NFC West: Red Bryant

NEW YORK -- The talk is over, and the day finally is here: Super Bowl Sunday.

Here are five things the Seattle Seahawks must do well to defeat the Denver Broncos at MetLife Stadium:

1. Pressure Peyton Manning: It’s a mammoth task against a quarterback who gets rid of the football so quickly, but it isn’t so much about getting sacks as it is putting enough pressure on Manning to take him out of his comfort zone.

Everyone knows Manning is a classic pocket passer. He likes to step up in the pocket to make his throws. That will make it difficult for a talented edge-rusher like Cliff Avril to get to Manning.

Bryant
So the Seahawks have to get pressure up the middle with their defensive tackles -- Brandon Mebane, Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel. Big Red Bryant will also get a push in the middle sometimes, and they might use some stunts with end Michael Bennett rushing up the middle when he lines up outside. Also, look for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner to blitz a couple of times.

"There’s no certain way to get to Manning," Bennett said. "It comes down to doing what we do and beating your man."

2. Let the quiet Beast loudly rumble: It’s been a strange and somewhat stressful week for Marshawn Lynch, having to do media sessions on three consecutive days. Not his cup of tea, and a distraction the Seahawks could have lived without, but that is all behind them now.

Lynch
Lynch was successful on runs up the middle in the first two playoff games this season, but the Seahawks should try more off-tackle runs and toss sweeps against Denver. The Broncos have Terrance Knighton at nose tackle, a mountain of a man at 340 pounds. He’s a run-stuffer.

When asked what his biggest concern was regarding the Denver defense, Lynch didn’t hesitate. "Pot Roast," he said, which is Knighton’s nickname. "He’s a big boy."

The Seahawks might use a third tackle with Alvin Bailey, as they did against the 49ers, to line up with tight end Zach Miller and use a muscle push to run Lynch off the edge of the line and hope he goes Beast Mode.

3. Keep the Broncos guessing with Harvin: The Seahawks need to make the most of their X factor in receiver Percy Harvin. The Denver defense can’t know exactly how to account for a guy who played only six quarters this season, but they know he’s faster than a cheetah with its tail on fire.

Harvin
So make them worry about Harvin on almost every play by putting him in motion and lining him up in different spots. Get the ball to him early so Denver will know he’s part of the plan. Someone for Denver will have to spy him, meaning someone else on the Seattle offense -- receivers Golden Tate or Doug Baldwin -- will get free.

"We’re excited to have Percy back, because he brings more to the table," Tate said. "He's going to open it up for other guys more."

4. Punish the Broncos on crossing routes: The Seattle defense can’t allow Manning and his receivers to nickel-and-dime them to death with short passes over the middle and quick slants.

Chancellor
And if receiver Wes Welker wants to try a pick-play block, have strong safety Kam Chancellor waiting to greet him. Linebackers Malcolm Smith and K.J. Wright also have to get physical on these plays and let the Broncos know there is a price to pay every time they catch a pass in the middle of the field.

"We are a physical bunch," Chancellor said. "We like to be physical. We like to be hands-on. We like to make you feel our presence. That’s how we operate."

5. Play with poise: This is the most important point. Seattle is the more talented team overall, but the Seahawks must play smart and not get over-amped in the biggest game of their lives. Careless personal fouls and false starts can be the difference in the game, and too much emotion can cause a player to make a mistake he wouldn’t normally make.

Sherman
The Seahawks did a great job of controlling their emotions in the NFC Championship Game against the hated 49ers. Well, until the end when cornerback Richard Sherman went on testosterone overload after the game-saving play. But the game was decided at that point, so have at it.

The same is true in the Super Bowl. Play your game and don’t give the Broncos a freebie. Do what you did to get here.

"Respect the journey," said Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. "But at the same time, enjoy the moment. Take it all in. It is real. Just be poised and respect the process. I’m going to play with a smile on my face and just go for it."

Good advice. If the Seahawks follow it, that should be enough.

Seahawks have no fears over this loss

December, 8, 2013
12/08/13
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Russell WilsonCary Edmondson/USA TODAY Sports"We should have won it," Russell Wilson said, echoing the Seahawks' version of events Sunday.

SAN FRANCISCO -- The San Francisco 49ers got it done, winning 19-17 over the Seattle Seahawks in archaic Candlestick Park. If you think it made a statement or caused the Seahawks to shiver with fear, think again.

San Francisco was the better team on this day, but the best team lost.

The home team, playing in front a frenzied crowd in a game it had to have against its archrival to stay in good playoff position, won it with a field goal in the final minute.

“Penalties killed us today,” Seattle defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “But you can’t make too much of it. This is a tournament, one game at a time, and the ultimate goal is the Super Bowl.”

The Seahawks still firmly believe they are on the right path to get there. Losing a close one to the 49ers didn’t place any doubts in their heads. And there’s no way the 49ers walked away from this one and honestly said to themselves, “Oh yeah, we’re better than they are.”

The Seahawks, now 11-2 and still needing only one victory in the final three games to clinch the NFC West crown, walked away firmly believing they’re the better team, despite the slight hiccup Sunday.

And they’re right. San Francisco (9-4) did nothing more than hold serve, barely, thanks to some sloppy play by the team that had beaten them by a combined score of 71-16 in the previous two meetings.

All this game proved is that Seattle can’t have nine penalties for 85 yards and get a punt blocked, and still beat a strong team on the road.

“It was a terrific, hard-fought football game, just a slugfest,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It was one of those types of games where one play can make a big difference. But we couldn’t get out of our own way with the penalties. That dictated the flow of the game.”

Seattle entered the game with a seven-game winning streak. They now have lost twice this season, by a total of eight points.

“We should have won it,” Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson said. “The penalties really hurt us offensively and got us off schedule. We play so physical that sometimes those calls are going to go against us. But we have to eliminate that.”

