A Seattle summer of heightened expectations

Posted Jul 27, 2012

The players returned to Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Friday, as the Seahawks opened their third training camp under coach Pete Carroll by taking their physicals and attending meetings.

Another offseason infusion of players with the unique skills that coach Pete Carroll covets. Another offseason of spirited minicamp and OTA practices – not to mention an actual offseason. Another offseason of heightened expectations.

Now, with the Seahawks opening their third training camp under Carroll on Friday, the focus turns to working on turning potential into production, increased anticipation into additional victories.

“It’s time now, this is the moment everybody has been waiting for,” Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson said in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center as the players were taking their physicals and awaiting the 4 p.m. team meeting that marks the official start of camp.

The first practice won’t be held until Saturday morning, but many of the players already were eager to get started.

“It’s time to put on the pads. It’s time to get serious. It’s time to block everything else out and develop that championship mindset,” Robinson said. “That’s where it starts – it starts up in the mind. We visualize it, we talk about it.

“This offseason, guys that I’ve hung out with, guys that I can just hear in the locker room, everybody is talking about winning every game.”

While that might be a bit of a stretch, even on the first day of camp when optimism is expected to run as rampant as one of Marshawn Lynch’s rampaging runs, winning more games than they have in their first two seasons under Carroll is Priority One for Robinson and his teammates.

The Seahawks have finished 7-9 the past two seasons, but there was nothing matching about the efforts.

In 2010, the Seahawks started 4-2 and then lost seven of their next nine games before beating the St. Louis Rams in the regular-season finale to win the NFC West title. The following week, they stunned the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the wildest of wild-card playoff games, with Lynch’s electrifying 67-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter slapping an exclamation point on the 41-36 upset.

Last season’s 7-9 record actually was an improvement, even if it didn’t produce a playoff berth – and victory – at the end. The Seahawks’ nine losses were by an average 9.8 points, compared to 21 points in 2010. The defense ranked among the Top 10 in the NFL in average points and yards allowed. Lynch led the league in rushing over the final nine games. Free safety Earl Thomas was voted a starter on the NFC Pro Bowl squad, and joined in the all-star game by strong safety Kam Chancellor, cornerback Brandon Browner, Lynch and Robinson.

The goal this season is to not only be better, but more consistent. As Carroll always says, “It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” For the 2012 Seahawks, they need to do a better job from start to finish.

“No question about it, we all know there are high expectations in terms of not only being able to win consistently but actually go to the playoffs and win,” defensive end Red Bryant said. “So we all know what the test is, and this will be a great opportunity for us.”

Enter this year’s additions who were brought in to help the incumbent players do just that – including rush-end Bruce Irvin, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Robert Turbin and safety Winston Guy, the cream of this year’s draft class; quarterback Matt Flynn, rush-tackle Jason Jones and middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, who were added in free agency; and Kellen Winslow, a former Pro Bowl tight end who was acquired in a trade with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then there are those who have been rewarded with new contracts – Lynch, Robinson, Bryant, sack leader Chris Clemons, center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini.

Bryant wants the improvement to start with his unit.

“The D-line, guys came back in great shape and actually below weight,” Bryant said. “We’re going to be one of the groups to lead by example. And we’ve got the leadership in place elsewhere – from Mike Rob, to Leon Washington, to our All-Pro secondary, the guys up front (on offense). We’ve got leaders at every position and we’re excited. We really are.”

The players and coaches will have to continue to do more with less time this summer because of the practice guidelines in the new CBA that ended last year’s 136-day lockout. There can be only one practice a day, plus a walkthrough. But the total field time can’t exceed four hours. Carroll has tweaked the camp schedule so the installation meetings will be before the on-field sessions, rather than in between. The players will practice in the morning the first week of camp, then switch to afternoon practices once they begin preparing for preseason games.

“The thing I like about it, we’re off the field earlier,” Robinson said. “We’re done ‘in the office’ by 6:30. You talk about recovery time so you can perform great the next day, that’s what it’s all about – being able to perform at a high level day-in and day-out.

“So I think Pete is doing a great job trying to lookout for our bodies, trying to make sure we take the field at a very high level.”

Carroll, of course, will be expecting something in return – results to match, if not exceed, the heightened expectations.