These Hawks wired for intensity

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comOctober 25, 2012 

Because there’s no way to effectively measure a football team’s emotional amperage or competitive intensity, support for today’s theme will rely on testimony of witnesses and anecdotal evidence.

Fans of the Seattle Seahawks don’t have to look back too far to remember those times when their team occasionally came out curiously lifeless, almost as if sedated. And a double-digit loss generally left a frustrated coach to say, “Well, we really came out flat today.”

Even in the Super Bowl year of 2005, the Hawks started the season with a 12-point loss and ended with an 11-point defeat. Through the late Holmgren years and all the way up to the middle of last season, at least a few blowout losses blemished the annual results.

But in the 15 games since then, the Seahawks have won nine, and have been in reasonable striking distance in the six losses. One came in overtime, two others were by a field goal or less, and none were by more than a touchdown.

At times they have opened themselves to valid questioning over mind-numbing penalties, dubious schemes, questionable calls, untimely turnovers and that damnable draw play on third-and-long.

But whatever else has gone on, win or lose, this team’s effort and emotion and competitive energy have been absolutely above reproach. This team shows up to play every week.

Seven-year veteran Ben Obomanu put it this way: “Before, we had the kind of leaders who might say, ‘OK, we need to come out and play smart and play a good game.’ But it’s different now, we have guys like Michael Robinson and Red Bryant who come out with so much intensity it carries over into a physical style of play where we’re thinking, ‘OK, let’s come out and hit somebody in the face.’ ”

Robinson, a pile-driving fullback and one of a half-dozen special-teams banshees who help establish the tone, agreed with Obomanu that the emotional intensity is rooted in coach Pete Carroll. And it’s not just a matter of his trickle-charging the team with his own energy.

“It’s a big tribute to his asking the players to take ownership of the team,” Robinson said. “Pete has been trying to get that established for a while. He says, ‘You guys take hold of it ... we’re just the managers.’ And we finally got that going the final eight games of last season, when the team leaders really took over and made sure everybody was ready to play.”

If the leaders set the tone, the message is spread “through mutual respect and accountability,” Robinson said.

Adding a sharp edge to that mutual respect is a simmering resentment for what many Seahawks perceive as widespread disrespect by other teams.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who were undrafted or drafted late or were cut by different teams, so many of them have chips on their shoulders,” Obomanu said. “So we have players who look forward every week to take out some anger on the other team. The guys kind of force you into that frame of mind that we need to go out and earn the respect we deserve.”

When the premise of this column was presented to veteran linebacker Leroy Hill, he started nodding his head in agreement.

“Most definitely,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s the competitive nature that Pete (Carroll) instills, or the group of guys we finally have together, but we compete and fight to the end of every game. Every game since the middle of last year has been really competitive, and we’ve battled to the end of every one. We know we have a good team, but we still have to figure out how to take that next step, to not just be battling in those games, but to find ways to always win them.”

Hill said the team talks about playing with so much energy that it jumps out at opponents who watch their film. “That’s the kind of film we want to put out to the rest of the league,” Hill said. “There’s no easy Sunday when you have to play us.”

A win at Detroit on Sunday would give the Seahawks the best 16-game stretch (10-6) since the 2007 season, and set up a second half in which they play five of eight at home, where the team has about 65,000 intensity enablers.

“I really believe this group of guys get it; they understand we’re not going to be successful if we don’t bring it every time we go out,” Carroll said. “It’s most important as we go through these long seasons that week after week we find the level of intensity it takes.”

By now, it’s starting to look like a habit.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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