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 Seattle Seahawks Team Analysis:

INSIDE SLANT
Only one team is worried about Seattle Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas missing Super Bowl XLIX with a dislocated shoulder. It's not his team.

"He comes to walk-through with his mouthpiece in," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said Wednesday. "He wants to feel like it is game day. Those are the little things nobody probably knows about. His intensity level doesn't change."

The New England Patriots are expecting Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman, who injured his elbow in the NFC Championship Game, to be on the field with the Seahawks' No. 1 defense.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady called Thomas "a phenomenal player. He covers a lot of ground. He's so rangy back there. He's got great field vision. He does a great job. He's a very disciplined player in his assignments. He does a great job reading the quarterback. I'm conscious of that. You can't just look at exactly where you're going to throw it, just fire it in there and see if he can make the play, because he's proven time and time again that he can make those plays.

"Kam (Chancellor) is a phenomenal player, too. He is an imposing presence. There are some times that he's free in the middle of the field and he's just looking at the quarterback and trying to go in there and blow something up. Those two guys really set the tone."

The Patriots took to the practice field in Tempe on Wednesday hoping to simulate Thomas' style of play, which drew comparisons to former Eagles and Broncos safety Brian Dawkins and former Ravens and Jets safety Ed Reed.

"ET (Earl Thomas) in specific, he's a huge factor for us. He totally is, just by the way he plays," Quinn said of Thomas' integral role in the cover-3 scheme that amplifies the role of safeties in the back end of the defense. "He's such a relentless competitor. You have to go back and look at it, but after he dislocated his shoulder, he came back and hit (Packers running back Eddie) Lacy as hard as he could with the same shoulder. I think that play sums up his intensity because the natural thing would be, 'OK, I'm going to hit this dude with my other shoulder.' It was just the opposite. It was, 'I'm going to stay true to who I am.' He's such a unique guy. ... If 10 is the high, he's an 11."

The Patriots are dissecting as much film of the Seahawks' defensive backfield as they can consume. Repeatedly, the secondary group tagged the "Legion of Boom" is standing out. Especially No. 29, Thomas, the 25-year-old All-Pro safety with cornerback speed who hits like a missile.

Instincts and football acumen are traits the Patriots will not be able to simulate in three full practices in Arizona, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels told The Sports Xchange on Wednesday.

"You'd almost have to tell the (scout team safety) where the play is going to go and then say, 'All right, go there,'" McDaniels said. "He impacts almost everything you do -- running game, passing game, deep throws, short throws. He senses how close the rush is, and then he's going to go. He sees it. He reads patterns well, senses the rush and he's willing to take the chance.

"Those are the guys -- when they take chances and they're always right -- those are the guys who are the scariest to play against. Earl is a unique guy. He's very difficult to prepare for. You can tell how intelligent he is because he knows what play is coming a lot of the time and gets an even bigger jump. He's a violent hitter for a smaller safety, as big a hitter as we've played."

In a twist of irony, McDaniels is partially responsible for Thomas landing with the Seahawks. In the 2009 draft, as coach of the Denver Broncos with final say in personnel matters, McDaniels traded a 2010 first-round pick for an extra pick in the second round in 2009. He spent that pick on cornerback Alphonso Smith, who is out of the NFL after being drafted 37th overall.

The first-rounder in 2010, which turned out to be 14th overall, was used by the Seahawks to select Thomas.

Strong safety Kam Chancellor expects Thomas to have his entire game intact even if his shoulder is not, calling it a "mind over matter" challenge the team believes Thomas will ace.

"The speed that he plays with, his mindset to go after the ball, he's one of the most respected players around," Quinn said. "His intensity just does not stop. You feel his focus all the time. Some people can sustain it.

"(Thomas' shoulder) injury doesn't even cross my mind. That's a competitor."

For the next three days, Thomas is the Seahawks' problem in the sense that quarterback Russell Wilson will have to solve the talented free safety to come out ahead in Competition Wednesday and Turnover Thursday.

"He's the best in the league. It makes a difference for me," Wilson said.

Come Sunday, Thomas plans to be the Patriots' problem.

"You have to prepare, visualize and understand that your body is not 100 percent," Thomas said. "At the same time, there's so much out there."



--The delivery of the message can get a bit nauseating to some, but the track record thus far is undeniable.

On Sunday, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson will attempt to win his second Super Bowl title in just three NFL seasons. As a rookie, he led the Seahawks to the brink of an NFC Championship Game appearance before a late defensive breakdown.

Pretty heady stuff for a 5-foot-11 third-round draft pick who entered his first training camp third on the depth chart.

"I visualize success every day," Wilson said Wednesday, although it's a quote that could be pulled from most any press conference he has held over the past three seasons.

There is an impressive cupboard about Wilson that is unique, intangible traits that have led him to the precipice of what could prove to be a truly extraordinary NFL career when all is said and done.