Neither team led by more than six points Sunday. The lead changed hands six times. Seattle led 17-16 before a 51-yard run by Frank Gore gave the 49ers the field position they needed to set up a winning field goal, a 22-yarder by Phil Dawson with 26 seconds to go.

“We fought hard all the way, but they got the big run at the end that gashed us,” Seattle free safety Earl Thomas said. “We didn’t take care of the little things today, and when that happens, anyone can beat you. We just were not disciplined enough against a good team. But you can’t let a game like this one define you, and it doesn’t.”

In the locker room afterward, the Seahawks kept saying the same thing over and over.

“All our goals are still in front of us,” defensive end Red Bryant said, a nine-word statement that was the theme of the moment. “It was a great game to be in and you have to give them credit. They made the plays to win the game, but we can handle it. We’ll lick our wounds and be just fine.”

In other words, no big deal. The 49ers won it. A soft “congratulations” came from the Seahawks, but with a look in their eyes that said, “Now, catch us if you can.”

“It’s good to get this out of the way now,” Seattle receiver Doug Baldwin said. “We knew it would be a hard-fought battle because they are a good football team. But it’s really about us taking care of our business now. That’s all that matters.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman, who was called for defensive holding twice (one of which was declined), sat at his locker without the least bit of concern.

“This doesn’t change anything for us,” Sherman said. “They got some fortunate penalty calls and that was the difference. It happens sometimes. When you lose like that it’s hard to be upset.

Maybe the worst news of the day for Seattle was that linebacker K.J. Wright suffered a broken foot, an injury that Carroll said likely would sideline him at least six weeks.

[+] EnlargeMarshawn Lynch
Brian Bahr/Getty ImagesMarshawn Lynch scored a touchdown in the first half, but for the game he was held to 3.6 yards per carry.
And guess what his teammates were thinking? That Wright could return for the Super Bowl.

“The season wasn’t going to end today, one way or the other,” Carroll said. “Everything is still out there for us.”

Unless the Seahawks have a total collapse in the final three games, including the last two at home against Arizona and St. Louis, they are going to have home-field advantage in the playoffs. Seattle has won 14 in a row at CenturyLink Field.

Had the Seahawks come to Candlestick and stunk up the place, as New Orleans did last week at Seattle, maybe they would have some concerns. That didn’t happen. Aside from the penalties, they played pretty well in a tough environment. The defense gave up one touchdown. Wilson completed 15 of 25 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown. His only interception was a desperation deep throw at the end of the game.

This was like one hitless game in a season in which your slugger has a .350 average and 30 homers.

“We’re still in great position,” Wilson said. “There’s no panic. We just need to stay positive.”

Keeping a positive attitude is not a problem for this team.

“You can’t win them all,” Wilson said. “The goal is winning the last one.”
RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks receiver Percy Harvin was a full participant in practice Thursday for the first time since his hip surgery in August, increasing the likelihood that he will play Sunday against his former team, the Minnesota Vikings.

Harvin
Harvin did not speak to reporters Thursday, but he is expected to talk Friday. If he plays Sunday, it would be his first appearance in an NFL game since Nov. 4, 2012, when, coincidentally, the Vikings played at Seattle.

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said he doesn’t anticipate much of an adjustment period once Harvin joins the offense.

“I feel so comfortable with Percy,” Wilson said Thursday. “I threw a ton with him this offseason before the injury really popped up, so it was one of those things where we had a really good relationship before. I trust what he does.”

Wilson believes Harvin can make an immediate difference for the Seahawks.

"He’s in and out of his breaks really quickly,” Wilson said. “He’s just a great football player. You want to give him the ball as much as you can. On our offense, we have so many guys that we can use. You add Percy into the mix and he brings a whole other explosive mentality to our football team.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman returned to full participation Thursday after missing practice Wednesday with what was listed as a hip injury. Sherman said he really just needed a day to rest.

Offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini and center Max Unger also were full participants in practice, as was defensive tackle Red Bryant. Unger and Bryant missed last week's game with concussions. The Seahawks will need to make a roster move by Saturday to activate Okung.

Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel (hamstring) and cornerback Jeremy Lane (thigh) did not practice. Cornerback Brandon Browner has a groin injury and will not play Sunday, but the Seahawks have not said how long Browner will be out.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger and defensive lineman Red Bryant missed practice again Thursday as they continue to go through the league's mandatory concussion protocol this week.

Bryant
Bryant
What happens at Friday’s practice will give a clearer picture on whether either man will play Sunday at Atlanta.

If Unger doesn’t play, Lemuel Jeanpierre will start at center. Jeanpierre did a decent job earlier this season when he started two games while Unger was out with an upper-arm injury.

Bryant has starting every game this season, officially at left defensive end, but he sometimes plays inside in more of a defensive-tackle role. The Seahawks have lot of depth on the defensive line and rotate nine players. If Bryant doesn’t play, look for Michael Bennett and Chris Clemons to start at the defensive-end spots while Tony McDaniel and Brandon Mebane start at defensive tackle.

Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill also hasn’t practiced this week; he has a biceps injury. Fullback Derrick Coleman is out because of a hamstring issue, and will not play Sunday.

Strong safety Kam Chancellor was limited at practice with an ankle injury.

Running back Marshawn Lynch returned to full participation at practice after being limited Wednesday with a sore knee. Clemons returned to practice after being out Wednesday with a non-injury-related issue.

Harvin works out but doesn't practice

November, 6, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said receiver Percy Harvin did not practice Wednesday, but Harvin is progressing nicely in is rehab.

“Percy had a really good workout [Wednesday morning],” Carroll said. “I know he’s very encouraged about the work he did today. I threw with him a lot before the walk-through, so we’ll see what happens. But it’s still a day-to-day process.

Harvin
“Really, I think the best way to say it is that we’re kind of in phase two of the rehab right now and we’re excited that he’s strong and feeling good. We’ll see what we can do in the days ahead.”

