A recap of the day’s activities:
Larry Fitzgerald. But he plays for Arizona. That’s exactly the point, because defending the Cardinals’ pass-catching machine of a wide receiver is a major focus for the Seahawks this week as they prepare for Sunday’s game at Qwest Field between the co-leaders in the NFC West.
“I think he’s there. I think he is the elite. He’s one of the half dozen guys or dozen guys, maybe, there is that you play in a game that you know he’s out there and every play you have to know where he is,” coach Pete Carroll said today when asked about the focus Fitzgerald has to be afforded.
“He has incredible catching ability. I don’t know if anybody can catch the ball better than him – if anybody ever has. He has an incredible catching range. It doesn’t matter whether he almost sees the ball. The ball comes out of nowhere and he snatches it and he’s going.”
A perfect example of that came in the Seahawks game against the Cardinals at Qwest Field last season. Fitzgerald was on the ground, with cornerback Kelly Jennings on top of him, but still managed to reach up and catch the pass – one of 13 balls he caught that afternoon.
“And he’s a very good transition guy,” Carroll added. “And he’s a good route runner. And he’s physical. And he’s fast enough to get down field.
“So he’s got all the stuff going. And unfortunately they know it, so they utilize him. They spot him around. They do difficult things with him. But it’s all with a team that wants to run the football, that’s committed to it as they are, it’s all but impossible to double him all the time. You think you’d be able to do that, but you lose your numbers in (defending) the running game.”
And that’s why Fitzgerald is a “Focus On” player not just today, but all week.
“He’ll factor in and just break your heart,” Carroll said. “You can cover him and he still makes the play. You can double him and they’ll still go to him and he still makes the play.
“So we’ll show him due respect. I don’t know that you can stop him. You just need to keep his numbers from being silly.”
Punter. The Seahawks still have one, and it’s still Jon Ryan. Although Ryan admitted to still being a little sore today after being launched on a block by the Bears’ Earl Bennett that helped spring Devin Hester on an 89-yard punt return for a touchdown in Sunday’s game in Chicago.
“The guy returns the punt (for a TD) and I get absolutely annihilated,” Ryan said. “So yeah, I’d say that’s the worst play of my career.
“But I live to punt another day.”
Unfortunately, that was the one punt that drew all the attention from Sunday’s game, because it allowed Hester to tie the NFL record for most combined punt and kickoff returns for touchdowns in a career.
“I was trying to kick it out of bounds,” Ryan said. “I didn’t quite get it there. I got it outside the numbers, but not all the way out of bounds. Which sometimes happens when you kick an egg-shaped ball, it doesn’t go exactly where you want it to.
“Looking back, if I could have done it again, I would have kicked it 10 yards straight out of bounds. But, live and learn, and it’s a valuable lesson.”
But Ryan also had one punt that hopped out of bounds at the Bears’ 8-yard line and another that Roy Lewis downed at the 1. Ryan had six punts inside the 20-yard line against the Bears to tie his career best that was set against the 49ers last season.
ON THE FIELD
The players practiced in full pads for 95 minutes on another gorgeous afternoon along the shores of Lake Washington. One play that exemplified the kind of effort that needs to be replicated on Sunday came when defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer pressured the passer into throwing high to a receiver that was bracketed by linebacker Aaron Curry and strong safety Lawyer Milloy.
The official report, as released by the team:
Did not participate in practice
DT Brandon Mebane (calf)
CB Kelly Jennings (hamstring)
DE Dexter Davis (hamstring)
Carroll called Jennings’ situation “day to day,” and on Mebane said, “We’ll have to wait and see how it goes.” Mebane aggravated a calf injury in practice last Thursday and did not play against the Bears. Jennings reinjured a hamstring during the game. Rookie Walter Thurmond replaced Jennings in practice, while Balmer subbed for Mebane – just as they did against the Bears.
For the Cardinals:
Limited in practice
WR Steve Breaston (knee)
WR Early Doucet (groin)
DE Kenny Iwebema (knee)
LB Reggie Walker (hamstring)
WR Stephen Williams (back)
S Matt Ware (ankle)
Like the Seahawks did two weeks ago, the Cardinals got healthier during their bye week, as Breaston, Doucet and LB Gerald Hayes are expected to return this week. Breaston, who took over for Anquan Boldin as the starter opposite Fitzgerald, missed the past two games after having a procedure on his knee to repair damaged meniscus. Doucet, the No. 3 receiver, has been sidelined since the opener because he needed surgery to repair a sports hernia. Hayes has been out since having back surgery in July.
The players will practice Thursday and Friday to continue preparing for Sunday’s big game.
Monday, fan balloting for the Pro Bowl begins at http://www.nfl.com/probowl/ballot. Seahawks who definitely deserve consideration include kickoff returner Leon Washington, who leads the league with a 37.0-yard average; Milloy, who leads the Seahawks in tackles and also has 3.0 sacks making him only the 11th player in history to tally 20 plus picks and 20 plus sacks in his career; defensive end Chris Clemons, who has 4½ sacks; wide receiver Mike Williams, who leads the team with 21 receptions; free safety Earl Thomas, who is tied for second in the league with three interceptions; and middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl pick who is second in tackles with 26.
JUST CALL HIM COACH
Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt played tight end for the New York Jets when Carroll was the defensive coordinator from 1991-93.
“Ken was a good solid player,” Carroll said. “He was a movement tight end for us, kind of in the H-back kind of style. Good special teams guy. Good solid guy.”
That relationship came up during the Seahawks’ team meeting this morning.
“I looked around the room and I said, ‘You know, years ago I was sitting in room with a bunch of guys and I never in my wildest dreams would have thought one day I’d be coaching head-to-head against you in the NFL,’ ” Carroll said.
“So I said, ‘Which one of you guys is going to be the one?’ I looked at the fellas and I just can’t see it.”
Offered Whisenhunt in a conference-call interview, “I enjoyed playing for Pete. I thought he did a nice job handling the players and in my involvement with him, I was very impressed. I have always had great respect for Pete as a coach.”
STAT DU JOUR
Milloy isn’t just the Seahawks’ leading tackler in his 15th NFL season, his 32 tackles give him 1,646 for his career – which is fourth best among active players behind Ravens’ linebacker Ray Lewis (2,391), Redskins’ linebacker London Fletcher (1,927) and Cowboys’ linebacker Keith Brooking (1,653).
YOU DON’T SAY
“From what I’m hearing, it’s a great environment to play a football game in and it’s loud. They have a really good fan base, so it’s going to be a crazy, yet fun, environment to play in. Our coach – (passing game coordinator) Mike Miller – told us today that is why we play football, to play in environments and play in game like this.” – Cardinals rookie QB Max Hall, on Sunday’s game at Qwest