The Seattle Seahawks will start training camp the way they ended last season: covering new ground.
The defending Super Bowl champions will be just that for the first time.
Thursday, players reported to the training facility in Renton. Friday morning, training camp starts.
Done are the public appearances spanning from the White House to the stage at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards, where players were “slimed.” The time for conjecture to run headlong into reality is near, and the Seahawks face it with the core of their crew intact.
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Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, free safety Earl Thomas, cornerback Richard Sherman and kicker Steven Hauschka received new contracts. Thomas and Sherman received new deals despite already being under contract.
One person who did not receive a new contract is running back Marshawn Lynch. This shifted Lynch from Beast Mode to Holdout Mode. According to former Seahawk Michael Robinson, Lynch will not be reporting to training camp as he pursues a new contract.
Coach Pete Carroll will navigate around the unsurprising news of Lynch’s contract dissatisfaction. His focus is on getting the team revved back up for a repeat. As part of the process, he’ll talk with other coaches and general managers who have been through the attempt to return to the Super Bowl.
“We’re always trying to get an edge and find out where we can get better and improve,” Carroll said. “So, we do have conversations fairly regularly. And people in different walks that are maybe still in coaching or retired or doing different things — certainly some people in the science world too, we’re messing with as well. We’re always trying to get better.”
He may want to stay away from the math world. Historical odds are counter to current odds. The Seahawks are the favorites to win the Super Bowl according to the Las Vegas betting industry. But, no team has won consecutive Super Bowls since the New England Patriots in 2003-04 seasons. Only four teams since 1993 have advanced to the Super Bowl the year after winning it.
However, ultimate expectations for the Seahawks will not be new. Heading into last season, they were one of the favorites to win it all, which is precisely what they did. Carroll also tries to build his “program” to be sustainable. He and general manager John Schneider often point out the team was not structured to win the Super Bowl once. It’s a multiple pursuit.
“I’ve gone in to this thing hoping to be here so that the lessons that we’ve been teaching all along would fit the situation, the opportunity that we’re faced with right now,” Carroll said. “I take a great deal of responsibility for it, not just in what I say, but also the observations that I’m able to make. The taking in the information is as important as anything.
“How are the guys handling it? What’s their language like? Where’s their focus? Are we tuned in and trying to make sure we’re monitoring it carefully with the extension of the coaches doing the same. It’s an incredible challenge. I just love this challenge that we have and we’re fortunate to have it.”
Seattle does have injury concerns. Left tackle Russell Okung (foot), strong safety Kam Chancellor (hip), linebackers Bruce Irvin (hip) and Malcolm Smith (ankle) had offseason surgeries. Okung, Chancellor and Smith are expected to be ready at the start of camp. Irvin is unlikely to be back before the end of August.
“All those guys — we’ll have to wait and see,” Carroll said. “As they progress and the work builds up, do they handle it well? We won’t know that until we get there. Everybody’s projected to have a shot at it so that’s what we’re counting on.”
Quarterback Russell Wilson enters his third year in the league and third with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. Seattle bolstered its receiving group in the offseason by selecting Paul Richardson with their top pick in the draft.
The defense will look very similar. Gone are veterans Red Bryant and Chris Clemons. In is former Pro-Bowler Kevin Williams at defensive tackle. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett will be the primary pass rushers from end spots. Tony McDaniel is expected to replace Bryant, who was mostly used to jam up the outside during running plays.
The cocky and loquacious “Legion of Boom” will look, and sound, the same. Byron Maxwell joins Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor to form the best defensive backfield in the NFL.
They’ll try to do it all again, which is what they planned for in the first place.
The Seahawks released tight end Chase Dixon, waived/injured guard Jared Smith and signed wide receiver Morrell Presley on Thursday. They have 88 players under contract as they enter camp.