Great athlete. Unquestioned leader. Well-spoken motivator who visits terminally ill children every week and speaks eloquently about his faith.

The package is squeaky clean -- put it into the "almost too good to be true" category. Even his divorce last offseason did not cause much of a stir despite his strong religious beliefs -- speaking to the respect he is given by the media at such an early stage of his career, and perhaps as equally to Seattle's geographic isolation outside of Super Bowl week.

At the same time, there is a distinct persona that is being crafted. A charismatic, passionate football player who is also working on a well-tailored image?

Speaking at the team's headquarters at the Arizona Grand resort Wednesday, Wilson paused mid-sentence when he mentioned the "football league" in an answer. He paused, rewound the answer and corrected it to "the National Football League" before moving on.

The oversight of a singular mention the NFL brand name clearly did not sit well in Wilson's mind.

We're not suggesting it was an image play, although Wilson does have a penchant for turning questions about most any subject into an opportunity to explain how humble, grateful and blessed he is.

Can't argue about the content of the message. If Marshawn Lynch could spit out cliches with such an easy delivery, the NFL would take its hand off the big red easy fine button.

More to the point, it's Wilson's attention to detail and the true love of the game that oozes from his every word. It's what gets his teammates to keep fighting when down two touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game, even if they're not scheduling offseason vacations together.

"I said it our rookie year. It already felt like he's been in the league for 13 years or so, just how he handles himself and his maturity," said Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse. "It's a lot of fun, just his ability to extend plays. He's a playmaker. He's a great leader out there, and it's fun to play for guys like that."

Wilson admires counterpart Tom Brady, and envisions a 20-year NFL career that helps him use football as a conduit to help others. He famously greets head coach Pete Carroll at the team's facility the day after a loss to review film. The work ethic is what separates Wilson, and why he's the exception to the rule when it comes to sub-six-foot quarterbacks realizing great success in the NFL.

"It is so much fun," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said of working with Wilson. "Not only because of the skill set that he has and what he is able to bring, but because of who he is. He is a great guy to be around each and every day. He is such a hard worker and it is important to him. He wants to be the best who has ever done it, and he doesn't just say it. He goes about it in his everyday preparations to be able to make that happen."

Johnny Manziel he is not. There are no selfies in Vegas. No altercations with possies. A game-winning touchdown throw in overtime to reach the Super Bowl elicited true tears rather than gestures of money signs.

A friend of mine in the Seattle area has had the opportunity to work with Wilson in a marketing capacity. His takeaway was a genuine individual who is absolutely focused on the task at hand in that exact moment -- an almost eerie ability to compartmentalize.

On Sunday, Wilson will identify a spot inside of the University of Phoenix Stadium that he can focus on to "bring him back to zero" during the game. He has one in every stadium that Wilson goes to when he needs to re-set. It's all part of the plan.

"He never doubts. He has no doubt," said Kearse. "He leaves it all out on the field, and it's hard not to follow that. You see him on the sideline. He's always trying to keep everybody into it. He's a guy you just want to follow him and play for."

Whether the delivery of the message gets tiring to you or not, it's difficult to put a dent in the veneer. Wilson is quick to speak to the leadership of his teammates, to the motivation of head coach Pete Carroll and still finishes every press session with a "Go Hawks," which only continues to bolster his growing legend with the 12th Man.

But most important, he wins.

It's the ultimate trump card. It stands above 5-10. It quiets unnamed teammates claiming he's not "black enough." And it certainly forgives milquetoast press conferences.

"I don't know exactly how you are going to be able to rank him," said Bevell. "Where people will put him when the history books are written. But the bottom line is winning games, and that is what Russell does. At this point in time he is the winningest quarterback in the history of the league and if he is able to add Super Bowls he is going to have to be in that conversation



--Whenever Marshawn Lynch decides to leave the National Football League, one thing is for certain: It will be on his terms.

OK, two things.

He also won't pop up six months later as an analyst for the NFL Network, and he is not going to kick Jon Gruden out of the color role on "Monday Night Football" in this lifetime.

When and how Lynch hangs up his cleats is the simmering question for the Seattle Seahawks and their boisterous 12th-Man army that drowned out New England Patriots supporters at Media Day for Super Bowl XLIX on Tuesday.

Lynch showed up like a boxer arriving for a pre-fight weigh-in. He had back-slaps for friends he ran into on the floor, flashed a smile at the throng of reporters and then proceeded to say "I'm just here so I don't get fined" 29 times before exiting his podium seat at exactly the five-minute mark that satisfied his league-mandated obligation.

The scene encapsulated the dichotomy that is the man who embodies his "Beast Mode" moniker.