So how many phases are there in Harvin’s recovery?

“I knew you were going to ask that,’’ Carroll said. “I just thought I’d give you a term for it. I have no idea. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Still, it appears likely the Seahawks will wait at least one more week before activating Harvin and getting him in a game.

“I think it’s just a matter of time,” Carroll said. “We feel confident that the [hip] surgery [on Aug. 1] went very well. He has no pain in his hip. He’s working diligently to get things done. We just have to do it right, because we want him to finish the season with us without it being an issue. He’s such a tremendous competitor and he’s dying to get back.”

Center Max Unger and defensive lineman Red Bryant did not practice because they are going through the league's concussion protocol.

“We’ll see if they can make it back,” Carroll said of Unger and Bryant. “Both of them are really determined to do it if possible. We have a real good system in place to make sure we do the right thing there.”

Starting offensive tackles Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini returned to practice on a limited basis Wednesday, but neither will play Sunday at Atlanta. Okung can’t return until Nov. 17, and Carroll wants to give Giacomini two weeks of practice before getting back in a game.

Safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring) returned to practice, but Carroll said he probably won’t play this weekend. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill (biceps) did not practice. Defensive end Chris Clemons missed practice, but it was not injury-related.

Running back Marshawn Lynch participated on a limited basis, which is not unusual for him on a Wednesday.

Unger and Bryant with concussions

November, 4, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- Center Max Unger and defensive lineman Red Bryant both suffered concussion symptoms in Sunday's game, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Monday.

"Max had a good day [Monday]," Carroll said "He got hit in the head [in Sunday's game] and Red did as well, as we found out today. They both will go through the [concussion] protocol to see if they are able to return [to play this weekend]. We'll take great care in making those decisions."

Carroll also was asked about receiver Percy Harvin's status to return this weekend at Atlanta.

"I don't know that, but I'm not counting on that," Carroll said. "We'll see. We're still working to bring him back, and he had a good rehab work [Monday]."

Carroll also said it's unlikely right tackle Breno Giacomini will return to the offense this weekend, but he will practice this week, as will left tackle Russell Okung.

Okung can't come off injured reserve until Nov. 17, so it's possible both starting offensive tackles could come back for the home game against Minnesota that day.

"Breno could play this week, but it's not likely he'll be ready," Carroll said. "It's a lot to ask in one week on the practice field. We'll take a couple of weeks to get his legs under him."

Giacomini had arthroscopic knee surgery Sept. 30th. Okung has a torn ligament in a big toe. Both players worked out on the field before Sunday's game against Tampa Bay.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and Richard ShermanUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesBackup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will have to face a stifling Seattle secondary and the league's best corner in Richard Sherman.
Sunday's game between the Tennessee Titans and Seattle Seahawks is a matchup between two winning teams coming off losses, and both are missing key players on offense.

Quarterback Jake Locker is out for the Titans. Both starting tackles -- Russell Okung and Breno Giacomini -- are out for Seattle. Tight end Zach Miller could also sit.

The Seahawks have a 10-game home winning streak on the line, hoping to rebound after their first defeat of the season, 34-28 to the Indianapolis Colts.

The Titans hope to get a stagnant running game going and find some consistency with backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Paul, it looked like Fitzpatrick had a rough first outing for the Titans subbing for an injured Locker. Do you think Fitzpatrick will improve, and how difficult will it be for Tennessee to have success on offense while Locker is out?

Kuharsky: Fitzpatrick is certainly capable of playing better than he did in the loss to Kansas City, when he had three very bad quarters and one good one. I'm not sure what the Titans can do to help him if they are unable to run the ball. If they can bring some balance with Chris Johnson (and maybe Shonn Greene, who's still trying to get back after knee surgery), it could be a lot less difficult. Fitzpatrick hardly has Locker's excellent speed, but he scrambled around pretty well against the Chiefs. With Locker in the first four games, the Titans didn't turn the ball over and overcame their deficiencies running the ball. Without him, they need Fitzpatrick to imitate the mistake-free youngster. But Fitzpatrick is more of a gunslinger than Locker and is streakier, and that's probably too much to ask.

Terry, the Titans pledged to be a great running team. It hasn't really panned out that way. Last time Johnson was in Seattle, he had a 2,000-yard season. What's the run defense going to be like?

Blount: It's been all but impossible to run up the middle on the Seahawks. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is as strong a run stopper as there is the NFL, and it takes two blockers to handle 325-pound Red Bryant. If that fails, it's tough to get past middle linebacker Bobby Wagner. But Wagner probably won't play Sunday because of a high ankle sprain. Nevertheless, it's difficult to establish a running game on the Seahawks. Seattle is an aggressive outside pass-rushing team, so occasionally a back can get yardage outside, but not often.

Paul, Locker told us on the conference call Wednesday what a disappointment it is that he won't get to play this weekend in front of family, friends and University of Washington alumni who love him for all he did to help turn around the Huskies football program. He is a beloved guy here and a huge hero in this community. How is he viewed in Nashville?

Kuharsky: Nothing close to that yet. People who have given him a chance know he's an eminently likable guy, a hard worker and a well-respected leader, but plenty of fans called talk radio over the offseason talking about why Fitzpatrick would be a better choice or how it should at least be a camp competition. Even after Week 2's overtime loss in Houston, when he overthrew a wide-open Kenny Britt on a crucial third-and-1 late in the game, there were calls for change. (It's a throw he's got to make.) The game-winning drive against San Diego showed people what he can do. Locker also had a fantastic two-plus quarters against the Jets, which seems to have done a lot to win more people over. In playing style and development arc, I think he is a lot like Steve McNair so far. If that holds true, impatient fans will wind up happy.

Terry, home field is viewed as such a giant advantage for the Seahawks. Can you give us a tangible feel for just how loud and crazy the atmosphere is there?

