Moments after Justin Britt went down with what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury early in Sunday's win in Atlanta, Joey Hunt jogged onto the field to take over at center.
The first thing quarterback Russell Wilson did when Hunt joined the huddle was make sure his new center knew that he entire offense was behind him.
"When I went in the huddle, (Wilson) said 'Joe, I know you got this.' Then he told the whole huddle, 'You all know Joe's got this?' And everyone said yes. It's awesome to get stuff like that. I feel like that's what I've tried to portray since I've been here as someone they can trust and rely on. It's a great feeling whenever they feel that way."
From that moment in the huddle to Wilson and Pete Carroll's postgame pressers to the head coach's sessions with the media this week, the support for Hunt has been unwavering and genuine.
"I'm super confident in Joey," Wilson said following Sunday's game. "I remember last year, he stepped into the Dallas game and did a great job for us, helped us win that game. He has done a tremendous job. He's so smart, he's got great technique. You watch him in practice and during one-on-one drills how he can manage pretty much anybody. He just does a great job staying in front of guys. So he's a big factor. When he came into the game, in the huddle I said, 'Guy's, we've got nobody better prepared that Joey Hunt.' He was ready to roll and he did a great job."
And sure enough, the Seahawks offense functioned just fine with Hunt in the game, scoring three second-quarter touchdowns to take a 24-0 halftime lead.
"I'm not concerned about him at all," Carroll said. "Joey's been with us for a long time. He's been in games for us over the years. He's started a few games. He has done as well as somebody can do in this role of being the backup guy to give us the confidence that he can handle it. We've just seen him play so consistently in practice and the work he's done. He's never backed off of reassuring us that he's ready to go. He's a really good technician, he's really strong underneath, he's got great leverage as he plays, he knows how to play the position. It's his time for him and I'm not worried about it one bit."
And Wilson and Carroll aren't saying these things just to make Hunt feel better as he takes over for Britt, who was placed on injured reserve earlier this week; they're saying it because they've seen the offensive line and the offense as a whole function very well with Hunt at center. When Britt missed a game last year due to injury, Hunt stepped in to start against a very good Dallas Cowboys defense and helped the Seahawks to a 24-13 win. Like every NFL backup, Hunt knows part of his job is to be ready every week whether he's actually going to see the field or not.
"I feel ready," Hunt said Wednesday. "I feel like I try to prepare every week like I'm the starter. It's something that I've really tried to instill since I've been here. I really try to prepare every week and take care of my body the same every week to prepare. I look at film, everything the same. I'm as ready as I feel like I've been every week."
There is, however, a difference between having a starter's mentality and actually getting starter's practice reps with the first-team offense, so Hunt should be better prepared this week than he was when he had to jump into the game on Seattle's first possession after Britt had been the No. 1 center in practice all week.
"That's where that aspect comes into it," he said. "I feel like just working with guys, working with Russ, working with the rest of the O-linemen, working with everybody on the whole offense communicating. I feel like that's where it can come into a factor as far as practicing and preparing. That's something that we'll hopefully continue to grow on and grow as an offense."
As for who backs up at center now that Hunt is starting, Carroll said that will now fall to Jordan Roos, who was promoted from the practice squad on Tuesday. Roos has been a guard since joining the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2017, but Carroll said he has been working at center in practice for much of the season. The Seahawks also have Kyle Fuller, who was a three-year starter at center at Baylor, on the practice squad, but Carroll said Roos' experience in Seattle's offense makes him the choice for the No. 2 job.
"Roos has been with us for a long time," Carroll said. "He knows our system really well. One of the great attributes that Joey brings us is the smarts and his ability to control everything. With Roos, he's really the furthest along in that regard and he'll do the best job right now. Kyle will be competing for the spot, too. Because of his background, he played three full years or four years at Baylor and has taken a ton of snaps. That really helps him in terms of the competition. Right now, it's more important that we're making the calls and everyone's a complement to what's going on and we know what we're doing. That's why we're there."
Photos from Wednesday's Seahawks practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center in preparation for Sunday's Week 9 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.