Thursday, July 25, 2013
RENTON, Wash. — In their continual search for motivation, athletes often talk of feeling overlooked or not getting enough respect.
But when the Seahawks begin the 2013 season today with the opening of training camp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, they can hardly complain about a lack of attention.
Fitting a season that is as anticipated as any in team history, the Seahawks seem to be everywhere as practices finally get under way.
Wednesday, for instance, brought the new issue of Sports Illustrated with Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman on the cover and the subject of a lengthy profile inside. Sherman is even writing a column for the magazine’s MMQB.com site.
Next to that magazine on the newsstands are plenty of others touting the potential of the Seahawks this season.
The Sporting News Pro Football Preview, for instance, picks Seattle to beat Denver in the Super Bowl (defeating San Francisco and Green Bay in home playoff games along the way, about as delicious a road as possible) and tabs Russell Wilson as its Offensive MVP.
And Wilson, Sherman and safety Earl Thomas have seemingly been on TV somewhere just about every day, be it the NFL Network or ESPN or somewhere else.
That all leads to the obvious question: Can the Seahawks handle the hype?
The team’s coaches and players, as you’d expect, think the Seahawks can.
Coach Pete Carroll said in May, in an answer about dealing with all the attention that comes with high expectations, “hopefully we created a roster that can do that.’’
On a team that ultimately will feature 53 names, every player might handle it a little differently.
A common theme of some of the leaders in the spring, though, was to simply tune out the hype and concentrate on the task.
“I just ignore the noise,’’ Wilson said. “I’ve said that so many times. I’ve got so much more to do. I can’t pay any attention to it. I think the biggest thing is how much more can I grow and how much more can our football team grow?’’
Receiver Percy Harvin, whose addition intensified the expectations, spoke similarly.
“We really don’t care (what outsiders say),’’ he said. “Coach said we’ve got a lot of hype, but he also said let’s make it natural. Everybody around here expects us to win and things like that, but we expect ourselves to win, too. … With a good team comes a lot of talk, but we put that behind us.’’
Still, that can sometimes be easier said than done.
Much of what excites Seattle fans about the team is a roster filled with youth that seems equipped to contend for the long-term. In May, ESPN.com rated the projected starting rosters for every team and concluded Seattle would have the fourth-youngest in the NFL.
Some have wondered if youth, though, also means a team that might not be mature enough to handle all that will come its way.
When Bruce Irvin was suspended in May for the first four games of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs — the fifth Seahawk suspended since 2011 — talk of Seattle’s immaturity grew louder.
That led to a player meeting called by some of the team’s veterans to head off any issues. Carroll also responded with a long statement after one May practice in which he said “we have a lot of challenges coming up and it’s not easy. But we’ll find out what our commitment is and how close we can stay and how directed we can be to take this as far as we can.’’
Handling the hype, though, is far from Seattle’s only issue as training camp begins.
There is concern about improving a pass rush that was eighth in the NFC last year and might have been the biggest cause for blame for the playoff loss to Atlanta. There are depth questions at tight end and guard. And questions about whether Wilson could fall victim to a “sophomore slump.’’
Asked about that in June, Wilson shrugged it off.
“I don’t even know those words (sophomore slump),’’ he said. “I don’t pay attention to it. I think the biggest thing is just focusing on tomorrow, focusing on the day. … Stay in the moment, stay in the now.’’
With the hope that maybe, eventually, “now’’ becomes Super Bowl 48 in New Jersey on Feb. 2.