RENTON, Wash. – The old man jokes are becoming more commonplace now.
That happens when you turn 35 in a couple of weeks and nearly everyone else in the locker room is 10 years younger.
“I don’t feel old,” Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said, laughing. “OK, maybe I do when I get in a conversation with Earl Thomas (21), who was born in 1989, and let’s say I make a reference to John Madden.
“I don’t know if he knows that John Madden used to coach the Raiders or if he thinks Madden is the guy who invented a video game. I don’t know where he’s at with that.”
Hasselbeck can joke about his situation given the way his nine-year career has turned out in Seattle. The three-time Pro Bowler holds the franchise passing records in career yards (26,433), career attempts (3,806) and completions (2,293).
Hasselbeck, who begins his 10th season in Seattle and 13th in the NFL, is the only current Seahawk who has played with the team for more than seven seasons.
“Physically I feel great,” he said. “But every year your contemporaries, the guys you came in with, they’re leaving, and the rookie class, they do get younger.”
The Seahawks brought in Charlie Whitehurst and J.P. Losman to push Hasselbeck, but he has retained the job he has held since 2003 and has convinced new coach Pete Carroll he can regain his status as a top-tier NFL quarterback.
“Matt has taken a leadership position in leading the charge in taking care of the football the way we want to and prioritizing properly,” Carroll said. “The lessons are hard sometimes, but I’ve been thrilled about the way Matt is taking to it all.”
Carroll abhors turnovers, and Hasselbeck hasn’t thrown an interception while completing 24 of 42 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown in three exhibitions.
“Pete’s been great,” Hasselbeck said. “He’s real demanding. He’s hard on you in front of your peers. He’ll call you out in meetings. He doesn’t sugarcoat things. And he’s very consistent. He sets the tone. He sets the principles. He sets the guidelines.
“He’s confident in his plan and who he is. Maybe when he coached (in the NFL) before, he wasn’t as sure. But he has a belief system that he’s excited about and he believes in and he’s been clear in articulating that to us.”
The past two years have been all about change for Hasselbeck. After eight years in Mike Holmgren’s well-timed passing attack, he has endured new head coaches, offensive coordinators and offensive systems.
Before Holmgren left, Hasselbeck missed nine games with a back injury during a miserable 2008 campaign and Seattle nose-dived to a 4-12 finish.
During the one-year reign of Jim Mora, Hasselbeck missed two games because of an oblique injury, threw as many interceptions (17) as touchdowns and Seattle was 5-11. This is the final year of Hasselbeck’s contract.
“The contract thing doesn’t bother me,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s always been my feeling that if you focus on the football field, things work out. If you focus outside of the white lines, then you’re going to be distracted and you’re not going to play well.”
Hasselbeck doesn’t look too far into the future. He acknowledged this could be his last season in Seattle, but insisted he hasn’t thought about retirement.
“It’s a common question I get,” he said. “You can’t put a number on it because I don’t feel like I can even answer that. I’m definitely not thinking about retirement or anything like that. It’s not in my mind. To give a number would sort of be just throwing out a number.
“I know that the last two years were not as fun as the other years. When you’re beat up and hurt, it’s not as fun. And when your team is not winning, it’s not as fun. Hopefully it can be fun again. And it can be a blast again.”