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Mixed bags of emotion
Shoes. Cleats. Team photos. Jerseys. Helmets.
Those were the most common items being charted out of the locker room Monday as the Seahawks gathered one last time as a team and then the players went their separate ways to begin the offseason.
But after the way this season went, and especially ended, the “baggage” also included frustration, disappointment and regret. Going 5-11 and losing your final four games will do that.
“Starting from the last minicamp to the end of the season, a lot of ups and downs,” wide receiver Deion Branch said. “A lot of disappointment. A lot of frustration. Overall, it’s part of the game. You’re going to go through a lot of ups and downs. That’s what helps build teams and build character in the locker room.”
Because the club is currently in the process of hiring a general manager to replace Tim Ruskell, who resigned last month, there also were ample amounts of apprehension and ambiguity about how many of the players will be back in the locker room for the 2010 season.
“This year, more than other years, there’s a lot of uncertainty,” quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. “And there has been uncertainty here before.”
That was after the 2004 season, when the switch eventually was made to Ruskell at a time when the club had a lengthy list of free agents to deal with.
“And no one in place to sign those people,” Hasselbeck said. “There have been moments like that since I’ve been here. This is a similar situation in a sense. But at the same time, I think there’s a clear direction even though there’s one big void, in terms of there’s one big empty office.
“People know what needs to be done.”
That would be getting better, as the team emerges from a two-season downturn that saw the Seahawks win a combined nine games – matching their lowest victory total from the previous five seasons, when they won four division titles and advanced to the playoffs each year.
“Any time you lose, things get shaken up a bit,” wide receiver Nate Burleson said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be big changes. But the complexion of the team may change. Regardless of who comes in and what they want to do for this team, at the end of the day we’re the ones who have to go play football.
“I’m excited to get a GM, but we’ve still got to go out there and win games – and that’s on our shoulders. With my experience in the NFL, when you don’t win games, usually people find themselves walking out the door. So I just anticipate that.”
Like this year. The 53-man roster for Sunday’s season finale against the Tennessee Titans at Qwest Field included 19 players who weren’t around last year at this time. Will the arrival of a new GM trigger another major turnover?
“It’s really out of our hands,” leading rusher Julius Jones said. “We did our jobs on the field. The new GM will come in and look at that and whoever he or she may be will make those decisions. It’s definitely our future, and you should be paying close attention to it.
“I know I do.”
There was one other common thought among all the players: They need time to get away, and get right, after a season in which so many things went wrong.
“Really what I’m looking forward to right now is kind of getting away and getting healthy and getting strong,” said Hasselbeck, who played this season with broken ribs on the left side of his body and a bruised right shoulder.
“I really feel like getting back in the weight room and having a good offseason of strength, getting some explosiveness and some power back will be one of the keys to success for me next season. Those are the kind of things I’m focused on.”
Offered rookie offensive lineman Max Unger, a 16-game starter at right guard and center, “The results aren’t necessarily reflective of how hard we work. We don’t wake up at 5 every morning and get here and work all day just to go lose games.
“We’ve just got to win some more games next season.”