Pete Carroll has been talking to his team for nearly an hour, but he isn't quite ready to bring this meeting to an end.
It's July 26, the first day of training camp and a mix of new and returning players, along with coaches and staff, fill the auditorium at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the first team meeting of camp. And Carroll, kicking off his 14th season as the head coach of the Seahawks, can't bring himself to wrap this up because he's "more jacked up now than I've ever been, and it's because of you. I'm fired up about our locker room, the makeup of our team.
"It's all happening right now."
Finally, after hammering home the importance of his "it's all about the ball" philosophy, after going over the team's three rules, and after challenging players to understand their purpose, Carroll delivers a parting message that might best sum up the type of football program he wants the Seahawks to be each and every season.
"If we're not having fun," Carroll tells his team, "We're (expletive) it up."
The Seahawks will kick off the 2023 season when they host the Rams on Sunday, a campaign that features high expectations both internally and externally following what was a surprising return to the playoffs last year—surprising, that is, to people outside of the organization; the belief was always there for Carroll and his players.
Some of the reasons for optimism are obvious—there's the offense, led by quarterback Geno Smith, coming off Pro-Bowl and Comeback Player of the Year honors, and featuring tons of firepower at receiver, running back and tight end; there's an offensive line that's well ahead of where it was last year; there's a defense that added significant talent this offseason, including the signings of Bobby Wagner, Dre'Mont Jones, Jarran Reed and Julian Love; there's a special teams unit that has been one of the league's best year-after-year; and there's another big rookie class featuring multiple first- and second-round picks looking to emulate the success of last year's rookies, a 2022 draft class that should only get better this season.
"I really like our team, I really like our guys, I like the mix of stages of careers, the young guys and then the guys that have been here over the years, guys who have been around," Carroll said after a recent practice. "The leadership is really solid and consistent—symbolic leaders in Geno and Bobby and DK (Metcalf) and Tyler (Lockett), those guys are all the right kind of guys to have in those positions, that's always good. The difference in our offensive line from last year to this year is enormous. I know we have a very upbeat, very positive outlook towards what's going to happen here. We've got a lot of work to do, and we've got to get right, but we've got what we need to have a really good season."
But beyond the talent on the roster and the leadership provided by Carroll and the coaching staff, there are other, sometimes more subtle factors that have this year's team excited about its chances to do something special, namely, the close bond this particular group has formed since coming together this offseason, and the highly competitive nature of this year's camp, which even in Carroll's "Always Compete" world has stood out throughout the summer. With Seahawks Legends like Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril all visiting during various points of camp, it perhaps doesn't come as a surprise that those two traits of this year's team—the feistiness in practice and the closeness of the team—are drawing comparisons to some of the best teams of the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era that also relied on those characteristics in addition to their considerable talent.