RENTON, Wash. – Linebacker Bobby Wagner was still on the sideline, wearing a hoodie and merely observing the first day of Seahawks’ practice until his contract is resolved.
Defensive tackle Jarran Reed, on the other hand, was participating fully in drills, but will miss the first six games of the season after his unexpected suspension earlier in the week.
And many people were still buzzing about the comments of Earl Thomas – no longer a Seahawk but lobbing verbal grenades from afar – in which he explained to ESPN why his middle-finger salute last season was directed explicitly at Pete Carroll.
In other words, there were enough troublesome issues surrounding the Seahawks on the first day of training camp to potentially dampen the traditional good vibes at the outset of a new season.
This is a team that must conjure up a pass rush now that Reed and Frank Clark – responsible for 24.5 of their 43 sacks last season – won’t be there for the outset (or at all, in Clark’s case). They must compensate for the loss of go-to wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who retired during the offseason. And they will be crossing their fingers that a slew of injured players, many of them vital, will be ready for, or shortly after, the Sept. 8 opener against Cincinnati.
Not surprisingly, Carroll was a persuasive antidote against any sort of negativity. If Thomas’s comments hit their target, Carroll wasn’t showing it. This might shock you, but the coach is jacked, stoked, fired up and altogether pumped about this Seahawks team, this 2019 season, and the adventures that loom ahead.
He turns 68 in September, and you’ll have to look hard to find a statistic that is so incongruous to what appears in front of you. Specifically, someone who exudes genuine joy and what can only be termed youthful energy in his 47th season of coaching.
If it’s an act, Carroll deserves a lifetime achievement award from the Academy. Because his enthusiasm is constant, unwavering, and eternal. This is a Seahawks team Carroll sees as a legitimate title contender – and if he’s just trying to speak it into reality, well, Tom Hanks and Daniel Day-Lewis could take some pointers.
“When you put it all together and look at the D and the O and the special teams,” Carroll said, “I see us having a chance to be a really complete football team. With attitude and energy and speed. We’re really big, we’re really fast. That’s pretty good, you know. It’s a good place to start.”
While having Wagner still unsigned is a bit of a downer, every indication is that a deal is imminent. They need him desperately. Wagner is the heart and soul of a defense with more questions surrounding it than at any time in recent memory.
Wagner’s close friend, linebacker K.J. Wright, answered with a simple but firm, “Yes,” when asked if he thought a settlement was near. Carroll said he wouldn’t give any specifics about the Wagner negotiations, but spoke volumes when he said, “We’re pretty much on the same page about a lot of stuff. We’re in a good position right now.”
As for Reed, the Seahawks’ depth on the interior of the D-line will be sorely tested in his absence. They acquired veteran Earl Mitchell to help address that need. Others, including Al Woods, will have a chance to emerge.
“It’s just another opportunity,” Wright said. “Somebody’s got to do it, and somebody’s got to step up, and so we’ll see. Whoever wants it, the floor is theirs. You can go take it. It’s all up to the guys that are out here, with Jake [Jacob Martin] and Cassius [Marsh], Rasheem [Green]. It’s wide open.”
“I think we can make up the space,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks are a hard team to gauge this year. They are coming off a 10-win playoff season that exceeded most people’s expectations. But there are potential danger signs on both sides of the ball, as well as some delicate health issues that could undermine the season if they aren’t resolved positively.
But Carroll’s optimism is centered on the presence of stalwart veteran leaders like Russell Wilson, Duane Brown, Wagner and Wright. He feels the kicking game will be improved with the addition of placekicker Jason Myers, and special-teams play will be better.
“I like the elements that make up our club,” Carroll said. “It’s not just the leadership; it’s the guys – Bobby, KJ, Russ and Duane. Those guys have just been there, they’ve done it, they’re great players that will affect other guys in a really positive way. All of that adds together and gives us a chance to have a really good group.
“I’m hoping we can be a very complete team. In years past, we’ve been able to be good in a lot of areas, and it’s hard to find a way to get at us. I want to make sure we close all those windows up and we’ve got it just the way we want it. We have a chance. That’s what’s so obvious. We have a really good opportunity to do that.”
It’s just as easy to see the pitfalls that could deter the Seahawks from that outcome. But on the first day of the grueling haul that is the NFL season, Pete Carroll was dreaming big, as always.
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