While last year's camp opened with Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner heading into the final years of their rookie contracts—both got extensions done during camp—there is less suspense this year. Receiver Doug Baldwin signed a contract extension earlier this offseason, and Seattle's dynamic duo of head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider also re-upped, meaning most of Seattle's core players and decision makers are going to be around for a while.
But there's more to the good vibes at this year's camp than just a lack of contract drama. As Baldwin explains it, the past two seasons have humbled the team a bit, leading to a more motivated and focused team this offseason. First, the Seahawks lost in Super Bowl XLIX in heartbreaking fashion, then the following year they fell way behind in an eventual playoff loss to Carolina, a game that was a microcosm of the entire season for Seattle.
Baldwin talked about that and plenty more following Sunday's practice. Here is more on that and other topics covered by Baldwin:
1. The Seahawks "have come to camp with no drama."
When Baldwin was asked about this being a "drama-free" camp, the question had to do with the lack of holdouts, but while the fact that everyone reported to camp is significant, Baldwin sees more reasons to be encouraged than simply a good attendance record.
"The past couple years have humbled us," Baldwin said. "Obviously losing the Super Bowl and losing to the Carolina Panthers in the playoffs, it has humbled us. We've come a long way from where we first started, and we've accomplished a lot, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter what you have done in the past, it is a 'what have you done for me recently?' business. We have to continue to look at that and evaluate ourselves on a day to day basis. I think the past two years have humbled us and allowed us to do that. We have come to camp with no drama."
One reason for minimal drama is the leadership from a more mature nucleus of players like Baldwin, Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Wilson, Wagner, Jermaine Kearse and others.
"The energy is definitely different," Baldwin said. "It is more ramped up. I think just because we have the collective group that's been here so long, we know the process, we are eager to get it started, and then we are kind of just pulling the young guys along. We are excited about it, like I said, the energy is much different than it has been in the past, but it's a good difference."
2. Continuity at receiver is "huge."
The Seahawks' passing game finished last season on fire, and while a big part of that was the connection between Wilson and Baldwin, receivers Jermaine Kearse and Tyler Lockett also played a big part if that strong finish. But with Kearse heading into the offseason as an unrestricted free agent, there was a real possibility that the Seahawks would lose some continuity in their passing game immediately after putting together one of the best stretches of quarterback and receiver play in franchise history. The Seahawks were able to re-sign Kearse, however, a move Baldwin called "huge" for the future of the team.
"In the big picture it's huge because we have that consistency," Baldwin said. "Jermaine knows the system. He knows the ins and outs. He knows those little intricacies we talk about nonverbally when on the football field, not only with myself, but also with Russell. Then he has that leadership capability in the locker room, which makes it a lot easier on the rest of the guys because he pulls the young guys in a way that some guys can't, and we really benefit from that, from his leadership. So it was huge to get him back."
3. Baldwin is more worried about taking advantage of opportunities than his numbers.
Even after setting a franchise record with 14 touchdown catches last season, while also posting his first 1,000-yard season, Baldwin isn't thinking about what kind of numbers he can put up in 2016. For all the growth shown by the passing game, the Seahawks are still committed to being a balanced team on offense, which means a limited number of chances for Baldwin and everyone else to put up big numbers. Baldwin likes to talk about "the dog mentality" Seahawks receivers have to possess to thrive in this system, and that won't go away even after a big season and big contract extension.
"Do I expect for score 14 touchdowns again? No, I don't, and the reason I don't is because we are a run-first offense," Baldwin said, "In the red-zone, we are going to try to pound it into the end-zone by handing the ball off. Like we have always said since I have been here, we are going to make the best of our opportunities as receivers when we get the chance. If the ball is thrown in my area, in the red-zone, you better be sure I am going to try to come down with it to score that touchdown no matter how many times they throw it to me. So if it is two, three, four, five or a hundred times, we are going to try to catch that."
4. Paul Richardson is more than just a deep threat.
Paul Richardson's speed played a big role in him becoming a second-round pick in 2014, but as much as speed is an asset for Richardson, it can sometimes cause his other talents as a receiver to be overlooked. With Richardson healthy again after missing most of last season with a knee injury, then later a hamstring injury, he has a chance to carve out a big role for himself, and if he does so, it won't just be because of straight-line speed, Baldwin says.
"I think it's overstated about his speed," he said. "Yes he is an extremely fast football player, but he is also a very good wide receiver in general. He has great routes, he can do all the underneath stuff, he can do all the short stuff, and then yes he has that speed to take the top off the defense. So yes, it's going to help us tremendously when he is in there because they have to respect his speed, but it also helps him individually because, yes they have to respect his speed, but then they also have to respect his route running capabilities."
5. The offense has "so many weapons."
With Baldwin putting up such impressive numbers last season, including 12 touchdowns in the second half of the season, it only seems logical that opponents might try to do different things against the Seahawks this year to slow Baldwin down. Baldwin, however, isn't sure that will be the case, if only because the Seahawks have enough weapons throughout their offense to make it impossible to focus on shutting down just one player.
"I don't know how," Baldwin said. "When you got a quarterback like Russell Wilson in the backfield and you have all these weapons spread out in front of him—Jimmy Graham, Thomas Rawls, Tyler Lockett, Jermaine Kearse, you throw Paul Richardson into the mix, Luke Willson, there is not a whole lot the defense can do against us. Our job is to go out there and make it difficult on them and we have to be consistent on it. I don't really know what a defense is going to do against us, but we got so many weapons."
Action photos from the Seahawks' second day of training camp practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center.