To watch Richard Sherman sprint onto the field to celebrate with Tye Smith after a big play, or to hear Doug Baldwin and Bobby Wagner playfully banter back and forth between plays is to understand just how spirited these offseason workouts are for the Seahawks, who are still more than three months away from playing a meaningful game.
Practices aren't full-speed or full-contact this time of year, but they are full of energy, which is why Pete Carroll last week noted the "attitude of this team is really obvious," and Russell Wilson added that "the energy out there is unbelievable, it feels like we're in midseason, just how we're practicing."
A week later, after a few more energized sessions of organized team activities, cornerback Richard Sherman added, "Guys just came back renewed."
It wasn't that the Seahawks weren't energized or striving to be their best at this time last year, but there was no getting around the fact that the previous two seasons had taken their toll on the team. By reaching the Super Bowl for two straight seasons, the Seahawks had played in 19 games, not including the preseason, for two straight seasons, and played through the end of January each year. And while that extra work load is a problem every team, including the 2015 Seahawks, would love to have, there was one silver lining in an earlier playoff exit last season, and in Sherman's eye, that is on display now.
"We had two years of going to the wire, and you just beat your body up to a certain degree playing that long," Sherman said Wednesday. "This year we got, what, two, three extra weeks off. That does a lot for the mentality and the body, just let your body rest. You always want to make it to the Super Bowl and win it, but there was a silver lining of sorts for us not making last year—letting guys rest their bodies and their minds, because that's a lot of football on your body. Guys got to heal, guys got to sit back and enjoy their families for a second and come back renewed."
Some of that renewal is mental—just players getting a little extra time to relax and recover from the ups and downs of the previous season—but the Seahawks are also just in a much better place physically this year. The Seahawks opened training camp last year without Earl Thomas, who was recovering from shoulder surgery, and Jeremy Lane, who missed more than half of the 2015 season because of injuries suffered in the Super Bowl; and Kam Chancellor and Sherman both had injuries from the 2014 postseason that carried into the offseason.
"Imagine the offseason we had last year," Carroll said last week. "Earl was hurt, Richard was hurt, Kam was hurt, all those guys were banged up—and Jeremy Lane of course, he had a terrible time trying to make it back. Those guys are having great offseasons. All of that, you can feel the energy they bring and their sense, their well-being is obvious in the overall attitude and spirit of all these camps we've been going through so far."
But the reason Sherman, Carroll and just about everyone else is optimistic about Seattle's secondary isn't just improved health. With Jeremy Lane re-signing, with DeShawn Shead developing into a starting-caliber cornerback last year, and with Tharold Simon healthy, the Seahawks should have, as Carroll put it, "as good of flexibility as we've ever had."
"We're going to be incredibly versatile, we're going to be incredibly experienced," Sherman said. "There aren't going to be a lot of people we can't match up with individually or collectively as a group. It's going to be a fun challenge to put out there."
Of course, expecting the Seahawks or their secondary in particular to improve drastically in 2016 is a pretty big ask. The Seahawks did, after all, allow the fewest points in the NFL last season, their fourth straight year doing that, and were second in the league in yards allowed, first in rushing yards allowed and second in passing yards allowed. Maybe it wasn't the absolute best year in recent memory for Seattle's defense, but it was still pretty darn impressive.
"An off year for us is being, what, No. 2 in pass defense, No. 2 in total yards?" Sherman said. "That's a bad year for us. Most people would give their left arm to have our defense, but for our standard and what we do, being the No. 2 pass defense, being the No. 1 scoring defense, being No. 2 in total yards, that's an off year."
Photos from the fifth of nine Organized Team Activities (OTAs) that the Seahawks held at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday, June 1.