In the moments after the final exhibition game of 2013, when the eager Seahawks pawed and stamped on the threshold of the greatest season in franchise history, coach Pete Carroll gave them a brief but important message.
It’s all there for you, he said.
He didn’t need to say more.
Everybody in that room knew exactly what he meant: The pieces were in place to accomplish everything the National Football League had to offer, and whether they ended up holding the Lombardi Trophy in February would be decided by their own efforts and determination.
As the 2014 Seahawks open training camp with greater expectations than ever, it’s still “all there” for them.
But this time, success is not only a factor of their hard work and desire, but their ability to fend off the gnawing forces of complacency and distraction.
When they take the field Friday morning at their headquarters, they’ll be without some dearly departed and valuable veterans, the most critical being Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Michael Robinson, Sidney Rice, and even young veteran Golden Tate.
But in almost every case, the team got much younger with the insertion of their prospective replacements.
Bryant, Clemons and Robinson were in their 30s. And while Tate is only 25, it’s expected that a healthy Percy Harvin will adequately fill the role, being only 26 with All-Pro honors on his résumé.
The cost of losing players such as Bryant and Robinson, in particular, can be unseen from the outside. These guys were the veteran voices, team leaders on the field and in the locker room.
It’s fairly obvious, though, that this club has a roster filled with those types — Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Russell Wilson, etc. — who will be strenuously intolerant of substandard effort.
The team’s minicamp in June, for instance, was a test of the coaches’ ability to restrain their players from doing damage to each other, as if they were trying to rein in fractious colts.
Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, and Thomas were among the many conspicuously competing with midseason ferocity.
I’ve covered 25 previous Seahawks seasons, and I’d be confident in saying that the Seahawks showed better energy and intensity during their offseason practices than a number of teams in franchise history brought to the field during regular season games.
They will need that, as they are now the most appealing target on the schedule of every opponent on the docket.
I’ve seen them through six head coaches, three franchise owners, hundreds of different assistants and administrators. But the challenges and expectations and possibilities faced by the 2014 Seahawks are like nothing they’ve faced before.
Some of the problems following the Super Bowl season of 2005, for instance, were obvious. The loss of guard Steve Hutchinson as a free agent was a huge blow. Of their other Pro Bowlers entering the 2006 season, Matt Hasselbeck (31), Walter Jones (32), Mack Strong (35) and Robbie Tobeck (36) were all in their 30s, with running back Shaun Alexander at 29, and only linebacker Lofa Tatupu near the start of his career.
For this group, the six returning Pro Bowl players (with 14 appearances among them), range between 25 and 28 — at the heart of their careers. Wilson and Thomas are only 25, Chancellor and Sherman 26, Marshawn Lynch and Max Unger 28.
It seems possible this group can be even better this season.
That youthful core now knows exactly what it takes, and has another year of experience to draw upon — 19 games last season played at the highest level in the NFL.
They will benefit from having played another season next to each other in the same scheme. And the players they lost have been replaced by ones who are younger and faster, if less experienced.
So, yes, Pete Carroll might easily remind them, as they start preparations for their World Championship defense, that it’s all still there for them.