in 1997 and a loss in '98.

"The more you can explain it to them, the better," he said. "Some of them will get there and won't believe what's going on.

"This is like nothing you will ever go through preparing for a game."

Such as the demand for tickets. And getting family and friends to Detroit, then housing them. Distractions, distractions, distractions.

"Talking to them today, they were still in that stage of pinch me, did it really happen?" Holmgren said. "It was kind of refreshing.

"I think they still are thinking about that a little today; some of them looked a little tired to me. Then we started talking about the tickets they need for the family, all these relatives you don't even know about, and reality hit."

The good thing about Super Bowl reality for the Seahawks, who are 31/2-point underdogs to the Pittsburgh Steelers, is that Holmgren and five players have dealt with it. Center Robbie Tobeck went with Atlanta for the 1999 game. Defensive tackle Chuck Darby won it with Tampa Bay three years ago. So did wide receiver Joe Jurevicius.

Defensive end Grant Wistrom got a ring in the 2000 game with the Rams, and lost in 2002 with St. Louis. Punter Tom Rouen also went twice, winning with Denver in 1998 and '99. The '98 game was a win over Holmgren's Packers.

For everyone else, uncharted territory.

"I just can't stop smiling," league MVP Shaun Alexander said, a wide smile creasing his face, of course. "It's a great feeling. I woke up this morning, went down to get breakfast and my wife turned on the news, which she never does. And it's every channel talking about us going to the Super Bowl."

It won't stop for the next two weeks, Shaun. So get used to it.

"I had 87 text (messages) and my phone is already full," he added. "The answering machine at home is full. My wife is from the area, and we had friends over (Sunday) night. Everyone left and I was left to clean up the house. I was cleaning at 2 in the morning."

Some way to treat a most valuable player.

Alexander and his teammates will receive the royal treatment from the city until heading for Detroit on Sunday. Holmgren says they've gotten a sense of just how meaningful the Seahawks' first Super Bowl berth is to Seattle.

"The pride of coming from where you have a championship team ... I think that is a big deal," he said. "A lot of people feel good about that. A lot of people have been coming up to me and saying, 'I don't watch much football, but this is pretty neat.'

"My sense is the city is really very excited about the football team and this can only be good in the future."

As for the near future?

"Failure in this game is a real option," Hasselbeck said, "so we have to work really hard and be as focused as we've ever been, and the conditions are going to be tough. We're going to be away from home, we're going to be getting hit in all different directions with events and interviews, family and friends and people you haven't talked to in 10 years. But more than ever we have to be focused.

"To bring a Lombardi Trophy possibly to a team that has never had one, it's just an awesome opportunity that our team has."

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