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Joe Buck and Troy Aikman ‘thrilled’ to call Seahawks-Broncos on Monday Night Football debut

Fox Sports play-by-play announcer Joe Buck, left, and analyst Troy Aikman work in the broadcast booth before a preseason NFL football game between the Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars in Miami Gardens, Fla., Aug. 22, 2019.  (Associated Press)
Bob Condotta Seattle Times

With Russell Wilson’s return to Seattle officially set, there is now roughly four months to debate what kind of reaction he will receive when he first sets foot onto Lumen Field as a member of the Denver Broncos.

It’s a debate that the broadcast team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman have already begun to think about themselves.

Wilson’s return Sept. 12 will also be the first “Monday Night Football” of the year on ESPN/ABC and the first with the network for Buck and Aikman after their move from Fox Sports.

“If [the Broncos] end up getting the opening kickoff, our opening moments on ‘Monday Night Football’ probably won’t involve us talking very much,” Buck said during a conference call Monday to publicize ESPN’s slate of Monday night games. “Because I think you need to hear that natural reaction and I think you need to let the crowd carry it. There’s no crowd like Seattle, and I imagine we won’t be talking very often, at least that first series, because it’s going to be deafening inside that stadium, good or bad.”

To that, Aikman joked, “America just rejoiced.”

But if viewers tend to have strong feelings toward broadcast crews, the team of Buck and Aikman has shown to have staying power. This season will mark their 20th year together.

And each said Monday that in the days leading up to the unveiling of the schedule Thursday and their first season doing MNF that they hoped the Seattle-Denver game would be on their slate.

“I was thrilled with the schedule to see that as the opener,” Aikman said. “When you start looking at what potential games there are going to be, that was one that I certainly circled and thought, ‘Man, that’d be a great game if we were able to get it on Monday night.’ And to have it right out of the box is fantastic.”

The game will be Seattle’s only one this season on Monday night and one of only two in prime time in the initial schedule, the other coming in a home game against the 49ers on “Thursday Night Football” on Dec. 15.

Seattle was initially scheduled for the max five a year ago before a Sunday night game against the 49ers late in the year was flexed.

Seattle had two Monday night games last season and in three of the past four seasons.

But Seattle’s lack of initial prime-time games this season — it’s the fewest since 2011 — speaks to the team’s sudden uncertain status with Wilson traded and coming off a 7-10 season.

And maybe not playing Monday night much will be a good thing as Seattle’s rep for being almost unbeatable on that night has taken a hit in recent years.

While Seattle’s 27-12 record on Monday nights remains the best in the NFL, the Seahawks lost both of their Monday night games last year (home against the Saints and at Washington) and have lost four of their past eight dating to 2016.

Aikman and Buck each said they don’t know exactly what they’ll see out of the Seahawks come Sept. 12.

But Aikman offered this thought: “You don’t lose Russell Wilson and then say you are better.”

Aikman, though, also said he thinks the trade allows for “a reset” for the Seahawks and for coach Pete Carroll “to get them back to playing the brand of football they are accustomed to playing, running the ball and playing great defense.”

As for how the Seattle crowd will respond to Wilson, Buck said, “You do always kind of wonder exactly what the reception is going to be like.”

But then he offered a prediction of his own.

“I can’t imagine it being anything other than just a great celebration for a great athlete and all that he meant to the 12s there in Seattle,” Buck said. “I think it’ll be awesome.”

Seahawks sign WSU’s Ryan

The Seahawks filled out their 90-man roster Monday by signing two players who had taken part in their rookie minicamp May 6-8 on a tryout basis — tackle Liam Ryan of Washington State and cornerback Elijah Jones of Oregon State.

Ryan and Jones filled two openings created Friday when the Seahawks made a few roster moves that included waiving receivers Matt Cole, Jake Herslow, John Mitchell and Demetris Robertson and signing receivers Kevin Kassis and Deontez Alexander.

Ryan started 42 games in his WSU career, including all 12 last year at left tackle, and likely will slide into the depth chart at that spot behind first-round pick Charles Cross and second-year player Stone Forsythe.

At WSU, Ryan played alongside third-round pick Abraham Lucas, who played right tackle for the Cougars and will battle for the starting spot there with second-year player Jake Curhan. Greg Eiland, a second-year player, is also on the roster at tackle with Ryan’s signing giving the Seahawks six tackles overall.

Jones becomes the 10th player listed as a cornerback on the roster. Listed at 6-1, 188, Jones played five games for OSU last year after spending three seasons at Kansas. Jones had an interception during an 11-on-11 session on the second day of the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp.

The Seahawks will begin OTAs (organized team activities) next week and are currently in a phase of offseason workouts where the offense and defense can each do on-field drills but not together.