Blount: In the San Francisco game, where the outdoor stadium decibel record was set at 131.9, it was so loud that it was difficult at times to even hear people talk in the enclosed press box. I know every team believes its stadium is one of the loudest, and I've been to most of them, but trust me, there is nothing like CenturyLink Field. It's deafening.

Paul, cornerback Alterraun Verner is off to an outstanding start this season with four interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman is viewed by some as the best corner in the NFL, but is Verner the most underrated?

Kuharsky: He could have had another two picks last week on balls he didn't manage to haul in. Verner has been really good. The team wasn't sure what it had in him. The Titans knew they got a good football player out of UCLA three years ago. But as they revamped this offseason, with Gregg Williams joining the coaching staff and the Titans determined to get more aggressive, they figured a big increase in press-man coverage would move them away from Verner's strengths. They wanted Tommie Campbell, a faster and bigger guy to win the job. (Some wrote about how Campbell has some of what makes Sherman so good.) But Campbell didn't catch on and bombed in training camp, and Verner proved to be better. If Coty Sensabaugh hasn't recovered from his concussion for Sunday, Verner will start in base and move into the slot in nickel, with Campbell replacing him outside.

The Titans rush pretty well, and Verner is getting his hands on balls all over the field. Who has had the best success slowing Russell Wilson and how?

Blount: Even though Seattle came back and won the game, the Texans had the most success because of their talented defensive front and all-everything defensive lineman J.J. Watt. Both Houston and Indianapolis took advantage of Seattle missing starters on the offensive line and teed off on Wilson on third down. Nevertheless, Wilson is the best I've ever seen making the most of a bad situation and finding the opening the defense gives him. Anticipating when Wilson will roll out and cutting off his running lanes is the key, but it is far easier said than done.

Seahawks find a way to win ugly

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
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Seahawks AP Photo/Patric SchneiderSeattle celebrated a 4-0 start after Steven Hauschka kicked the game winner in overtime.
HOUSTON -- An ugly winner always is better than a pretty loser, at least in football.

Teams just aren’t supposed to win 23-20 in overtime when they do as many things wrong as the Seattle Seahawks did Sunday against the Houston Texans.

Seahawks receiver Golden Tate sat in a jubilant locker room afterward and just shook his head, almost in disbelief at what he had just witnessed and been a part of.

“Wow. Man, I’m in awe,” he said. “It’s never over for us. We have a lot of things to fix everywhere, but you know what? We’re getting on this plane and going home 4 and 0.”

Special-teams captain Heath Farwell also seemed a little stunned afterward.

“This team is something special,” Farwell said. “Today showed the difference between a good team and a great team. I’m just so proud of all these guys.”

He should be. They were down 20-3 on the road at halftime. Their offensive line was missing three starters, including two Pro Bowl players, and they were starting a rookie, seventh-round draft choice (Michael Bowie) against the best defensive player in the NFL (J.J. Watt).

Their defense completely forgot they entered the game No. 1 in the league, playing like they were No. 1 in leaving receivers wide open.

The Seahawks were outgained by more than 206 yards and their third-down efficiency was 21 percent. And their quarterback (Russell Wilson) had a miserable 49.7 passer rating for the game because he spent most of the day trying to avoid becoming permanently embedded in the Reliant Stadium turf.

But there’s something strange about this team, in a good way. When things seem to be at their worst, the Seahawks are at their best.

Despite all those negatives and all those mistakes, Seattle did enough things right to win and remain unbeaten. It’s the first time in franchise history the Seahawks have started a season with four victories.

“It wasn’t the prettiest win in the world," Wilson said Sunday after the game. “But it sure looks pretty now.”

Seattle couldn’t have played much worse in the first half, down 17 points in a game the Texans had dominated on both sides of the ball.

“They handed it to us in the first half and we didn’t have any answers to stop it,” said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll. “But to play the way we did in the second half and overtime was crazy good. This is a fantastic team.”

It was when it mattered the most. The Texans failed to score in the final 41 minutes and 34 seconds of the game.

“It’s a testament to our character,” defensive tackle Red Bryant said. “We never quit. We hung in there and kept fighting. We played our best football in the second half. We showed a lot of grit today.”

The biggest mistake anyone can make is to look at game stats and try to determine how good the Seahawks are. You won’t find it there.

This team is undefeated because it makes the game-changing plays when the outcome is on the line:

  • Cornerback Richard Sherman getting a 58-yard pick-six to tie the game in the fourth quarter.
  • Wilson deciding to run with the ball when the Texans' defense kept him from throwing it effectively.
  • Receiver Doug Baldwinmaking another tiptoe sideline catch to keep a touchdown drive going in the fourth quarter.
  • Tate making a decision to field a punt on the goal line, then returning it to the 31 to start the final drive that won the game on Steven Hauschka's 45-yard field goal.

“We have playmakers all around,” Tate said. “No. 3 [Wilson] took over the game when he needed to. Sherm took over when he needed to. Our goal is always to play longer and harder than our opponent. We found a way. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t pretty, but we found a way.”

The Seahawks are firm believers in risks being worth the reward, like Sherman jumping in front of a Matt Schaub pass in the flat that became a Seattle touchdown.

“It’s a high-risk play,” Sherman said. “You’ve got to jump it and you might get beat. But if you make the play you can change the game. I lost my shoe for about 50 of those yards, so it may be the longest return without a shoe.”

No shoes required, just courage. The same with Tate’s unorthodox punt return.

“I know I’m going to hear about it in the meetings this week,” Tate said. “I went totally against what I’m supposed to do, but I felt a play needed to be made and we needed some momentum. I was confident. We do what we have to do.”

That’s exactly what Wilson did on a 98-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter when he ran for 53 of those yards before Marshawn Lynch scored on a 3-yard run.

