The Seahawks defense will spend Monday night's game against the Detroit Lions trying to stop a passing game that includes former Seattle receiver Golden Tate. On other NFL weekends, however, Seahawks players have been pulling for Tate ever since he left in free agency following the 2013 season.
Tate, the Seahawks' leading receiver in their Super Bowl-winning 2013 season, was one of a handful of key players from that team who the Seahawks were unable to retain, but nobody in Seattle seems to harbor any ill-will towards a former teammate for getting a good deal in free agency.
"Tate is a great competitor," said safety Earl Thomas, who along with Tate was part of Seattle's first draft class under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. "I watch him on film, and I miss him a little bit. He was a part of a lot of success we had here."
For Seattle's defense and for Tate, there will be plenty of familiarity after multiple years of practicing against each other, something that cornerback Richard Sherman said won't favor either side.
"It'll be fun," Sherman said. "It's always fun to play against Tate. Obviously we had our battles in practice for years. We're happy for all of his success, it'll be another fun battle."
"I don't think anybody gets more (advantage). It's been years since we practiced against each other, too. But I don't think it gives anybody the advantage. I think it's going to be fun, it makes it more fun, it makes it more like a chess match. You understand the moves that are coming. You understand the strengths, the weaknesses, and how they're going to try to attack you, and you try to counter it, and then they counter it, it's going to be a lot of fun."
Tate, a second-round pick in 2010, didn't make an immediate impact as a rookie, but by the time he left Seattle he was the team's leading receiver, a player known for his big-play ability, and also the team's punt returner.
"He was an all-around athlete," Carroll said. "He was so natural at catching and making moves and playing the game. It came easy to him in that regard. He had to grow through some of that because he was such a natural athlete, he had to work hard at his stuff, which he did. The punt return stuff was pretty fun to watch once we got him back there. He's a good player."
The Seahawks hoped to bring him back after his rookie contract expired, but with salary cap limitations and other deals to get done, they were unable to match Detroit's offer.
"There's always difficult decisions, and we tried to keep him, and we just couldn't get there, where he wanted to go," Carroll said. "He was a good guy on our team, we liked the heck out of him. He was one of my favorite guys out there. We tried, but we couldn't get it done."
For Seahawks receivers, Tate's Pro Bowl 2014 season with Detroit offered a bit of validation. The Seahawks threw the fewest passes of any team in the league from 2012-2014, and with fewer attempts come receiving numbers that don't get a lot of attention. Even as the Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls and earned three straight playoff berths, their receivers heard about how they were mediocre or average or pedestrian. But when Tate left for Detroit, a team that throws a lot more frequently than Seattle, Doug Baldwin predicted big numbers for his former teammate.
"Oh yeah, without a doubt we (take pride in Tate's success)," Baldwin said. "We've always thought we are much better than the production shows, so Golden going away and doing that just validates our point. We take pride in it, but we also take a lot of pride in what we do here as receivers."
Baldwin and his fellow receivers aren't complaining about their lack of opportunities—they understand that Seattle's balanced offense has been a big part of the team's success—but it's still nice to have a former "appetizer" receiver put up 99 catches for 1,331 yards in a more pass-happy offense.
"I told Jermaine, I said, 'watch, he's going to go over there and double his production,'" Baldwin said. "Everybody will say he's so much better of a receiver, but really he just got more opportunities. We all knew Golden was a great player when he was here, it's just the offense we're in."
Several Seahawks players remain close with Tate—he was even a groomsman in Jermaine Kearse's wedding last summer—so they are both proud of what he has accomplished, and also excited to see him again at CenturyLink Field.
"Golden and I are really close," Kearse said. "I'm looking forward to it."
Kearse, like Baldwin, enjoyed watching Tate succeed in Detroit: "What he did in Detroit last year kind of shows the type of talent we have here. Presented with the opportunity he had, he made plays. It wasn't surprising to me what he did with Detroit. I always knew he could do that, and I know we have players here who could do the same."
Ricardo Lockette, another one of Tate's teammates during his time here, shares the same sentiments as Baldwin and Kearse.
"We're proud of his success. He's still just like family to us. He'll always be that. It's fun playing against friends. It'll be cool."