INDIANAPOLIS – Informed that he had arrived early for his media session at the NFL Scouting Combine on Friday, Pete Carroll didn’t hesitate before offering, “Rule No. 3.”
Which is: Be early. It’s Carroll’s favorite among the three rules that form the foundation of his coaching philosophy, with No. 1 being “Protect the team” and “No whining, no complaining, no excuses” checking in at No. 2.
And how did the Seahawks’ coach spend those precious minutes? He slid over to an adjacent podium at Lucas Oil Stadium to listen in on the interview of USC wide receiver Robert Woods.
Yes, Carroll is in his element – where his past, present and future are intermingled. Carroll recruited Woods to USC, and is here this week to size up players who can help his already-good Seahawks team get better.
And the process is different this offseason, Carroll’s fourth with the Seahawks, because the quality and depth of his roster is a quantum-leap better than the one he inherited in 2010.
“The evaluation process remains the same, which means it never ends,” Carroll said. “But it calls for us to be specific about the guys that we chose because of the background and the information we have on our roster – we know our guys so well.”
It’s a roster that includes four All-Pro selections from the 2012 season – center
It’s what Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been working toward since they were hired in January of 2010.
“John said from the start he hoped that we’d really make this a very, very competitive roster as soon as possible,” Carroll said. “We’ve been able to do that, and that means that we’ll have more difficult decisions, people might come after our guys a little bit more, they’ll claim guys when we release them.
“The first year, we released hundreds of guys that nobody claimed. So things have changed and so it is a little more focused than it’s ever been.”
Starting with the evaluation of the players the team can add with its 10 draft choices – its own picks in each of the seven rounds of the April draft, as well as an extra pick in the fifth round from the 2011 trade that sent linebacker Aaron Curry to the Oakland Raiders and two extra picks in the seventh round from last year’s trades of quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (to Buffalo) and linebacker Barrett Ruud (to New Orleans).
And the Seahawks remain a build-through-the-draft team, which makes it less likely that they’ll make any big splashes when the free agency period begins next month.
“We’re not more apt to do anything at this time, I don’t think,” Carroll said. “Because we were close last year, ‘Oh if we get just one more guy it will make a difference.’ I don’t think that, and John and I don’t feel that way. We just want to keep developing a team and allow our team to grow and to mature.”
It’s also a never-say-never situation, as Schneider has looked under the pebbles beneath the proverbial rocks in assembling a roster that led the Seahawks to an 11-5 regular-season record in 2012 and the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983.
“But we’ll still look at every single opportunity, and there are some guys out there that in the late stages of their career that we will look at,” Carroll said. “But not with the thought of, ‘Let’s just get a couple of old guys to really put it all together.’ I don’t think that that’s where we are. This team has been built, really, from the inside out with young guys.
“And we’ll continue to grow that way.”
Things also are different because for the first time Carroll is looking at defensive players, especially pass rushers and interior linemen, without Gus Bradley as his coordinator. Bradley was hired last month to be the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and replaced by Dan Quinn, who had been the defensive line coach on Carroll’s first staff before spending the past two seasons as the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
“I think Danny’s going to have an impact,” Carroll said. “He’s going to have a mentality that’s a little different about him. He’s not going to come in and do Gus’ show. That was Gus. He’s going to do Dan Quinn’s deal.
“We will be a little more aggressive in calls and style, I would think, if you add them all up at the end of the year next year.”
And it will happen without the return to Square One that would have been bringing in a coordinator who was not familiar with Carroll’s defense and philosophy.
“It’s a tremendous benefit for me and for our staff and our players,” Carroll said as he was leaving the podium. “We don’t have to change our language at all. He understood it. All of that will add to the continuity.”
As for the players Carroll and his staff are getting a look at during the week-long Combine, along with Schneider and his staff, he said there are some pass rushers who are intriguing – and could fill his No. 1 offseason priority – as well as some defensive tackles who could help against the run.
“We’ve got a long ways to go on figuring this out,” Carroll said. “There are some speed guys, a half dozen guys that are the big, long, fast guys that we have to sort out. And right now we’re just kind of figuring out who they are. But there are some guys that are interesting and exciting.
“There are some big guys inside. Not really the pass rush-oriented guys that maybe we saw when (Ndamukong) Suh and (Gerald) McCoy came out a couple years ago. But still really good football players that can help and could help our team.
“We don’t have it all sorted out yet, and we don’t have to.”