On a team full of super-sized personalities, the Seahawks' bruising running back is the enigmatic star. He guzzles Skittles like buttered popcorn, will sacrifice a paycheck to avoid talking to the media and has a penchant for grabbing his crotch at the end of a Richter scale-jarring touchdown run.

For Seahawks fans, the love affair with Lynch runs another level much deeper. On game days, "Beast Mode" themed party buses roll into parking lots, Lynch jerseys rival Russell Wilson threads and the 12th Man relishes the opportunity to kick-start a "Beast Quake."

Since Lynch was acquired in a midseason trade from the Buffalo Bills in 2010, he has been the driving force behind a run-oriented offense -- the yin to the Legion of Boom's yang. He accounted for 26.8 percent of Seattle's total yards from scrimmage this season.

"He's the best back in the game," Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said Tuesday. "He's going to run that ball, and he's going to run it hard."

Yet, it has been widely reported since last offseason's holdout that the Seahawks are likely to part ways with Lynch after the Super Bowl because of his $7 million salary for 2015.

The pending separation took on more steam amid the team's 3-3 start to the 2014 season, his frustration at good friend Percy Harvin being dealt to the New York Jets and reports of a crumbling relationship with coach Pete Carroll.

The Seahawks without Beast Mode is an unfathomable scenario for the team's fans, who greet each new report spawned from an unnamed source with a defiant snarl.

The reality is Lynch is a 28-year-old wrecking ball of a runner in a league where 29 is often the precipice of the cliff for featured backs. The team did not overreact to his holdout because Carroll wanted to limit his offseason work anyway, and Lynch missed practice time this season with hip, calf and back injuries. There is also the inevitable salary-cap strain that comes with consecutive trips to the Super Bowl, with Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner among those set for big offseason paydays.

"(Lynch is) one of the most competitive individuals I've ever been around," general manager John Schneider said. "The way we managed (the holdout) was we just accept it. You can never get into a person's heart or in their mind, you just have to adjust to what's happening. Whether he was going to show up or not show up we had to be able to move forward. We wanted him to show up.

"Same thing -- we hope he's playing next year and he is going to attack it like he always is. His teammates love him. He's a fun, jovial guy in the locker room. We want him around."

The Seahawks can't pay everyone All-Pro bucks -- but can anyone truly envision Robert Turbin and Christine Michael splitting the backfield role in Seattle next season? Wilson has the media charm, but Lynch is the heartbeat of the offense and Schneider is well aware that his quarterback could be exposed minus a true lead back.

"I wouldn't want to imagine what our offense would look like without him," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.

With Seattle's run to the Super Bowl and Lynch once again powering the offense, the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported last week that the team is now prepared to work on a contract extension.

That would indicate the rumblings of off-field issues with the front office were greatly exaggerated, which would not shock anyone. Those reports came through the lens of the national media, which clamors for controversial topics and can't wrap its head around Lynch's mercurial personality.

National radio host Dan Patrick has bristled all season at Lynch's treatment of the media, couching it as an affront to a fan base that wants to hear from its star running back.

That is a gross misunderstanding of the 12th Man.

A blue-collar fan base that has long bristled at the notion of being South Alaska to the rest of the country resonates with Lynch's physical style and quietly defiant personality. They rush-order t-shirts out of his media session "quotes" -- remember "I'm all about that action boss" from last year's Super Bowl? -- couldn't care less if Lynch never answers a question about football and rush to his defense for every penny Roger Goodell takes out of his piggy bank, warranted or not.

Tired of Lynch's act? Hardly. The "12s" are galvanized by his personality and if Lynch grabs a bottle of Fireball during the next championship parade, that's all the fan interaction they clamor for.

By all accounts, Lynch is a great teammate, and his outspoken supporting cast is more than willing to fill the sound-bite void.

Asked if Lynch would say he's going to Disney World should he win game MVP honors Sunday, cornerback Richard Sherman said, "I don't know. He might say where he is really going, and it might not be Disney World."

We may not know where Lynch is going until his agent files retirement papers with the league.

It's a good bet Lynch won't be toiling in a reserve role with the Tennessee Titans at 33 years old so he can collect a paycheck and hang around the NFL scene. In fact, if Sunday proves to be his final game in a Seahawks uniform, it may be because he decided to walk away while he still can to kick it in retirement with his family back in Oakland.

Carroll and Schneider will huddle and chart their offseason course upon returning to the Northwest next week. They have teamed to build one of the league's youngest, deepest and most talented rosters. They know Lynch's role in the offense and in the locker room, and his unspoken connection with the fan base. They also know the tread on the tires is wearing thinner by the carry.

"He just takes great care of himself," Schneider said when asked about the shelf life of running backs. "Down in San Francisco, he works out hard. Every time he goes away and we haven't seen him for a while he comes back looking quicker than he was before. I have no idea -- I think the sky is the limit really."

