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Pete Carroll leaves them laughing, applauding and brimming with anticipation
Pete Carroll was in his element.
But rather than coaxing a little bit more from his players along the sideline at CenturyLink Field, the Seahawks’ fourth-year coach was a Jon Ryan punt away in the club level of the stadium on Wednesday night firing up the team’s 12th Man fans during a Town Hall meeting.
“We’ll always try to reach out to you because you’re a factor,” Carroll said, referring to the fan-generated din that helped the Seahawks go 8-0 at home last season. “It’s important for us to connect with you. We’ve got great fans, but I want you to know what’s going on.
“We want to win. You want us to win. So let’s do this together.”
And how was his message received? Loud, clear and enthusiastically. Shawn Findley was looking for an “I’m In” sign to slap on his way out.
“He’s got this natural charisma that the crowd feeds off of,” said Findley, a season-ticket holder who was wearing a Russell Wilson No. 3 jersey. “You could see it in the room. Everybody was smiling, from that corner to that corner. He exudes confidence and it makes me feel that he knows what he’s doing at all points.”
Findley had taken a wait-and-see approach when Carroll was hired in January of 2010. Now that he’s seen and heard Carroll speak live for the first time, “We’ve gone far enough that we know he’s got the best in mind for all of us,” Findley offered.
“I believe everything that comes out of his mouth, and it’s kind of a cool feeling.”
Amanda Thorne, another season-ticket holder who was wearing an Earl Thomas No. 29 jersey, was just as impressed with Carroll’s message and the way he delivered it.
“I honestly have a great respect for Pete,” she said. “I think he’s articulate and he gets everybody excited about it.”
The fans arrived early, so they could have their pictures taken with cornerback Brandon Browner, wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse and offensive linemen Lemuel Jeanpierre and Rishaw Johnson. Six members of the Sea Gals also were on hand, as was Blitz, the team mascot.
But the star of this show definitely was Carroll, who gave a state-of-the-franchise address and then fielded questions from those in the audience as well as off Twitter. Here are some of the high points:
One of the Twitter inquiries came from Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung, who wanted to know if there might be some tackle-eligible plays included in the offense this season.
“As soon as we can find a tackle who can catch we will,” Carroll cracked.
Carroll also shared some behind-the-scenes insights into what went into selecting Wilson in the third round of last year’s NFL Draft.
“John (Schneider, the general manager), he wanted to go in the second round with it,” he said. “He was willing to do it and take him right there.”
Instead, the club selected middle linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round and then got even more of a steal by taking Wilson with the 75th pick overall. While Wagner led the team in tackles and finished second in voting for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, Wilson was third in voting for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year after tying the league rookie record by throwing 26 touchdown passes.
“We had had a plan to wait until the third round (on Wilson),” Carroll said. “But as the first round came and then the second, John was starting to get antsy because he just didn’t want to miss it.”
It was Schneider who championed Wilson during the pre-draft process when other teams were skeptical because the QB is only 5 feet 11. And Carroll shared an anecdote about that, as well.
“I can’t remember if it was the Michigan State game or the Oregon game – I think it was the Michigan State game – he called me after the game and said, ‘The field just tilted in this guy’s direction,’ ” Carroll said. “He said, ‘When you watch the game, he’s the only guy you could watch,’ because he was just so magical in the things that he could do.”
As for all that talk of Wilson being “too short,” Carroll offered, “We didn’t care about that. … Sometimes conventional wisdom isn’t the right one.”
With Wilson “a million miles ahead” of where he was last year at this time, as Carroll put it last week, can we expect the offense to veer more toward a passing attack than the unit which ran the ball a league-high 536 times last season?
“No,” was Carroll’s blunt response, which drew a rousing mixture of laughs and applause. “There are so many good things that come from running the football. It adds to the mentality of your team. It adds to the toughness of your football club that you present.
“Because you’re always going to play tough defense, hopefully. We’re always going to be tough in special teams. But you can be other than that on offense if you don’t run the football. We want to be a physical, aggressive, tough, get-after-you football team. And that’s where we can send the biggest message about that commitment to that.”
One of the younger members of the audience wanted to know if Wilson would be turned loose this season. That cracked Carroll up.
“Russell Wilson is on the loose,” he said.
And on this night, in front of this audience, so was his coach.