Eligible or ineligible?
That’s what the Seahawks have been drilling for the past two weeks up through Friday’s final full practice before Super Bowl 49, an indoor one at rainy Arizona State University.
New England has recently used linemen with ineligible numbers in eligible-receiver positions — that is the last man on the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. Nothing new there; the Seahawks have done that this season with tackles Alvin Bailey and Garry Gilliam as extra, blocking tight ends.
Seahawks defenders are used to seeing officials signal such players are actually eligible receivers with two hands across the shirt as if to signify the jersey number is moot. The referee then clicks on his microphone to announce to the stadium and television audiences that the player is an eligible receiver.
But the Patriots have added the inverse as a rare wrinkle: players with eligible-receiver numbers — Nos. 1-49 and 80-89 — lining up in positions that make them ineligible, such as “covered” by another player, on the line outside of them. It happened on consecutive plays New England ran in the AFC title game two weeks ago.
And the Seahawks have been drilling it in practice since. This past week at team headquarters in Renton, they had the officials they hire to help oversee practices report to the defensive players who was ineligible in eligible numbers.
Linebacker K.J. Wright and others have said they’ve never seen an official do inverse notification in a game.
They likely will Sunday in the Super Bowl.
“Right from the beginning of the week last week, after the Indianapolis game, some things popped up so I went right to call (the NFL officiating office) to find out what is going to happen about the mechanics of stuff,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
“There was a mistake made in that game that was on a touchdown play, when a player came in, reported eligible and then stayed on for the next play and didn’t get off the field and they scored a touchdown on that play. That shouldn’t have happened. That’s something that could happen. The Colts got fooled on that play.”
Carroll said on the second scoring play, a touchdown catch by Nate Solder, “... it got confusing and they mis-covered the guy.
“We don’t want that to happen if we can help it, so we called in and asked about that,” Carroll said. “They came back with a very clear response about that. They’re going to have a new signal … when an eligible number is now ineligible, they’re going to make a new declaration to the players on the field so that you’ll clearly identify that. I know the league is absolutely committed to getting that right and doing that well.”
Carroll said the officials in the middle of the field, most commonly the umpire, will cross both arms in an “X” to signify a player with an eligible number is lining up in an ineligible position.
“They’ve never done that before,” Carroll said.
“We’ve been preparing for it every day because we don’t want to be caught in mishandling on our end. It’s really on us to see it.”
Carroll said he thinks it’s good football and Patriots coach Bill Belichick should be commended for it.
“The officials do what they do, but we still have to find it because it could happen like it did to the Colts,” he said. “We’re very much in tune with it. It has just been part of the preparation so it’s not a big deal to us now.”
DADDY DAY FOR SHERM?
Richard Sherman’s pregnant girlfriend Ashley Moss got special permission from her doctor to fly to Phoenix to be with her man. Friday she told Seattle’s KING-TV the Seahawks cornerback will play in Super Bowl 49 — but if the baby, which is due Feb. 12, surprises and comes early, Sherman may be out of the stadium faster than most fans.
Carroll is leaving it up to Sherman, who expects to be playing.
“That’s up to Richard,” Carroll said. “He knows that he has an opportunity to face a great decision. Whenever our players have a personal family issue that comes up, it’s always about the family first and they have to decide what’s best for them, and I support that.”
Then the coach joked over the still-to-be-named boy: “Can’t wait to see little Petey.”
For the third consecutive day, every one of the 53 Seahawks on the active roster fully participated in practice. SS Kam Chancellor banged his knee on the next-to-last play of practice. NBC reporter Peter King said Chancellor walked off the field without a limp but had the left knee wrapped. Seattle added him to its injury report as probable. … The team has a walk-through practice Saturday at 11 a.m.. The coaches, players and staff will then bus 27 miles west to University of Phoenix Stadium for a Super Bowl team photo, scheduled for 1 p.m. … Some teams change hotels the night before the game and move to a secret location to avoid distractions. Not the Seahawks. They will remain in the Arizona Grand Resort they have been residing in south of downtown Phoenix since Sunday.