Alan Branch signs with Buffalo Bills

Alan Branch

Defensive tackle Alan Branch, a starter with the Seahawks the past two seasons, has signed with Buffalo in free agency, the Bills have announced.

Branch became expendable with the Seahawks as the club added Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency.

After joining the Seahawks as a free agent in 2011, Branch started 31 games the past two seasons, posting 34 tackles and three sacks in 2011 and 30 tackles and one sack last season. He played his first four NFL seasons with the Cardinals.

Branch is the second of the Seahawks’ nine unrestricted free agents to sign with another team. Defensive tackle Jason Jones joined the Lions.


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Latest mock drafts project tackle to Chiefs at No. 1, D-lineman for Seahawks

Datone Jones

UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones runs a drill during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Monday, Feb. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

The boys from NFLDraftScout.com and CBSSports.com have updated their mock drafts after attending the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

Each now has the Chiefs taking an offensive tackle with the first pick in April’s NFL Draft, and they also project the Seahawks going with a defensive lineman at No. 25 in the first round.

Rob Rang: He has the Chiefs taking Texas A&M tackle Luke Joeckel at No. 1, but still has the Seahawks going for UCLA defensive lineman Datone Jones at No. 25.

“The camaraderie forged between Pete Carroll’s coaching staff and the scouting staff under general manager John Schneider has resulted in several surprising but ultimately successful draft selections in recent years. The 6-4, 280-pound Jones will be viewed by some as a ‘tweener but he might possess the combination of strength, length, burst and passion to aid as an interior pass rusher in Seattle’s hybrid front.”

Dane Brugler: He also has the Chiefs going for a tackle with the top pick, but it’s Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher. At No. 25, he projects Florida State defensive end Cornellius “Tank” Carradine for the Seahawks.

“The Seahawks have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFC, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add some depth, especially at pass rusher. Carradine still isn’t 100% healthy from his knee injury, but Pete Carroll and John Schneider will recognize the value of snagging him this late.”

Will Brinson: He’s also got Fisher to the Chiefs and Jones to the Seahawks.

“The Seahawks have made it known they want to upgrade their pass rush this offseason, and while giving Russell Wilson an additional weapon or two wouldn’t hurt, Jones can step in and help impact Seattle’s ability to get after the passer.”

Pete Prisco: He too has Joeckel to the Chiefs, but is thinking bigger when it comes to a D-lineman for the Seahawks – Ohio State tackle Johnathan Hankins (6-3, 320).

“Alan Branch is a free agent and they need big bodies in the middle of their defense.”

Clark Judge: Make it one more vote for Joeckel to the Chiefs and one more option for the Seahawks – North Carolina D-tackle Sylvester Williams (6-3, 313).

“With Alan Branch unsigned, the Seahawks could use more help in the middle.”


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A pre-Combine peek at the latest mock drafts

With the NFL converging on Indianapolis this week for the Scouting Combine, we figured it’s a good time to take one last look at the pre-Combine mock drafts – the new, and the not-so-new.

How the players perform this week – off the field during interview and physicals, as well as during the on-field workouts – will go a long way in determining which team selects which prospect in the first round of the NFL Draft on April 25. Of course, this is just the next big step – and the most visible – in what already has been a laborious examination exercise that began with teams’ college scouts putting these players under the analytical microscope. The assistant coaches have gotten involved the past few weeks during meetings to get them acquainted with the players. This week, the coaches will get an up-close-and-personal look at them.

Then there are the Pro Day workouts at players’ schools and interviews with teams at their facilities during March, followed by more poking, prodding and perusing as the process moves into April.

But here’s a look at whom some of the mock-draft mavens are targeting for the Seahawks with the 25th pick in the first round:

Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com at CBSSports.com (Feb. 19): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA

“The camaraderie forged between Pete Carroll’s coaching staff and the scouting staff under general manager John Schneider has resulted in several surprising but ultimately successful draft selections in recent years. The 6-4, 280-pound Jones will be viewed by some as a ‘tweener but he might possess the combination of strength, length, burst and passion to aid as an interior pass rusher in Seattle’s hybrid front.”

Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com at CBSSports.com (Feb. 18): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama

“The Seahawks have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFC, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add some depth, especially with Alan Branch slated to hit free agency in the winter. Williams lined up at nose tackle for the Tide, but has the ability to be productive in either and even or odd front.”

Josh Norris at NFL.com (Feb. 15): Cornelius Carradine, DE, Florida State

“I know the Seahawks are already dealing with one defensive end who has a knee injury (Chris Clemons), but Carradine’s raw talent warrants a first-round selection. His timeline to return is not presently clear, but think of Carradine as an investment for the future if he misses time in 2013.”

Peter Schrager at FoxSports.com (Feb. 14): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia

“Russell Wilson silenced all of his critics who thought he was too small, didn’t have a big enough arm and wasn’t worthy of a third-round pick. Austin would be an incredible addition to the Seattle offense. With the new free-access receivers getting off the line, dynamic slot guys like Austin become all the more dangerous. He’s a lightning rod. This is Percey Harvin Part II. Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Austin would make for quite a trio.”

WalterFootball.com at YahooSports.com (Feb. 13): Bennie Logan, DT, LSU

“Seattle’s defense is dominant, but one thing the unit is lacking is a consistent interior pass-rushing presence. Perhaps Bennie Logan can fix that. He’s one of the top players available. The Combine is going to dictate this pick for me. Pete “Bazuzu” Carroll is all about building his team on speed, and there’s a good chance Logan will run a 4.8 in Indianapolis.”

Todd McShay at ESPN.com (Feb. 7): Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU

“Seattle’s defense was strong overall in 2012, but DE Chris Clemons tore his ACL late in the season and Bruce Irvin is at his best as a sub-package rusher. Montgomery has the size and strength to start opposite Red Bryant and help beef up Seattle’s run defense.”


