Seahawks’ fans flaunt their ‘I’m In’ status as training camp opens

Posted Jul 25, 2013

The Seahawks didn’t just open their fourth training camp under coach Pete Carroll on Thursday; they did to the cheers, chants and clapping of 2,800 fans who flocked to see them.

The Seahawks’ practice fields were transformed into the Fields of Screams on Thursday when the team opened its fourth training camp under Pete Carroll.

The 2,800 fans who began arriving an hour before the 10:30 a.m. practice were not only wearing their emotions on the sleeves of their Seahawks jerseys, they were a boisterous brunch from before start to beyond finish.

“No. No. That’s awesome,” Tom Cable said with a laugh when asked if he has ever experienced a camp-opening environment like the one that greeted the team.

The Seahawks’ assistant head coach/offensive line coach wasn’t alone in his amazement – and amusement – over the fan reaction that greeted the players.

“It’s a different atmosphere. It felt like a game,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said. “Whether they were here or not, I’d still play the same. But it’s just exciting for them to share this with us.”

And share the opening session they did. Early in practice, Carroll stepped toward the fence that separates the berm where the fans were gathered from the field where the players were hustling through the bag drill and challenged the fans to make even more noise. After practice, several players worked the fence – signing autographs and chatting with the 12th Man fans.

“Man, I’m not sure how many fans were here today, but it had to be a lot,” quarterback Russell Wilson said.

This isn’t the first time the Seahawks have opened their training camp practices to the public. And it’s not the first time they have practiced before a berm brimming with fans. But in summers past, it was the weekend practices that sold out, while the crowds were much smaller – and less enthusiastic – for the weekday sessions.

This year, all 14 open practices already have sold out. And the fans attending the next 13 have a tough act to follow.

“To play in front of these fans for practice – that energy they bring for us when guys make awesome catches, or when we get a nice run by Marshawn Lynch, or when the defense breaks up the ball, or whatever it is – it’s just exciting,” Wilson said. “They cheer every play pretty much, and we have the best fans in the world.

“I’ve always got to thank the 12th Man fans for that.”

Thursday, on a gorgeous morning along the shores of Lake Washington, the fans really did cheer almost every play. They bordered on going bonkers when Golden Tate, Sidney Rice or rookie tight end Luke Willson made a catch; or Lynch or rookie running back Christine Michael broke a nice run; or Thomas, Ron Parker, Byron Maxwell and Bruce Irvin made those defensive plays Wilson mentioned. Oh, and they cheered the QB early and often, too.

Carroll was anticipating the reception from the fans, because of the heightened expectations the team has generated during the offseason – which followed a 2012 season where the Seahawks posted the third-best regular-season record in club history (11-5) and then won the franchise’s first road playoff game since 1983.

“They were pumped up,” Carroll said. “You could see it coming all through the offseason – people are really ready about this season. And we feel the same way.”

Ah, those expectations. The good teams know how to handle them, and use them to their advantage. The not-as-good teams can struggle to put them in proper perspective, often tripping over the hype.

Which category will the 2013 Seahawks step into – or fall into? We’ll let the quarterback handle this one.

“Well, we don’t really worry about the outside expectations,” Wilson said. “Obviously our expectations are high, so we don’t have to worry about what everyone else is saying. We have high expectations for our football team, and the reason why we have high expectations is because we come to work every day and we go as hard as can every single day.

“So when you do that, when you try to bring you’re ‘A’ game every day, you expect come game time you bring you’re ‘A’ game. I think the biggest thing is we have to live up to our own expectations, and not really worry about what everyone else is saying.”

And people – the usually doubting media, as well as the team’s adoring fans – continue to say nice things about the Seahawks. Most expect them to challenge for the NFC West title, which they did last year by going 7-1 in the second half of the season to finish half a game behind the division champion San Francisco 49ers. Many expect the Seahawks to advance to the postseason for the second consecutive year – and third time in four seasons under Carroll.

“They’re all great things, we’re not going to shy away from that because we believe that we can play with the best any time if we bring our ‘A’ game,” Wilson said. “I think that’s our biggest focus – just staying one play at a time, one day at a time, enjoy it for what it is.”

And, as was obvious on Thursday, share each play and each day with their fans.