RENTON, Wash. – The Seattle Seahawks were halfway through the first practice of their new season when the sun burned through the cloud cover Saturday morning. Only time will tell if that was symbolic for a football team that heads into 2012 hoping to make a breakthrough.
“It has taken us some years to get here,” coach Pete Carroll said.
More than two years, in fact, 28 draft choices and a few hundred roster moves (but who’s counting?). And after all that – not to mention two 7-9 seasons under Carroll – the Seahawks enter this season facing something you might not recognize: expectations.
“We look forward to really getting cranked up and doing something,” Carroll said.
The team is facing questions, none bigger than who will start at quarterback. There are concerns, too, from Marshawn Lynch’s status after being arrested for DUI earlier this month to the fact that Sidney Rice is the only clear-cut starter at wide receiver and he’s coming back from offseason surgery on both shoulders.
But there is an optimism that is undeniable, too, the product of Seattle winning five of its final eight regular-season games last year behind an industrial-strength rushing offense and a top-10 defense. Seattle enters this season as one of the teams looking to turn the corner and become a contender.
For the first time in four years, the Seahawks did not change offensive coordinators in the offseason. Linebacker David Hawthorne is the only starter lost from the defense while guard Robert Gallery and receiver Mike Williams are the only ones who aren’t returning for the offense.
“Everybody knows the system, so you can hit the ground running,” cornerback Marcus Trufant said.
Trufant is one of eight players who were with the team before Carroll, and he is the longest-tenured Seahawk. He was here for the high point in franchise history when the team won four consecutive division titles and advanced to the Super Bowl. He also rode through the low point as the team lost 72 percent of its games in a two-year span, going 4-12 in 2008 and 5-11 in 2009.
While Carroll’s arrival signaled a new era, it came with the knowledge that things might get worse before they got better given the number of veterans let go and the sheer volume of changes. When last season began, none of the five starting offensive linemen had ever started a game with any of the other four.
It’s going to be different this time around. The Seahawks will remain one of the younger teams in the league, but they spent this offseason preserving their roster instead of purging it.
“We’ve made moves,” Carroll said. “We’ve made statements by the people that we’ve signed and re-signed.”
They re-signed Lynch and defensive end Red Bryant to bring them back. More recently, Seattle signed extensions with center Max Unger and defensive end Chris Clemons, who was in training camp after missing most of the team’s offseason training program.
And as the team took its first steps into a new season Saturday, there was perhaps a little swagger.
“You’ve got to have an attitude going into it, now,” said Clemons, who came to Seattle in Carroll’s first year as coach. “It’s different. It’s not the same as it was the first year.”
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