When Seahawks players left for their offseason following a playoff loss in Dallas, they did so feeling a mixture of disappointment in how things ended, and optimism about the way the team came together late in the year, winning six of their final seven games to make the postseason.
Three months later, most of the Seahawks roster was back together for the first time since that January day as the team kicked off its offseason workout program on Monday.
"It's great to be back," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We had a very promising year last year. A lot of new pieces, players stepping in new roles, and I think we accomplished more than a lot of people thought we would at the beginning of the season, and we still felt like we had a lot left out there. So it's great to get back and get back to work. Everyone enjoyed their time off, but this is where it starts. The beginning of 2019 starts today."
Added safety Delano Hill: "It's like the first day of school. Everybody comes back and sees their friends again, you haven't seen them in a while. That's the main thing, just coming back and getting in the groove."
For the Seahawks, who finished 10-6 last year after a slow start to the season, the goal of offseason workouts is to not just prepare themselves physically for the upcoming season, but also to recapture the momentum and the team chemistry they found late last season.
"It's just picking up where we left off," Brown said. "We all have the confidence of what we can get done. We all saw that last year, so when you approach the offseason with that kind of confidence, it really helps out a lot. We have guys who were here last year that were a part of it, we have additional pieces that are coming on to contribute. We're pushing each other every day, pushing each other in the weight room, in the classroom, then once we start team activities, we'll take it to another level."
On the offensive side of the ball, there's reason for optimism not just because of what the team accomplished last year, scoring the third most points in franchise history while leading the league in rushing, but because players and coaches feel like they're just scratching the surface of what the offense can be after making changes at offensive coordinator and offensive line coach last offseason.
"The feeling is just kind of like, we know there's a lot of stuff we didn't achieve that we knew we were capable of achieving," receiver Tyler Lockett said. "But we understand each other more, we grew last year. One of the things (Brian Schottenheimer) talked about was growth, because we had to get to know him, we had to get to know (Mike) Solari, we had to get to know a lot of people, and now that we've laid that foundation, there's nothing but going up and continuing to build."
On defense, a lot of young players stepped into bigger roles last year after significant offseason changes to the roster in 2018. Now that young group hopes to come together and take a step forward, in part by becoming closer as a unit.
"We're going to get closer," cornerback Shaquill Griffin said. "I feel like the closer we get, the better we're going to play. That started to click last year for us. We started hanging out more, we started understanding each other more. If you walk around as a defense and call each other brothers, you've got to act accordingly. The closer we get, the better we're going to play. When you love someone and you care about someone, you'll do anything for them, and that's how you've got to feel when you're on the field. That's the path that the defense is going to take; we're going to be ready to lay it on the line for each other. That's the part we're looking forward to."
Last season when the Seahawks were struggling to find their footing, quarterback Russell Wilson talked to his teammates about dreaming big, and eventually the team turned things around in dramatic fashion. This year, the goal is to start dreaming big now so that a midseason turnaround won't be necessary.
"It was a great way to finish, that's something you've got to build off of," Griffin said. "To see how far we came last year, we've got to build off of that. Everybody's excited about this year. Russ said it best last year, we've got to continue to dream big. Instead of saying that during the season last year, we've got to start dreaming now to get to where we want to be."