It may be a drama that plays out deep into the offseason, but if Lynch wants to keep toting the rock, look for Schneider to find a two-year deal in the coffers.

Just don't hold your breath awaiting the press conference.



--Any debate on the best cornerback in the NFL is unlikely to be settled in Super Bowl XLIX.

Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and counterpart Darrelle Revis of the New England Patriots are All-Pros who travel with reputations. When quarterbacks Tom Brady and Russell Wilson scan the field Sunday, it's likely they'll keep on with their progression to the next receiver and not test either player.

"Just the ability to shut down your side, whatever side you're on," Revis said Tuesday at Media Day of what makes cornerbacks great. "Sherman, he plays left corner and he does great. He's great at what he does."

The Twitter tussle incited by Sherman two years ago, before he signed a $57 million deal with the Seahawks and landed on the All-Pro team, appears to be doused. Each player spoke respectfully about the other Tuesday, and Sherman had only kind words for Revis, in his first season with the Patriots.

"He's had a great year," Sherman said. "I'm sure people will make comparisons. They always do. But we play the game two different ways. He's plays it more meticulous and more conventional on his technique. Mine is more unorthodox. It's more difficult to replicate what I do on the football field. So it's two different styles to compare. I play my way and he plays his way and both of them are effective."

The numbers don't lead to an undisputed answer to the cornerback question.

In 2014, Sherman had five interceptions and allowed one touchdown.

Revis had two interceptions and gave up two scores.

According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks completed 47.1 percent of their passes intended for receivers covered by Sherman. And with Revis in coverage, 47.8 percent.

Revis said he respects the many opinions, but he prefers to discuss tiers of top cornerbacks, naming Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals, Joe Haden of the Cleveland Browns, Aqib Talib of the Denver Broncos and Sherman among "the great guys playing so well. We're a group. We're a DB group."

In one meeting between the Legion of Boom and Brady, the Patriots completed 3 of 10 passes in Sherman's coverage area, including a touchdown.

That game ended with a sullen Brady being encountered after the 24-23 loss by the loquacious Sherman -- who claimed Brady called him and safety Earl Thomas nobodies before the game -- yelling from close range "You mad, bro?"

Brady said with 65-80 plays left in the season, the Patriots are working to make the quickest, best decision. With a varied front, Brady said there is not always time to determine the right read and execute to perfect.

"They don't give up anything easy, I'll tell you that," he said. "I think that's a challenge and everything has to be coordinated so well. You need great distributions in your patterns, you've got to make great decisions. It's a very disciplined defense."

So effective is Sherman that the Green Bay Packers did not attempt one pass to his side of the field in their first meeting in September. In the rematch, Sherman intercepted quarterback Aaron Rodgers in the end zone. In the second half, clearly limited by a sprained elbow, Sherman was not thrown at one time.

"I'm not really knocking him on what he does," Revis said. "He's a playmaker and that's what he does for his team."

Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse said the top cornerback debate is too close to call.

"Revis is a little more physical at the line," Kearse said. "Sherman has a lot of length, he's a long guy. He's able to play the back hip and still play the deep ball because of the length of his arms. Revis is good at the line. He's got quick feet and is in and out of his break. They're pretty similar but different."

Some view Revis as the best cornerback because he is given the literal lockdown role by coach Bill Belichick. Whereas Sherman always aligns on the left side of the defensive formation, Revis has been used on No. 1 receivers consistently this season, wherever that receiver lines up. He was not assigned to Colts Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton in the AFC Championship, but that is the exception.

"Reve has been a guy that can take on any guy any week," Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. "Doesn't matter short, quick guy, a big long stride, guy being a guy that can just go play someone, it doesn't matter what the receiver is."

Revis said Tuesday that he considers Deion Sanders the best cornerback in the NFL -- though Sanders, a retired Hall of Famer, was working the mic at media day and no longer bumps receivers for a living. Sherman was not so diplomatic when asked if he is the best cornerback in football.

It was different in February 2013, when Revis reached a boiling point with Sherman taking to national television shows to compare himself to Revis.

"I never seen a man before run his mouth so much like girl. This dude just steady putting my name in his mouth to get notoriety @rsherman_25," Revis wrote via Twitter, and followed with "Sit down young pup & wait your turn."

Sherman, who was the league leader in interceptions (12) and passes defensed (34) in his first two seasons in the NFL, went to the scoreboard.

"@Revis24 one season u will get 8 picks.... But it won't happen anytime soon... I did it in my 2nd season... So u have something to chase," Sherman wrote.

The thawing of the relationship came when cornerback Brandon Browner signed as a free agent with the Patriots in the offseason, leaving the city of Seattle but not necessarily the Legion of Boom he said is still a lasting brotherhood. The "LOB" tattoo Browner has is symbolic of what he considers permanent friendships.

Browner helped Revis and Sherman settle any differences, perceived or real, and Sherman said they've talked a few times this season.

