Seahawks excitement reigns on eve of preseason opener

Posted Aug 7, 2013

Preseason openers are nothing new for QB Brady Quinn, while everything NFL is uncharted territory for rookie linebacker John Lotulelei. But they share a common excitement as the Seahawks prepare for Thursday night’s game against the Chargers.

When it comes to preseason opener, Brady Quinn and John Lotulelei are coming at the Seahawks’ game against the Chargers in San Diego on Thursday night from opposite ends of the experience spectrum.

For Quinn, this will be his seventh preseason opener after playing for the Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs before signing with the Seahawks in April.

For Lotulelei, this will be the NFL debut for the rookie linebacker who was signed as a rookie free agent after the NFL Draft.

But their focus and approach will be the same Thursday night Qualcomm Stadium: Make the most of the opportunities that are sure to come their way.

“It’s still exciting,” Quinn said. “I’ve been through this before, but just because it’s a new team and a new system it’s going to be fun for me to do it in a live game.”

Offered Lotulelei, “This is pretty exciting. The coaches expect a lot, especially from the rookies. We need to improve ourselves and prove ourselves to them.”

While Quinn arrived in Seattle with an NFL resume that includes eight starts last season for the Chiefs after two seasons of inactivity with the Broncos, Lotulelei is an NFL newbie and will be looking to continue making the same kinds of plays in a game that he has been during training camp practices.

“I’m just going out there with the same mentality and the same approach of coming to compete and get better, but at the same time trying to impress the coaches,” Lotulelei, whose No. 46 often is obscured by the hair flowing from underneath his helmet.

While they share an excitement over the approaching opener, the difference between these two started long before their diverse roads led them to the Seahawks.

Quinn was an all-state QB at Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio, before setting 36 school records at Notre Dame. He was then the 22nd pick overall in the 2007 NFL Draft by the Browns. But he started only 12 games in three seasons before signing with the Broncos in 2010.

“It’s been tough,” Quinn said of his NFL tenure. “A lot of times when you are put in adverse situations you just try to do the best you can.”

Which is exactly what he plans to do against the Chargers. Since signing Quinn, the Seahawks also have re-signed 2011 starter Tarvaris Jackson. So they are competing for the backup job to Russell Wilson.

“New team, new guys – especially a bunch of young, really talented guys,” Quinn said. “So I’m just excited to get out there, get the ball in their hands and see what they can do.”

Lotulelei, meanwhile, grew up in Hawaii and went to Baldwin High School in Wailuku. He then played at Merced (Calif.) College before finishing his collegiate career at UNLV, where he was named defensive MVP last season after registering 120 tackles.

“It was a blessing for me to go to a Division I school,” said Lotulelei, who had an in at UNLV because one of his high school coaches was on the Rebels’ staff. “It was awesome.

“Now I’m over here trying to compete.”

And the 5-foot-11, 233-pound Lotulelei is trying to make the next quantum leap with a team that is looking for backups at a position where middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and weak-side ’backer K.J. Wright are entrenched as starters after finishing 1-2 in tackles last season on a defense that yielded the fewest points in the NFL and also ranked a franchise-best No. 4 in average yards allowed.

Malcolm Smith has been working at strong-side linebacker with the No. 1 defense in training camp, while former Arizona Cardinals starter O’Brien Schofield has been getting better by the practice sign being claimed off waivers last month. Then there’s Mike Morgan, an incumbent backup who also is getting work at the Leo end spot; Heath Farwell, the Seahawks’ leading special-teams tackler the past two seasons; and Allen Bradford, who is having a solid camp.

“The linebackers here, I feel like they’re one of the best groups in the league,” Lotulelei said. “So it’s hard on me, but at the same time it’s great motivation.”

As if Lotulelei needs any extra motivation heading into his first NFL game.