RENTON, Wash. – For most of the known world, it’s a game that will mean nothing and be forgotten the minute the clock hits zero, assuming it’s remembered that long.
But for a few players in tonight’s Seattle-Oakland exhibition game at CenturyLink Field, it’ll mean everything, with ramifications that could last a lifetime.
As the final of four exhibition games, and with the regular season a week-and-a-half away, the starters will make cameo appearances and then exit quickly.
The rest of the game will be played by backups, rookies and free agents attempting to either more clearly define their roles, or more critically for some, assure a spot on the final roster.
Seattle has 75 players on its roster and will need to cut to the NFL regular-season limit of 53 by 3 p.m. Saturday.
In years past, that cutdown hasn’t really been all that difficult for a rebuilding Seahawks team.
But now, with a roster some consider as talented as any in the NFL, the Seahawks say these decisions will be particularly gut-wrenching.
And while that’s a sign of how far the team has come in the four years of the John Schneider-Pete Carroll leadership, that doesn’t mean the cuts are easy.
“This is a very difficult time,” Carroll said. “There’s a bunch of guys who have worked really hard to make this team, and not everybody gets to stay.”
Carroll said the plan is to give as many of the on-the-bubble players as much playing time against the Raiders as they can to make one final statement.
“We have a number of guys that are on the verge that are really making decisions hard,” he said. “So those guys in particular, if we do it the way we plan … are going to give them a chance to really show it.”
A few young players who figure to be of particular interest tonight:
• WR Chris Harper: The team’s fourth-round pick hasn’t made a huge impact yet with three catches for 23 yards. But Carroll said this week Harper “continues to grow.” Seattle appears to have five receiving spots locked up, and Harper will likely get a big chance to make his case to keep a sixth.
• WR Bryan Walters: Walters, a graduate of Juanita High in Kirkland, was an early camp standout before suffering a hamstring injury that caused him to miss the first three games. He’s recovered well enough to play against the Raiders, however, and Carroll said he will get chances at both kickoff and punt returner – his more likely avenue for making the team – as well as receiver.
• FB Derrick Coleman: Starting fullback Michael Robinson will miss a second straight game with a virus, and Carroll said he could be out a couple more weeks. Coleman will start the game in Robinson’s place, and the free agent from UCLA appears to be becoming a legitimate threat to make the roster.
• RB Christine Michael: Michael leads the NFL with 186 yards, despite playing in just two of three exhibition games. As such, his spot on the roster seems secure, with the bigger question being if he can overtake Robert Turbin as the backup to Marshawn Lynch, or end up as the No. 3 tailback, which might mean spending a lot of Sundays on the inactive list.
• DT Sealver Siliga: The Seahawks’ defensive line remains riddled with injuries, most of which appear minor, but will leave the team shy of depth against the Raiders. In particular, both listed tackle starters – Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel – will sit out with what Carroll said are minor groin injuries. Siliga, acquired from Denver last week in the John Moffitt trade, will get ample playing time against the Raiders as a result. He impressed in his first game with the Seahawks a week ago at Green Bay and the team seems enamored with his size (he’s listed at 325 pounds).
• LBs Allen Bradford and John Lotulelei: Bradford and Lotulelei were each early camp standouts, but the team might not have room for both on the roster. Bradford is battling Heath Farwell for the backup middle linebacker spot; Lotulelei is listed as the backup to K.J. Wright on the weak side.
• QB Brady Quinn: Tarvaris Jackson appears to have won the backup quarterback job. Will Quinn show enough to convince the team to keep a third quarterback? Or might he impress another team enough to come calling on a trade?