One of the challenges so-called shutdown cornerbacks discuss is maintaining focus when it becomes clear opponents have no intention of throwing the ball in their.

"It comes down to respect," Revis said. "I study a lot of film. I do my own assessment of offenses and quarterbacks. You've still got to give them that respect."

Modesty comes in small portions with Sherman, who might be bragging, but he is more than backing it up on the field. So will he be the best cornerback on the field Sunday?

"I don't know anybody who would say otherwise," Sherman said.



--Pete Carroll had a mission when he took over as coach of the Seattle Seahawks in 2010 -- to prove that his large-and-in-charge coaching model could work in the NFL. It was not the way things operated during his three years in New England.

"This is a football game we play," Carroll said Monday. "There is a business that goes along with it, but the football, I think, has to be run by football people. I thought this was an extraordinary opportunity from the day that I arrived in Seattle to prove that. We've set out to kind of show that this is the way organizations can be run.

"Look where we are. This has been the best format for me. Maybe it isn't for other people, but it is for me."

After two seasons of building, Seattle has three consecutive years of double-digit victories and will make a repeat Super Bowl appearance Sunday against the New England Patriots, the first team since the Patriots in the 2003-04 seasons to do that.

Officially, Carroll is the executive vice president in charge of football operations, and to best understand his pull and power, he was hired eight days before general manager John Schneider joined the team in January 2010.

After being fired in New England in 1999 despite no losing seasons in three years, Carroll found his niche at USC, where the Trojans won two national championships and were named Sports Illustrated's team of the decade for the 2000s.

The contrast in job responsibilities at his NFL stops bracketing USC is striking -- "entirely different," he said.

The Seahawks' job description "really came of the years at SC, where we had an athletic director and the football head," Carroll said. "I had the opportunity there to make every decision, from recruiting, academics to everything. Responsible for all of that. I felt like that was really an opportunity for me to be at my best.

"When this opportunity came here, it was expressed and clearly laid out that I could have the same type of responsibility and the same kind of approach. It's been really instrumental, because the way we do things is not the way a lot of other people do things.

"It's done our way. We have our own language, our own control, our own decision-making process. I think it has made all the difference in the world. It's what every coach needs, I think, to be at his best. The format and structure that is generally accepted in the league is not that. I understand why."

Since dismissing Carroll, Patriots owner Robert Kraft seemingly has come to embrace that style as well. Bill Belichick, who replaced Carroll, is seen as the man who controls everything football in New England.

Carroll said he made that point with Kraft after he left. Belichick was hired shortly thereafter.

"Robert and I had a terrific relationship, and I didn't hold back when we talked," Carroll said. "I had one opportunity to say something to him about that and I thought it was really a unique hire, a special hire, and a guy who would really fit in well if he let him do what he was capable of doing.

"Bill is a very open, free thinker and a guy who needs that kind of control to be at his best. I don't know how they structured it, how they defined it, but it's worked, historically, in extraordinary fashion. They have made a great statement over the last 10 years. Robert has really grown as well, obviously."

NOTES, QUOTES
--Act like you have been there before.

A palpable change in demeanor washed over the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday. Gone were the colorful sunglasses and floppy hats, the jokes with international media dressed in superhero outfits and the general laid back atmosphere of Media Day was replaced by a far more business-like approach to the media availability at the team's hotel at the Arizona Grand.

It was "competition Wednesday," and time to kick-start the practice schedule leading up to Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday.

"This is finally the day we get into the week routine, practice-wise," coach Pete Carroll said. "It should feel very comfortable for the team."

Competition Wednesday is a central theme of the Seahawks' in-season weekly schedule, when the focus shifts away from the previous game -- and the media -- and returns to the on-field work.

"We focus on competing on this day. Not necessarily on the opponent, but this is really to leave what has happened before ... to put us on course for the week," Carroll said. "We keep score. Somebody is going to win, somebody is going to lose today."

When a reporter inquired about the late afternoon practices scheduled for Seattle, the ever-positive Carroll was quick to spin it to his team's advantage. The Seahawks are scheduled to practice at 4:29 p.m. local time Wednesday and Thursday, which mimic's Sunday's kickoff time.

"I think that's where our season is made, how we practice," said quarterback Russell Wilson.

The air of a team that has been there before is certainly present, limiting the headline-making quotes. So the most attention continues to be heaped on the star who says the least. A throng of media again descended on running back Marshawn Lynch, who stiff-armed the press yet again with a brief appearance dotted with a string of, "You know why I'm here."

Lynch's teammates have been left to defend him, but the front office does not appear concerned by any potential distraction created by Lynch's refusal to engage with the media. General manager John Schneider said on Tuesday that he "kind of loves" Lynch's act, and his head coach was blunt in his take on the media standoff.

