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Seahawks: Can they tackle something bigger than a Super Bowl?

Coach Pete Carroll plans for the coming season: Develop players that others write off, and overcome enemies more formidable than the 49ers.
Russell Wilson, in red, returns to practice with the Seahawks.

Russell Wilson, in red, returns to practice with the Seahawks. Art Thiel

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Sure, the game was great, the parade outrageous and the White House visit thrilling. But now it can be told: The coolest thing about winning the Super Bowl.

"When you’re at the barbershop, or anywhere you walk, and they’re like, ‘What’s up, Champ?’" said safety Earl Thomas Tuesday afternoon. "I’m like, ‘Yeah, man, that sounds real good. That sounds real good.’

"I like that."

Grand as life has been since the evening of Feb. 2 in the Jersey swamplands, (One perk: The Seahawks are unable to buy their own drinks anywhere in town) it's the little affirmations that brighten the day-to-day.

Unfortunately for them, that day-to-day is so yesterday. At least in the opinion of coach Pete Carroll. Having been in the position of defending seven Pac-10 championships and two national championships while coaching college ball, he is aware of the Prime Directive for the next eight months.

"What’s happened before is obviously significant," he said, "but it doesn’t mean anything unless we go out and keep working."

Hubris. Arrogance. Complacency. Inattention. Sloth. All more formidable than the San Francisco 49ers.

Hard as was winning one, winning two is a face full of fist. So hard, in fact, that Carroll was reminded Tuesday that the last Super Bowl champion to even win a playoff game the following season was the 2005 New England Patriots.

Carroll swatted away the thought as if he were Richard Sherman against 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick.

“I could [not] care less about that stat,” Carroll said, with as much of a harrumph as the man of eternal sunshine could muster.

One thing we have learned observing Carroll is that the conventions of his industry matter little to him. The habits of other teams, the statistics and records they create, are virtually meaningless. Just as is the Seahawks' 2013 season to him now.

Through word and deed, he manages to pull his players' eyes away from the rearview mirror, as well as the far horizon and their own personal histories, then gets them to work incrementally and collectively on the task of the day.

Seems like the plan of any experienced professor, plant manager or software executive. It's a lot harder to do when the whole world is watching, most hoping he'll fail. Skeptics want to consign the Seahawks' success to a mutation, a two-headed calf. Because in the short-attention-span theater that is American pro team sports, if you do a weird thing twice, it means the industry must change.

If the Seahawks are 9-3 by December, listen closely and you'll hear steam start to pop rivets from the NFL boiler.

Tuesday was the first day of 2014 on the Seahawks calendar. "Organized team activities" — OTAs — are what the NFL calls padless practices, free of collisions and tackles, where 90 players are invited to compete for 53 roster spots with no opportunity to bludgeon one's way to prominence.

After 10 OTAs, there's a mini-camp in June, a training camp in July, exhibitions in August and sincere hostilities in September. But that linear thinking is for fans and media and not part of the conversation at practice.

"We just do this one day at a time," Carroll said. "We did exactly that today. That’s a good indication that the guys are on board with what we’re talking about. This takes discipline, and commitment to doing it the right way. So far, everything is going fine. We have a long ways to go.”

That may sound unenlightening, but these OTAs are where Carroll and his staff can do a lot of developmental coaching without worry over game plans. And player development is where these guys excel.

Here's a little secret that Carroll's methods exposed: A lot of the athletes competing at this level are as evenly matched as they are good. That means they are interchangeable. Now, coaches don't want to say that directly to players or the public, but the fact is that Carroll and general manager John Schneider know that they can fairly easily replace all those who left in free agency.


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