Rivalry or not, Seahawks and 49ers Represent One of the NFL's Most Physical Matchups

Regardless of which side of the Seahawks-49ers rivalry-fence players sit on, there's an area all parties can agree upon when it comes to this week's matchup: Every time the two teams meet, it's one of the more physical games the NFL has to offer.

Whether or not a rivalry exists between the Seahawks and 49ers depends on who you ask.

Richard Sherman, for example, sees Thursday night's matchup with San Francisco as "just the next opponent" on the schedule.

"They're a division opponent, so obviously you see them more often than not, so you're more familiar with them," Sherman said. "But in terms of rivalries, it's not something we concern ourselves with."

But quarterback Russell Wilson shared a different view than the Seahawks starting cornerback, stressing attention to an NFC West contest between "two tough teams."

"It's always been big, obviously," Wilson said of Seattle's rivalry with San Francisco. "Any time you play an NFL team it's always going to be a fight. Obviously playing a team that's in your division in the 49ers, like I said, we have a lot of respect for them and how they play the game. It usually comes down to the wire, which makes it fun. That's what we're looking forward to."

Those polar opposite opinions were common when polling other individuals on Seattle's roster. In talking to four former 49ers players who now suit up for the Seahawks - B.J. Daniels, Demarcus Dobbs, Will Tukuafu, and Nick Moody - two of them, Daniels and Dobbs, sided with Sherman, noting the rivalry is more for the fanbases to entertain, while the two others, Tukuafu and Moody, said the players get into it, too.

"I think the rivalry is more with the fans to be honest with you," said Seattle's wide receiver Daniels, a 2013 draft pick by San Francisco. "Because between players a lot of guys either have played here or played there or vice versa. So I'm looking forward to seeing some of the guys I used to play with and going against them."

Added the defensive tackle Dobbs, who spent three seasons in San Francisco before signing with Seattle, "Once you get into this League and you're a guy that's been cut, or bouncing around between different teams and stuff, the whole rivalry thing sort of dissipates. But the fans, they love it. When you have two competitive teams like the Niners and the Seahawks and they're winning big games, the rivalry gets bigger."

Said Seattle's fullback Tukuafu, who spent four seasons with the 49ers, "I think it's for both, fans and players alike. They're a good team, we're a good team. They're in our conference, our division, and we just all want to win. We know they're going to be competitors just like we are."

And from the linebacker Moody, Seattle's most-recent Bay-Area acquisition who was drafted by the 49ers in 2013: "Yeah, it's a big deal, especially in San Francisco. They went to one Super Bowl before I got there, but then my rookie year we lost to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship and last year we lost to them both times and they went to the Super Bowl again. So it's definitely something that they're tired of losing to the Seahawks. They probably put an emphasis on that, I'm sure they are."

Regardless of which side of the Seahawks-49ers rivalry-fence players sit on, there's one area all parties can agree upon when it comes to this week's matchup: Every time the two teams meet it's one of the more physical games the NFL has to offer. Part of that has to do with play-style. Seattle and San Francisco have been built on similar foundations centered around tough defense, a strong running game, and quarterbacks who have the ability to make plays with their arm and their legs.

"Playing with San Fran I played with a bunch of guys that were just studs, offensively and defensively," said Dobbs. "We felt like we were a big, strong, and dominant team, and that's the same vibe here. When you have two teams with a lot of character, with a lot of great players, with a lot of determination to win the game, you just know it's going to be a battle and a clash."

Since 2010, when Pete Carroll took over as head coach, there have been plenty of memorable battles and clashes between the two sides. Under Carroll, the Seahawks have gone 5-5 against the Niners. San Francisco owned the advantage early in Carroll's tenure, winning four of the first five games. But Seattle has seized control of the series in recent seasons, taking four of the past five regular-season meetings, as well as the 2013 conference title tilt that ended with Sherman's tip of a Colin Kaepernick pass to linebacker Malcolm Smith, a play that secured the Seahawks a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII that they would go on to win.

"Some of the hardest-hitting games I've ever been involved in have been Seahawk-49er games," said first-year 49ers head coach Jim Tomsula, who spent 2007-14 as San Francisco's defensive line coach. "You're down on the sidelines, and I don't know where you are from your vantage point in the game, but to hear those pads cracking, man. You hear some pads cracking."

Schedule makers must think there's a little something extra to a Seattle-San Francisco showdown, too. The NFL has set a Seahawks-49ers game during primetime in front of a national television audience for four straight seasons, three of which have been scheduled on Thursday nights, including this week's 5:25 p.m. PT kick in Santa Clara where each side is entering with a 2-4 record and looking to climb back into the NFC West race.

"It's heavyweights going at it," Daniels said. "Their front seven and our front seven are pretty good, on both sides of the ball, so it'll be a heavyweight fight like it's always been."

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