"I think you're seeing a demonstration of a guy being himself and not being what everyone else wants him to be," Carroll said. "He's trying to do the best job he can of being him. Maybe you don't feel it's what he should be doing, but that's what's going on.

"He's an incredible team member, so this environment just isn't the one where you see him the way you want to see him."

In his short appearance in front of the media Wednesday, Lynch again donned the "Beast Mode" hat that reportedly has him in the crosshairs of yet another fine from the National Football League.

"Sometimes we focus on the little details that don't matter," said Wilson. "There's times that I don't think he should be fined, that's for sure. The guy loves the game. Sometimes people try to take certain things away from people."

--Schneider has acknowledged he expects there to be a strong market for cornerback Byron Maxwell in free agency, and the team is facing an offseason in which it must address extensions for Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.

"I honestly haven't thought anything about it," Wilson insisted about his pending contract negotiations. "I'm just blessed to be on this football team."

The prevailing wisdom is Wilson and Wagner are the priorities to lock up, but the team may be forced to part with Maxwell, among others. That will inevitably create opportunities for younger players such as second-year cornerback Tharold Simon, who could be in line to start opposite Richard Sherman next season.

"I'm going to be ready when (Maxwell) is gone," Simon said. "I might go with the loose jersey that he wears."

Simon missed his rookie season due to a foot injury and was back home in Louisiana when the Seahawks won their first Super Bowl over the Denver Broncos. He returned this season to emerge as a regular contributor in the Seahawks' secondary. There have been ups and downs, including getting beat for a pair of touchdowns against the Carolina Panthers in the wild-card round of the playoffs. But he considers himself a full-fledged member of the Legion of Boom.

"Oh yeah, definitely," he said. "I'm learning a lot from those guys."

Simon said he will return to Louisiana for about three weeks following the Super Bowl before returning to Seattle to begin his offseason work with Sherman and others.

--This time last year, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane was answering questions about being a key cog in the league's top-ranked defense. This year, he's off to the side, offering "an extra pair of eyes and ears" as he continues recovery from a torn hamstring muscle that landed him on injured reserve.

Mebane was cleared to begin core training work two weeks ago, but said he is not yet ready to ride a bike or run on a treadmill. Still, he expects to be ready for the offseason program and is not concerned about any long-term effects from the injury.

This week, his focus is on enjoying the experience and living a bit vicariously through the likes of Kevin Williams, a 12-year veteran preparing for his first Super Bowl who has been a vital part of the line rotation in Mebane's absence.

--They each play in the trenches, so being noticed often doesn't happen unless something bad occurs.

However, two perhaps unsung members of the Seattle Seahawks offensive and defensive lines have been a key factor in the club's return to the Super Bowl. And neither was part of the team that won in New Jersey last year over the Denver Broncos.

Defensive tackle Kevin Williams had just completed his 11th season with the Minnesota Vikings and was wondering where he would play the next season, or even if he would. Right tackle Justin Britt was preparing for the scouting combine after helping the University of Missouri advance to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game in the school's second season in the conference.

Little did they know they would end up being teammates and contribute significantly to the Seahawks' 12-4 regular season.

Williams didn't sign with the Seahawks until June 12, and said, "To be honest, I was enjoying the summer. Don't get me wrong; I wanted to play and figured the right call would come. But I also was comfortable knowing that if it's time to go home, it's time to go home. I wasn't scared to go home and be a daddy and be a husband."

But the call came from the Seahawks and also coincidentally the New England Patriots, but Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett steered him there.

Williams acknowledged, "He basically just said, 'Come on over. I have been watching you throughout your career and you do some great things. I think you really can help us and we are going to try to get back to the Super Bowl.' I don't think he lied to me. He sold me on the pitch."

Still, it was an adjustment for Williams, who had been to six Pro Bowls with the Vikings. There wasn't a starting job available and he had to accept the role given him.

As Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said of signing Williams, "That was a huge get. He's a terrific guy; we knew what we were going to get from the person. But, we told him, 'This will be a different role for you.' He was coming to where he wasn't going to be a starter and just be part of the rotation."

The 34-year-old Williams did just that for the first nine weeks of the season until nose tackle Brandon Mebane suffered a torn hamstring against the New York Giants on Nov. 9. Suddenly, it was time for Williams to step up.

As Quinn said, "He had played a lot of 3-technique, but then when Brandon got hurt, he came through for us in a huge way to step in and play nose tackle. He has been a huge impact."

Williams started the last seven games of the regular season as well as Seattle's two playoff games.

It's notable to recall the words of head coach Pete Carroll the day after Mebane was injured and the day before he was placed on injured reserve to end his season: "I mean, there is nobody like Mebane. He's a unique player. He's had, I think, the best season he's had since we've been here -- most consistent. So that's a big hit to take. But our guys that go in play good football, too, so we will expect them to play up and maintain the level."

