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NWCN Training Camp Returns to Kirkland

As Tim Ruskell enters his fourth season as president of the Seattle Seahawks, it's all about a question of balance for this team to regain its role as NFC Champions it first attained in 2005.

As Tim Ruskell enters his fourth season as president of the Seattle Seahawks, it's all about a question of balance for this team to regain its role as NFC Champions it first attained in 2005.

He loves the talent and the leaders. He's excited about the move to the new Virginia Mason Athletic Center as the team's permanent home on Aug. 18, and he expects a special performance from the team in the 10th and final season with Mike Holmgren as coach.

Now it's just a matter of it happening on the field as the Seahawks seek their fifth consecutive NFC West title.

"We know we have a good team, what we'll discover during camp is how all the pieces of the puzzle are going to fit," Ruskell said. "We've got some new players to fit in, we've got to get all of our players healthy and keep them that way, and get all the work done we need to accomplish.

"We don't want moving to the new facility to be a distraction. We don't want Mike's last season here as coach to be a distraction.  And I don't believe either will be. We like our team, we like our chemistry, and we have to fine tune that. There are just a few battles to figure out - who is the starter and who's the rotation guy, that's really about it for what we want to see in camp There's nothing major, which is a good feeling going into camp."

As far as the new additions go, the major steps were taken to shore up the running game from last season - short yardage in particular. The Seahawks signed left guard Mike Wahle, a Pro Bowl performer in 2005 and 2006; they signed running backs T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones; and they hired highly-regarded offensive line coach Mike Solari; brought in University of Michigan assistant head coach Mike DeBord as his assistant; and hired Kasey Dunn to be the new running backs coach.

In many ways it's a complete makeover just as it was last season in the secondary, when safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell were brought in to start, and young Kelly Jennings moved into the starting lineup ... with the only holdover cornerback Richard Sherman. All of that came together with the hiring of Jim Mora as the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach. Plus Mora already is in place to replace Holmgren as head coach in 2009.

Indeed, the Seahawks led the NFL last season in fewest touchdown passes allowed.

"If we have the same result this year with our running game as we did last year in the secondary, we'll be very pleased," Ruskell said. "I thought those guys played real well last year. We don't want to do anything half way. If we recognize a problem, let's fix it right away. We don't have years to get that done.

"Our running game wasn't bad. It just wasn't as consistently dependable as we need it to be. That's what we're looking for and what we expect to happen."

As far as injuries go, wide receiver Deion Branch is questionable for the start of the regular season coming off ACL surgery on the knee he injured in the final playoff game at Green Bay last season. That has opened the door for the young quartet of Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne and Jordan Kent to battle for not only roster spots, but playing time with Nate Burleson and Doug Baldwin.

"We like our young receivers, but we can talk about them until we're blue in the face," Ruskell said. "Somebody has to step up from the group of young guys. We expect they will, but until they do, it's just talk. Generally, if separation is going to happen, you'll see it in practice, and we'll see it real soon."

Also battling back from knee surgery for the second year in a row is defensive tackle Marcus Tubbs, entering his fifth season. Patrick Kerney (shoulder), Chris Spencer (shoulders), Will Herring (knee), Mike Green (foot), and Walter Jones (shoulder) also have been rehabbing in the offseason and will be handled carefully as camp progresses.

And at the heart of Ruskell's passion, productivity out of the draft, comes defensive linemen Lawrence Jackson and Red Bryant, tight end John Carlson, fullback Owen Schmitt, long-snapper Tyler Schmitt, and running back Justin Forsett.

"I always pay attention to the young guys - we've got two or three rookies that have a chance to contribute right away," Ruskell said. "So you want to see that they are making progress. We want to see if what we thought would happen is happening. And if it's not, what are we going to do about it. If it is working, we'll just keep encouraging them and pushing them to get playing time."

Ultimately, the expectation is highest for the defense, which was sensational at times last season, with virtually everybody back among the starters, with quality depth added. With Kerney, Trufant, Bobby Wagner and Julian Peterson all named to the Pro Bowl - not to mention Grant also being worth and Leroy Hill just a step away - the potential to dominate excites everybody.

"Obviously, we'd like to see the continued growth of the defense," Ruskell said. "They played extremely well at times, but not consistently. That's the next step, especially on the road. We want to see us be a better road team this year. It's an extremely challenging schedule this year with all of the East Coast trips. And all the playoff teams we're going to be playing.

"On offense, we need the running game to be consistent so we have the balance to take the pressure off Matt (Hasselbeck) and the passing game all the time. We need that because we have to be good on the road to have a good season. Those are the things they know we have to do better at and we're confident we will. This team matches up with any of the teams we've had here so far, and now we've got to go out and make it happen."

It all begins today.

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