One month into his first NFL season, Shaquem Griffin is still getting hazed as almost all rookies do. Or, as much as the veterans think they should.
“Bobby Wagner,” Griffin said under his breath on Thursday.
Griffin, the linebacker and fifth-round draft choice this spring, was describing to the British and European media how even though he started Seattle’s opening game at weakside linebacker last month he remains a rookie in every way.
Especially off the field.
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Shaquem and his twin brother Shaquill, Seattle’s starting cornerback, got on the Seahawks’ chartered jumbo jet Wednesday night for the nine-hour flight to London. Shaquill stopped in one of the first rows up front. The fancy, business- and first-class sections. Where on the mammoth jets that cross the Atlantic the seats recline flat into beds.
“I think I slept… six hours?” Shaquill said Thursday following the Seahawks’ practice at their golf-resort hotel in the English countryside after arriving in London a few hours earlier. “I didn’t think I was going to sleep that long.”
Standing next to him in matching Seahawks gear, Shaquem Griffin almost scoffed. You know, the way a brother or sister (especially a twin) scoffs at his sibling.
He did not sleep that long.
But Shaquill kept going on about what he had going on for the Seahawks’ flight to England.
“I had a first-class seat, where it lays all the way down. Like a bed,” he said. “I wasn’t used to that. I’m mostly in the back, you know, with the seat standing straight up. So my neck will be hurting sometimes.”
His twin to his immediate right just nodded. Ruefully nodded.
“Rookies can’t have that seat,” Shaquem said. “The rookies had that section closed off. …Pretty sure they were living good there.
“It was all rookies back there.”
“I slept for everybody else,” Shaquill said, laughing.
Yes, the genuine joy the twins have for not only being in the NFL at the same time but as Seahawks teammates and roommates made the trip to England, too.
The twins — at times finishing each other’s sentences — were answering questions from the British and European press crammed into what The Grove resort here calls the potted barn. It’s a long, narrow greenhouse with potted plants all over at the back of the resort’s property, next to a preschool. Old-time portraits, including one of a bare human foot, lined the walls of the potted shed.
Reporters from all over Europe showed up for Thursday’s practice, and since the Raiders weren’t arriving until Friday afternoon the Seahawks had all the media attention. That included from the same crew from Germany that visited Seattle’s training camp this summer in Renton. They were again asking coach Pete Carroll questions. Those German reporters weren’t wearing lederhosen this time, though.
The unusual press conference, in the unusual setting behind a temporary tent locker room for the Seahawks that was few dozen meters beyond sheep grazing across the Hertfordshire countryside, added to the unique, bowl-game-like atmosphere the Seahawks have had all week.
Like Carroll did for two Super Bowls with Seattle in the 2013 and 2014 seasons plus many Rose and other bowls while coaching USC, he had his Seahawks install most of the plan for Sunday’s game back at the practice field at team headquarters. Only finishing touches remain.
Carroll had the players sleep as much as the coach on the flight to England, even those in coach class. Then he kept them up upon arrival Thursday, sending them straight to practice and then a team event in the early evening. The idea was to keep them awake long enough so they’d be tired at a decent bedtime Thursday night, London time, to quickly be on an Englishman’s sleep schedule.
Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders at Wembley Stadium kicks off at 6 p.m. local time.
Added to the festive atmosphere: Kam Chancellor has joined the team on their trip. The retired strong safety and soul of the Seahawks the last several years through his career-ending neck injury in November is more than just another Seahawk here.
He remains an inspiration.
“He’s an extraordinary individual,” Carroll said Thursday. “He has always been a big factor, not just with what he does on the field, but who he is and how he’s been around us. He’s been with the team all year. Traveling with us now is just another statement of how we want him connected to us. And we’d like him to be connected to us, always.
“He helps young guys. He helps old guys. He helps coaches. He’s just one of those guys that has a way about him. It fits and makes other people play better and do better. He’s an inspiration and a great guy to have with us.”
The other noteworthy thing at the very light practice in England: Nick Vannett participated in it.
The starting tight end missed Wednesday’s work back at team headquarters in Renton. The Seahawks listed him with a back injury, which raised concern he may be having a recurrence of the low-back pain he had this offseason then alleviated with physical therapy and Pilates. But Vannett was running and catching passes Thursday.
“He’s good. He’s fine. He practiced,” Carroll said.
Seattle re-signed former University of Washington wide receiver Darrell Daniels to be a second tight end Sunday. Reserve tackle George Fant could fulfill that extra tight-end role on running downs as he did for a dozen plays last weekend in the narrow loss to the Rams.
With the Seahawks so far out of the bumping nightlife of central London, about 40 kilometers, Carroll’s need to institute a curfew might not be as high as it could have been.
Was he instituting one, especially for these first couple nights before the eve of Sunday’s game? Or was he given them some free time to explore London and its surroundings, however they can get in there?
“Yes,” he said, with a coy grin. “Yep, that’s right. It’s all of that.
“No, they’ll have some opportunity to see some stuff. We’ll get out a little bit with them but this is a business trip. We’re a long ways from London so we’re not expecting the guys to get a lot of free time on the trip. We’re here for business.”
The Griffin twins have been this way once before. During Shaquill’s sophomore season at the University of Central Florida, he and his UCF teammate and roommate Shaquem played a game against Penn State in Ireland.
For this trip, Shaquill sounded every bit a 23-year-old man.
“I’m just curious how the food will taste,” Shaquill said. “So hopefully the food here is pretty good. That’s what I am looking forward to.”
Eventually, by Sunday, it will be the Raiders.
For now, in this most unique Seahawks regular-season trip in franchise history, it’s the setting and the scene.