Williams surely has, and now he finds himself on pro football's biggest stage. He said, "I was rotating everywhere. Now I'm locked into a spot and I can get a lot more comfortable doing it. But being here is definitely a blessing. You see so many guys that are great and get so many accolades but never get to this game. It's a blessing and it will be more of a blessing to win."

Concluded Quinn, "I have real appreciation for him; I'm happy he's going through this. In this profession where we all run across the good guys, I can say, that's a great dude. That's Kevin."

As for Britt, he has been entrenched as Seattle's starting right tackle all season after being selected in the second round of last year's draft. Not bad for a guy that most draft analysts pegged as anywhere from a fourth- to sixth-round pick.

But, as Seahawks assistant head coach and offensive line coach Tom Cable said, "We don't really care where we take guys or where people think we should take guys. He just fit all the things about being competitive and gritty and smart. We needed a guy at right tackle that we thought could transition and be bright enough to do that. He's been wonderful."

And what did you see in him? Cable added, "We did so much background work and he checked out. The character, his family, his background as a wrestler being undefeated, toughness, the program he came from with coach (Gary) Pinkel at Missouri. Everything just stacked up the right way."

Last year at the Scouting Combine, Britt was asked about facing then-South Carolina defensive tackle Jadeveon Clowney during the 2013 season, a game that Missouri lost, its only loss prior to falling to Auburn in the SEC title game. Britt wasn't bashful in his assessment.

"It was hard to lose a game like that and hard to feel really, really sad when, individually, you've played one of the best games you've played. It was kind of a love-hate relationship because I loved the way I played, but hated that we lost the way we did. It's never fun not to win, (but) I felt like that was a big confidence booster for me."

Cable admitted watching that tape helped him appreciate Britt as a player. "That's the one that convinced me," Cable said. "The athleticism was there and that the NFL wouldn't be too much of a challenge or wouldn't overwhelm him. He handled it beautifully."

Britt started 17 consecutive games, but then was inactive for the NFC Championship Game win over Green Bay because of a knee injury. He said he is fine now, practiced during the bye week and proclaimed himself ready for Sunday's game.

Reflecting on missing the game against the Packers, he said, "It was real tough. To be out with a knee problem that wasn't severe, it was heartbreaking. For the game to go down how it went, I wanted to be out there badly. But I'm back, I'm here, we're in Arizona, and I am grateful and thankful to have this opportunity to play one more time."

Like Williams, he also feels blessed. "I got put in the best situation at the right time. All the glory to God, I've been blessed. To be drafted by the Seattle Seahawks, to be starting every game, it's been fun. It's something that I'll remember for the rest of my life."

--Cornerback Richard Sherman came in late for interviews Sunday. He was wearing a hoodie for no particular reason since the interview session was under a roof.

Despite his reputation for flash, Sherman was subdued. He answered questions about the injury he received to his left arm in the Packers game but not how he ranks among NFL defensive backs.

"I don't measure myself," he said. "My game speaks for itself."

Asked if "Deflategate" made the Patriots villains, Sherman shook his head. "Nope," he answered. "There are no villains in this game."

No pressure, either, he implied.

"Pressure is created by the media," he said. "I don't think the Patriots feel any pressure, and we don't either."

--The temperature was 77 degrees outside, but Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson wore a leather jacket and scarf for his interview. Maybe the air conditioning worried him. The game apparently did not.

"We found ways to make plays," said Wilson, who threw four interceptions in the NFC Championship Game.

"This Super Bowl gives us a chance to be up there with the best in the game. Last year, we beat (Peyton) Manning, who some think is the best quarterback of all time. This Super Bowl, we have a chance to beat the second best."

That would be the Patriots' Tom Brady.

--Seattle defensive end Michael Bennett remains skeptical about "Deflategate."

"I think, I mean, I think it's all propaganda, man," Bennett said. "Just to get a chance to blow the game up, is all. Inflating the game right now. Just to make it even more ... than what it really is about. And it really is just about two great teams playing. I think a lot of people are shying away from that aspect of it."

Not the media, certainly.

"The Patriots are arguably one of the best teams of this decade," Bennett said, "and we're starting to -- trying to -- catch up to where they're at, to what they've done the last 10 years. And Bill Belichick is one of the best coaches of all time, so I think people are forgetting that.

"The coaches going and the players playing -- it's too much about the balls and stuff. Hopefully, everybody starts talking about the game again."

--Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, not surprisingly, wasn't among those in attendance for Sunday's media session.

"I admire him," Bennett said of Lynch refusing to answer questions with little more than "Thank you," if even that.

"He's guilty by association. That only happens to black players. I wish I didn't have to talk."

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
PLAYER NOTES

--T Justin Britt, who missed the NFC Championship Game because of a knee injury, practiced fully Wednesday in Arizona.