“Marshawn and I talked,” Wilson said “He said, ‘Hey Russ, just take over.’ So I decided just to take off and try to get positive gains. We had to find a way.”

The Seahawks found a way to win on a day when every indicator said they should have lost.

“It’s gonna be ugly sometimes,” Sherman said. “It wasn’t a great stat game, but we did enough things and made enough plays to get the win. Those kind of games make championship teams. We had guys out there grinding. Regardless of how we get the win, it's still a win.”

.

Seahawks may start two backup tackles

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
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RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks may be without both starting offensive tackles this weekend, a scary thought going against star defensive linemen J.J. Watt and the Houston Texans' defense.

Right tackle Breno Giacomini did not practice Wednesday because of a knee problem. His status for Sunday’s game at Houston is unknown.

"His knee is sore,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday of Giacomini. “We have some more information to get to see where he is. He got nicked a little bit in the [Jacksonville] game.”

Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung is out for at least eight weeks with a torn ligament in a big toe. Paul McQuistan moved from guard to Okung’s tackle spot.

[+] EnlargeAlvin Bailey
Otto Greule Jr/Getty ImagesRookie tackle Alvin Bailey saw action in Week 3, and could see even more this Sunday for Seattle.
If Giacomini doesn’t play, the Seahawks probably will start a rookie at right tackle -- either Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey. Bowie (6-foot-4, 330 and a seventh-round draft choice from Northeastern State in Oklahoma) likely would be the starter.

Both Bowie and Bailey (6-foot-3, 320 and undrafted out of Arkansas) played extensively in the second half last weekend after the Seahawks built a big lead against Jacksonville.

“They’ve made great progress,” Carroll said of his rookie tackles. “I went back [Tuesday] night and watched the [Jacksonville] game over again just to watch those guys and see how they’re doing. They came off the ball really well and did fine in pass protection. They did a very nice job and they’re coming along quickly.”

Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable also was pleased with what he saw from his young tackles in the Jacksonville game.

“I saw some really cool stuff," Cable said. “I’m really excited about their future. I thought both those kids went in there and knocked people off the ball.

“It was a huge moment of growth for them to know they’re OK and can handle an NFL game. It’s like gold. If they have to do it, they’ll be comfortable to do what they’re capable of doing.”

But can either handle Watt?

“We don’t really focus on him,” Cable said. “We focus on doing things right.”

The backup tackles will need to do a lot of things right to stop Watt and the attacking Houston defense, which ranks No. 2 in the NFL behind the Seahawks.

"They will pressure us more than any team we play this season,” Carroll said of the Texans defense.

Carroll also was asked how he felt McQuistan was doing in Okung’s spot.

“Paul survived the first game [when Okung got hurt against the San Francisco 49ers] and played better in the second game,” Carroll said. “He was sharper on stuff and the communication was better. But that’s a big jump for Paul. He has played tackle in his history, but to play up to Russell Okung’s level is a lot to ask. He’s performed well so far.”

Seattle made a roster move Wednesday to add veteran offensive linemen in Jason Spitz, who was released by Jacksonville in August. Spitz, (6-foot-3, 300) played five seasons at Green Bay before spending the past two years with the Jaguars, but he was on injured reserve all last season.

Even if Seattle had both its starting tackles, it would be a big task to stop Watt, the NFL defensive player of the year last season with 20.5 sacks.

“He’s a fantastic talent,” Carroll said of Watt. “I don’t think anybody knew he would be this dominant, and I’ve heard Houston say they didn’t know that either. But he’s an extraordinary player. He’s faster than more guys his size, running a 4.6. That’s one thing that separates him. And the guys Houston has around him makes him even better.”

One of those guys is inside linebacker Brian Cushing, a player Carroll knows well. Cushing played for Carroll at USC.

“Cush was an outside guy for us,” Carroll said. “He’s one of the best guys we ever recruited as far as all-around ability. He’s a great, great player. It’s not a surprise to me that he ended up playing inside. He’s so instinctive and aggressive and wants to come at you. He lines up right behind Watt, so he’s a big issue for us, also.”

Injury updates: Defensive tackle Red Bryant (back spasms) did not practice Wednesday, but Carroll expects him back on the field Thursday.

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (sprained ankle) did not practice, but Carroll is hopeful he can play at Houston.

“He’s going to try to go tomorrow,” Carroll said of Kearse. “He’s making a very quick recovery. We have our fingers crossed that he has a chance to play.”

Carroll said rookie fullback Spencer Ware is still out with a high-ankle sprain.

Outside linebacker Malcolm Smith returned to practice after being inactive against Jacksonville with a hamstring issue. Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill returned to practice on a limited basis.

Your NFC West roster fix right here

August, 13, 2013
8/13/13
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The Seattle Seahawks have more players drafted under Brad Childress, who never coached for the team, than were drafted under Mike Holmgren, who coached the team for nine seasons. This is Pete Carroll's team, in other words, and the chart shows to what extent.

Percy Harvin, Sidney Rice and Tarvaris Jackson are the Seattle players drafted under Childress, the former Minnesota Vikings coach. Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant are the current Seahawks left over from the Holmgren era.

Rosters will go through another round of changes when teams reduce from 90 to 53 players on Aug. 31. In the meantime, I've updated and made available for download my 26-column rosters for each NFC West team.


The second chart shows roster counts by position for each team.

The Arizona Cardinals have added three offensive linemen and two defensive linemen since early June, headlined by the free-agent signings of Eric Winston and John Abraham. They've dropped two at wide receiver (notably Ryan Swope), one at linebacker (O'Brien Schofield), and one at running back over the same span. Coach Bruce Arians recently indicated the team does not plan to add a running back despite injuries at the position. That suggests the team isn't worried about Rashard Mendenhall, who has missed time recently.

Camp Confidential: Seattle Seahawks

July, 30, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- This training camp marks the Seattle Seahawks' first since 2009 without some form of a starting quarterback competition. So comfortable, mature and in command is Russell Wilson this summer that you'd swear he's been the starter for a decade.

It's sometimes as though Wilson is 24 years old going on 42.

Wilson naturally took the driver's seat in the van Seattle players used when shuttling to the offseason practices Wilson organized in Los Angeles. While teammates joked around in the back like kids on a field trip, Wilson was their chaperone.

Asked during this camp what he knew of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from their time together shooting a commercial and appearing at the ESPYS, Wilson, nearly 13 months Kaepernick's junior, described his rival as someone who loves football and is a good person to be around.

"Great kid," Wilson added.

Reporters can forget about prying a colorful quote from the player teammates have nicknamed "the robot" for his methodical approach to the job. Wilson has been known to favor coachspeak even inside Seattle's quarterback meeting room.

"We joke around all the time," backup Brady Quinn said. "There are some times when he'll state the obvious. We try to make sure he realizes that is a given. Like, for example, 'Hey man, guys gotta stay healthy this year.' Well, yeah. They always need to stay healthy. That's a big part of a team doing well, people not getting hurt. Times like that, you've gotta keep him on his toes, make him laugh a little bit, give him a hard time."

One year after Wilson won a three-way competition against Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson, the player receiver Sidney Rice sometimes calls "the president" is running unopposed at this Seahawks camp.

"He's a champion when he steps out there on that field, even in practice," Rice said. "I’ve seen him run, I believe, 80 yards on one play on a scramble to try to get away and get us a first down. He is going to do whatever it takes. You have seen him running down the sideline blocking for Marshawn [Lynch] numerous times. That is the kind of guy you want leading your team."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe Vikings aren't sure what to expect from their former receiver, Percy Harvin, who is expected to be in Seattle's lineup on Sunday.
1. Percy Harvin's health. The Seahawks were already a good team before they acquired Harvin. They became a popular pick for the Super Bowl once the versatile receiver and return specialist joined their roster in March. Now, with Harvin seeking a second opinion that could lead to season-altering surgery on his sore hip, those projections seem a little more tenuous.

How Harvin will proceed from here is not clear. His sometimes rocky past in Minnesota invites questions and fuels his critics. Is he smartly erring on the side of caution, as coach Pete Carroll seemed to suggest in initial remarks about the injury? Or, is this another one of those tough-to-explain Harvin plot twists like the ones that seemed to pop up regularly during his Minnesota tenure? With Harvin set to seek that second opinion Tuesday, Carroll noted that safety Kam Chancellor played through a similar injury last season. Was he saying Harvin should do the same?

"Guys around here trust [Harvin] and believe in him," Rice said. "It's nothing like coming out here and taking days off and doing his own thing. I don’t think he’s that type of person. You get that perception from people that don’t really know what's going on, and they just hear stuff and they just create their own [impression]."

Harvin is, by all accounts, plenty tough and competitive. If this is an injury Harvin can manage, it appears he'll do so on his terms, not on the Seahawks' terms. That surely wouldn't surprise the Vikings, even though Rice, himself an ex-Viking, said his teammate is misunderstood.

2. Bruce Irvin's position. There has been some confusion, at least on my end, regarding the role Seattle envisions for 2012 first-round draft choice Irvin. The team drafted Irvin with plans to use him initially as a situational pass-rusher, and later as the successor to Chris Clemons in the "Leo" position as a stand-up rusher in Carroll's defense.

Irvin collected eight sacks as a rookie in the situational role, as planned. He'll continue to play that role within the nickel defense while adding responsibilities as an outside linebacker in base packages. It's not so much that Irvin will be playing the strong side or weak side. Rather, he'll be one of two outside linebackers positioned on the line of scrimmage in what will look like a 3-4 scheme. He'll be asked to set the edge in the running game, rush the passer, match up man-to-man or cover the flat.

First, though, Irvin will have to serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

3. Depth on the offensive line. The Seahawks drafted offensive lineman James Carpenter 25th overall in 2011 when they could have taken a quarterback such as Andy Dalton or Kaepernick. Finding Wilson a year later absolved the team from second-guessing on the quarterback front, but the Carpenter selection was still looking like a regrettable one heading into this camp. Injuries were threatening Carpenter's career, and he wasn't exactly dominant even when healthy in his rookie season.

Perceptions are beginning to change after Carpenter reported to camp in good enough shape to participate fully from the beginning. I noticed Carpenter running from one drill to the next when he could have jogged. It seemed like evidence Carpenter was feeling good and was eager to salvage his career. He's been working with the starting unit at left guard between Pro Bowlers Russell Okung and Max Unger. Adding a healthy Carpenter to the mix would upgrade the line's longer-term prospects.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

Seattle has one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, best running backs and best defenses. That's a winning combination just about every time. Last season, Wilson struggled through his first few games while hamstrung by remedial game plans. He did not start to hit his stride until Week 8 at Detroit. Wilson did not break out all the way until leading 97- and 80-yard touchdown drives to win at Chicago in Week 13. That's the quarterback Seattle will have behind center from the beginning this season. That is why the Seahawks like their chances.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

Potential depth issues at tight end, offensive tackle, weakside linebacker and defensive end (for now, while Clemons rehabs and Irvin faces a suspension) probably aren't serious enough to send the Seahawks plummeting into mediocrity. However, the margin for error within the NFC West figures to be small. Harvin, at his best, was supposed to put Seattle over the top. Now, the Seahawks can't be sure they'll have him for the regular season.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeRed Bryant
    Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsRed Bryant, who had treatment for sleep apnea this offseason, says he has better stamina in practices.