--RB Marshawn Lynch (back) practiced fully Wednesday.

--CB Richard Sherman (hyperextended elbow) worked regularly with the defense and made a leaping interception, extending both arms in the air to make it. With his elbow wrapped, Sherman didn't look affected by the injury suffered in the NFC title game 10 days ago.

--FS Earl Thomas (dislocated shoulder), also hurt in the title game against Green Bay, also showed no ill effects playing full time Wednesday.

--G J.R. Sweezy (ankle) took his turns with the first-unit offensive line and worked without any sort of limp, looking fit and not lagging behind in any drills.

WEDNESDAY POOL REPORT: With all 53 players on the active roster and 10 practice-squad members healthy enough to work, a rarity for this late in a season, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks opened their practice week for Super Bowl XLIX with their weekly "Competition Wednesday" practice on the campus of Arizona State University.

Under threatening skies with temperatures in the low 70s and a light breeze blowing, the Seahawks practiced for one hour and 32 minutes on Arizona State's two natural-grass football practice fields, the workout ending at dusk under the lights. As usual, the Seahawks were serenaded by a diverse music mix blasting from sideline speakers, ranging from Jay Z to Evil Empire to Elvis Presley.

"Terrific work," coach Pete Carroll said minutes after the practice ended. "Terrific day. The energy was there, and guys got good work in. This was an unusual day for the guys, with the media stuff in the middle of the day. We had meetings in the morning, then the media, then more meetings to prepare for practice, and then came out here. But the guys worked hard."

Notable for their work on Wednesday were the three Seahawks who entered the week with some injury concerns. But today's practice showed the Seahawks should be one of the healthiest Super Bowl teams in memory.

"We're really fortunate to be this healthy," said Carroll. "If we can make it through practice tomorrow, we'll be in great shape."

Carroll maintains that "Competition Wednesday" helps him determine playing time during the season. So even though players worked out in helmets and no pads, the tempo was fast and spirited. When defensive tackle Tony McDaniel batted down a Tarvaris Jackson pass, defensive linemate Michael Bennett leaped to congratulate him, and three other defenders swarmed them.

Carroll said he'd have to look at the tape of practice to determine a daily winner -- on Wednesdays, either the offense or defense is declared the winner -- but with the offense keeping the quarterback clean on a late-practice pass-protection drill, he said the offense likely won the day. After practice, many Seahawks used the ASU weight room to get in a quick lift before buses took the team back to its hotel, with members of the Sun Devils' woman's basketball team looking on.

--Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made it clear that cornerback Richard Sherman was speaking his own opinion Sunday when he implied that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and Kraft were too close.

"Richard has an outlook that Richard owns, and he had an opinion about something," Carroll said. "I don't think he knows the commissioner and Mr. Kraft very well. I don't think they have a longstanding relationship, but he has an opinion of that and he expressed it."

Sherman said he did not believe the Patriots would be punished for the underinflated footballs scandal because of the close relationship between Goodell and Kraft, who were together at Kraft's home before the AFC Championship Game.

"I think perception is reality," Sherman said. "It is what it is. Their resume speaks for itself. Their past is what their past is. Their present is what their present is. Will they be punished? Probably not. Not as long Robert Kraft and Roger Goodell are still taking pictures at their respective homes.

"Talk about conflict of interest. As long as that happens, it won't affect them at all."

Carroll said he will speak to Sherman.

"We actually talk about most everything that is spoken, so eventually that will come up," Carroll said. "We won't share with you how that comes out, but we will talk about stuff."

--Seattle safety Kam Chancellor is ready for his matchup with New England tight end Rob Gronkowski.

"He definitely is a big, physical guy, but it's just big on big. Just play big on big," Chancellor said.

Chancellor is 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds. He had 11 tackles and a 90-yard interception for a touchdown in the Seahawks' 31-17 victory over Carolina in the divisional round. He has been named to the Pro Bowl in each of the last three seasons but has missed the game the last two years because of Super Bowl commitments.

Gronkowski is 6-foot-6, 265. Considered the most physical tight end in the league, he had 82 receptions for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns this season.

"I think he is pretty great," Sherman said.

--We know the Legion of Boom. Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin is promoting the Pedestrians with Attitude, his motto for the Seahawks' receiving corps, a group that lost Golden Tate in free agency in the offseason and Percy Harvin in a midseason trade. He has been on a no-respect kick for several weeks.

"I think we got the negativity and the disrespect in a different way, saying we miss Percy or we miss Golden or the no-names who are out here at receiver," said Baldwin, who had 66 receptions for 885 yards this season, both career highs.

"We enjoy that. It adds some motivation. It adds some flair to it. We embrace it. I have a shirt underneath my sweatshirt that says, 'Pedestrians with Attitude.' We enjoy the label because we embrace it."

 

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