  • Defensive end Red Bryant appears more comfortable, for good reason. Bryant had treatment for sleep apnea this offseason after former trainer Sam Ramsden, now the Seahawks' director of player health and performance, recommended testing for larger players. Bryant, who wears a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask when he sleeps, says he's feeling refreshed and has better stamina later in practices. This is a pivotal season for Bryant, who struggled with a foot injury last season after signing a $35 million extension. At Carroll's suggestion, Bryant has recommitted to his identity as a dominant run-stuffer after feeling pressure to improve as a pass-rusher upon signing his new contract.
  • Rookie fourth-round receiver Chris Harper didn't seem to be a factor in the first couple days of camp. The first time I really noticed him was when he caught a touchdown pass on the third day of practice. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was also the first day this summer that the Seahawks practiced in pads. Harper, oddly proportioned for a receiver at 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds, relishes the physical part of the game. Some young receivers flourish in shorts and struggle in pads. Harper might have it the other way around.
  • The Seahawks claimed off waivers former Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield despite a $1.3 million salary and a history of injuries. Seattle had a middle-rounds grade on Schofield entering the 2010 draft even though Schofield was rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in Senior Bowl practices. The Cardinals used a fourth-round pick on Schofield just ahead of the range where Seattle was considering taking him. The Seahawks are continually looking for "Leo" defensive ends in the 6-3 and 245-pound mold. Schofield, 26, fits the profile and has a chance to earn playing time in a rotational capacity while Clemons recovers from knee surgery and Irvin serves a suspension.
  • Irvin's speed showed up in practice when he chased down rookie running back Christine Michael to force a fumble some 40 yards past the line of scrimmage. Michael ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the combine. He has appeared to be one of the more explosive players in camp. Irvin caught him despite outweighing Michael by about 25 pounds, 245 to 220. Raw speed isn't the question for Irvin. He has plenty. The question is whether he can handle some of the coverage and run-stopping responsibilities associated with his evolving role.
  • Remember those offseason stories about Lynch skipping chunks of the voluntary offseason conditioning program? They're pretty much irrelevant now, as anticipated.
  • Nothing has changed the perception that Jackson will beat out Quinn for the No. 2 job behind Wilson. Trading Jackson a year ago was tough in some respects because Jackson was so popular among teammates. I see no reason for the Seahawks to make the same decision again unless Quinn vastly outplays Jackson.
  • Between the practice field and the locker room sits a cart with a laptop connected to a sensor atop a stand. The setup from GPSports allows teams to monitor player performance in real time. Team owner Paul Allen's other professional Seattle sports team, Sounders FC, has used the technology. The GPSports website says systems include a GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer, heart rate sensor and a wireless transmitter. The company says its product can "accurately measure distance, speed, acceleration, heart rate, bodyload and impacts all in real time."
  • Former Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams is doing what he sometimes did while with Arizona: impressing during camp by making spectacular leaping catches. Williams has the talent, but he has been unable to make it transfer to the regular season. Working with a top NFL quarterback cannot hurt. Williams arrived in Arizona the year after Kurt Warner retired.
  • Linebacker K.J. Wright has stood out in past camps, but not so much in this one, except for the big hit he delivered on rookie fullback Spencer Ware.
  • Speaking of Ware, he has some work to do before making veteran fullback Michael Robinson expendable, at least from early indications. The offense didn't look the same or as good with Robinson and tight end Zach Miller sitting out. Robinson and Lynch have a special feel for one another. Ware, more of a halfback type for most of his college career, has dropped a few passes and is still adjusting to the physical nature of the position.
  • The offseason buzz about rookie Jesse Williams possibly starting at defensive tackle seems to have subsided for the time being. Veteran Tony McDaniel and 2012 fourth-rounder Jaye Howard have stood out more.
  • Is that really assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable? He has dropped a significant amount of weight since having back surgery, and he said after one practice, "You can’t imagine how nothing hurts on me. It’s awesome."
  • Richard Sherman, although sometimes combative when facing receivers, projects unfiltered joy other times. He is the player most likely to groove along to the music Carroll plays at practice. Sherman thrilled the crowd during one practice when he picked off a pass and lateraled to Earl Thomas during the return. Football is fun to Sherman, and it shows.
  • There aren't many open passing lanes in practice against the Seattle defense. This team is stacked at cornerback. If this keeps up in preseason, and there's enough depth that it should, Seattle could be in position to trade one of its backups.
Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung didn't need to run with the bulls through the streets of Pamplona to prove he'd overcome injury fears from earlier in his career.

Okung did it anyway, though, and with no regrets.

"You hear this big shot go off and the bulls are on their way," he said during a phone interview Monday. "Before you know it, every plan you had, every strategy you had is out the window. You are running for your life."

[+] EnlargeRussell Okung and agent Peter Schaffer
Courtesy of Peter Schaffer and Russell Okung"You get to show your courage," said Russell Okung, pictured with agent Peter Schaffer. "We definitely did that. Those bulls are some big animals."
The fourth-year pro, named a Pro Bowl starter last season, compared the experience to pass blocking on third-and-long, except with potentially fatal consequences. Fifteen participants have died over the past century.

"There was a thickness in the air and it was really electric," Okung said of the pre-run atmosphere. "There were people jumping around and singing and yelling. You hear this big shot go off and the bulls are on their way. ... It's almost a surreal feeling to get there."

Okung and his agent, Peter Schaffer, said officials twice tried to disqualify them, presumably because they were wearing cameras on their shirts. Each time, Okung and Schaffer sneaked back in, knowing they couldn't go all the way to Spain without following through.

"I give Russ a lot of credit," Schaffer said. "I've been in the business 25 years and haven't gotten a request to go to Pamplona. It's one of those things you think would be cool to do, but never think to implement it."

I asked Okung whether he'd taken out any additional insurance policies.

"Besides praying, no," he said.

Is the experience as risky as it sounds?

"Yes, it is," he said.

Okung said he also hopes to swim in Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls in Zambia, where visitors can swim to the edge of a giant waterfall.

"I really want to get the most out of life," Okung said.

Okung earns more than $8 million per season under terms of his contract with the Seahawks. Suffering an injury running with animals weighing more than 1,000 pounds would qualify as a non-football injury in the extreme. Okung knows he'd face criticism for his choices if he suffered a serious injury playing basketball or another sport, let alone running with beasts three or more times the weight of Red Bryant, the biggest defensive lineman Okung faces in practice.

"You get to show your courage," Okung said. "We definitely did that. Those bulls are some big animals."
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Courtney Upshaw is in the news after his coach, John Harbaugh, suggested Upshaw needed to cut weight by improving his diet.

"Courtney eats too much and he doesn't eat all the right foods," Harbaugh said.

Colleague Dan Graziano and I had some fun with the subject in the video above.

Separately, I've put together a chart ranking current NFC West players by heaviest listed weights, according to the teams' websites. Listed weights aren't always accurate. Years ago, I recall seeing a 330-pound defensive tackle listed at 285 pounds in the team's media guide (the player's wishes apparently carried considerable weight -- some 45 pounds -- with the public relations staff).

St. Louis Rams undrafted rookie Terrell Brown made headlines recently for topping 400 pounds. He stands 6-foot-10 and was initially listed at 385 pounds, but coach Jeff Fisher said Brown's actual weight is 403 pounds.

Just missing the cut in the chart: Levi Brown (324), Chilo Rachal (323), Anthony Davis (323), Red Bryant (323), Michael Brockers (322) and James Carpenter (321). Fifty-seven others are listed between 300 and 320 pounds.

All of those players are linemen. Seattle Seahawks tight end Darren Fells (281) is the only non-lineman listed at heavier than 268 pounds.
Bruce Irvin's suspension from the Seattle Seahawks for the first four games of the 2013 NFL season will force additional shuffling early in the season.

The team was already expected to be without starting defensive end Chris Clemons, who is recovering from knee surgery and could miss part of the season. Backup defensive end Greg Scruggs could miss the full season after suffering a knee injury more recently.



Seattle was already expected to alter its rotation after adding Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel through free agency, plus defensive tackles Jordan Hill and Jesse Williams through the draft.

Veteran linemen on the Seahawks' roster combined for 43.5 sacks last season. Clemons (11.5), Irvin (8.5) and Scruggs (2.0) combined for 21.5 of them, or 49.4 percent. At least two and probably all three won't play early in the season.

Seattle's veteran defensive linemen combined to play 4,767 snaps for their teams last season. Players responsible for playing 3,317 of those snaps -- 69.6 percent -- remain available.

The picture changes if we consider only the three players best suited to fill the "Leo" defensive end position in coach Pete Carroll's defense. Avril, Clemons and Irvin are those three players. Clemons and Irvin combined to play about two-thirds of those snaps. The team doesn't necessarily have to play defense exactly the way it played defense last season. At this rate, that might not be an option, anyway.

Seattle's current defensive linemen combined for 16 sacks on third down last season. The currently unavailable Irvin (5.5), Clemons (4.5) and Scruggs (1.0) combined for 11 of them. Bennett (3.0) and Avril (2.0) had the other five.

Eight in the Box: Key offseasons

May, 10, 2013
5/10/13
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NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at a key player from each NFC West team who needs to show something in offseason sessions:

Arizona Cardinals: Inside linebacker Daryl Washington is an easy choice. The Cardinals expected to build around Washington, Calais Campbell and Patrick Peterson on defense. Washington has become the weak link in that chain after incurring a four-game suspension for substance abuse and assault charges stemming from an incident that allegedly left the mother of his child with a broken clavicle. Washington cannot undo what has been done. All he can do is work hard, stay out of trouble and begin to repair his reputation inside and outside the organization.

San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers' first-round pick from 2012, receiver A.J. Jenkins, has reportedly focused on gaining needed strength after making zero impact in games last season. The next step is making a positive statement through his play at organized team activities, minicamps and training camp. Here is what 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said about Jenkins when the team drafted him: "I defy anybody to look at that tape and tell me that there's something wrong with it, that there's something that he doesn't do well." Here is what Harbaugh said when asked about Jenkins at the team's 2012 rookie camp a few weeks later: "I think that whole group of receivers really looked good. Out of shape, that's the bad news. Good news is that it's a very talented group of those young receivers. You could tell that right away. But the bad news is we've got to get them in shape. I don't know exactly what all these guys have been doing in the last six months." By June, Harbaugh was lauding Jenkins' conditioning, speed and route running. Compliments are nice. The proof this offseason will be in whether Jenkins earns a meaningful spot in the receiving rotation.

St. Louis Rams: Brian Quick, like Jenkins, is a highly drafted second-year receiver looking to make a greater impact in 2013. Jenkins was the 30th overall pick and a player the Rams also liked very much. Quick was the 33rd overall pick and a player the Rams compared to Terrell Owens from a physical standpoint. Scouting reports suggested Quick might need a season to absorb the NFL game as a relatively raw talent from Appalachian State. Quick finished his rookie season with 11 receptions for 156 yards and two touchdowns. Fifteen drafted rookie wide receivers had more receptions. Fourteen had more receiving yards. Eight had more receiving touchdowns. Seventeen played more offensive snaps. Quick should be ready to take a big step forward now that he has as much or more experience in the offense than any wideout on the roster. That should become apparent through various offseason camps.

Seattle Seahawks: Veteran defensive end Red Bryant is already a proven force on the Seahawks' defensive line. Re-establishing himself from health and physical conditioning standpoints should be a priority this offseason. We should get a feel for where Bryant stands on these fronts by watching him move at offseason practices. Bryant played through a foot injury last season. He had trouble moving laterally and his game obviously suffered. Last offseason, the Seahawks gave Bryant a contract worth $7 million per season. This offseason, they need to know Bryant is doing everything he can to bounce back in 2013. They need to know he's in good shape for a huge man.

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