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Mock drafts have Seahawks focusing on linemen

Alex Okafor

Draft analyst Rob Rang of NFLDraftScout.com has the Seahawks selecting University of Texas defensive end Alex Okafor with the 25th overall pick

Now that we’ve moved past that Super exercise which involved only two NFL teams, it’s time to start focusing on the drill that engulfs every team in the league – April’s NFL Draft.

Front-office execs and scouts around the league – including the Seahawks – are huddling this week in preparation for the NFL Scouting Combine, which will be held Feb. 20-26 in Indianapolis. So the mock drafts already are circulating in cyberspace.

The boys at NFLDraftScout.com – Rob Rang and Dane Brugler – have weighed in with their initial mocks at CBSSports.com. Rang listened to coach Pete Carroll when he talked during his season-ender media session about improving the Seahawks’ pass rush, so he has the team selecting Texas defensive end Alex Okafor with the 25th pick in the first round. Brugler, aware that Alan Branch is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, gives the Seahawks Alabama defensive tackle Jesse Williams at that spot.

Rang on Okafor: “The risky (and ridiculed) selection of undersized pass rusher Bruce Irvin paid off for as the former West Virginia standout led all rookies with eight sacks in 2012. His speed off the edge could be complemented with a more refined pass rusher like Okafor, whose greater length, strength and hand technique could make him a suitable complement as the team adjusts for life with top pass-rusher Chris Clemons recovering with a torn ACL.”

Brugler on Williams: “The Seahawks have one of the better defensive fronts in the NFC, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them add some depth, especially with Alan Branch slated to hit free agency in the winter. Williams lined up at nose tackle for the Tide, but has the ability to be productive in either and even or odd front.”

Don Banks at SI.com also has the Seahawks doing their first-round shopping in the Crimson Tide aisle, but on the other side of the ball with tackle D.J. Fluker: “The Seahawks could easily take the best available receiver in this slot (Baylor’s Terrance Williams, Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins or USC’s Robert Woods), and fill a need. But Fluker might earn too high a grade to pass on. Seattle’s offensive line was superb in 2012, but Breno Giacomini is hardly irreplaceable at right tackle. Fluker is seen as a natural right tackle in the NFL and his massive 6-4, 355-pound size and impressive wingspan could solidify the position for the foreseeable future.”

At NFL.com, a trio of mock drafts veers back to the D-line for the Seahawks, with Bucky Brooks going for LSU end Sam Montgomery, Daniel Jeremiah tabbing Ohio State tackle Johnathan Hawkins and Charles Davis opting for BYU end Ezekiel Ansah.


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Wednesday cyber surfing: Russell Wilson surprises Timberline’s David Padilla

Russell Wilson, David Padilla

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 16.

Meg Wochnick of the Tacoma News Tribune recaps a Russell Wilson visit to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where Wilson met with 17-year-old cancer patient David Padilla, a senior baseball standout at Timberline High School, “Wilson, less than 48 hours removed from Sunday’s 30-28 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC divisional playoff game, spent almost an hour talking with Padilla and also autographing a handful of items for him, including a football and a photo. ‘He was busy,’ said Kari Padilla, David’s mother. They talked about everything from Padilla’s battle with osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer, to their love of baseball.”

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times has a look at the Seahawks defense and the struggles they had closing out several games this season, “You can’t say that Seattle’s defense was bad this year. The Seahawks allowed the fewest points in the league. They went two straight road games without allowing the opposing offense to score a touchdown, and they weren’t entirely unable to finish out games. The Patriots got the ball back with more than twice as much time as Atlanta had Sunday, and the Seahawks closed Tom Brady and his New England teammates out in four plays. Seattle had strong second-half showings against Minnesota and Buffalo, too. But those four blown saves were enough to constitute a trend that is fairly alarming. It wasn’t just that Seattle allowed points late, but the shockingly improbable ways it found to cough up the lead. … ‘I’m not worried about figuring it out,’ Carroll said. ‘It’s just a snap here or there, but it did happen this year. You can’t ignore that.’ “

O’Neil passes along a transcript of his “Hawk Talk” chat here.

O’Neil also comments on the future of quarterback Matt Flynn, “…while you could make a case that Flynn is one of the best backup quarterbacks in the entire league, he might not be the best backup quarterback for Seattle. He is a quarterback whose biggest asset is timing and anticipation while Wilson is someone with a plus-arm by NFL standards and exceptional mobility. In that regard, Seattle might be better finding a backup quarterback who is capable of running some of the option plays Seattle has as opposed to a more accomplished passer like Flynn. Carroll was asked, specifically, if it was important to find a backup with traits similar to Wilson’s. ‘It’s a good point and we’ve talked a lot about that,’ Carroll said. ‘It would be nice to have another guy who might be able to be a factor in that way. There’s some really good kids out there. We’ll see.’ “

Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” discuss whether or not opposing defenses will catch up to the Seahawks’ use of the read-option with quarterback Russell Wilson in this short video.

Brock Huard and Mike Salk of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” discuss who on the defensive side of the football can match Wilson’s level of leadership in this short video.

Arkansas coach Bret Bielema, who coached Russell Wilson in his one season at Wisconsin, chats with 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Brock and Salk” on what the future holds for the young quarterback.

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com has a close look at five key players who will be unrestricted free agents this offseason, including defensive tackle Alan Branch, linebacker Leroy Hill, cornerback Marcus Trufant, kicker Steven Hauschka, and defensive tackle Jason Jones.

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his “silver linings” from Sunday’s season-ending loss to the Atlanta Falcons, “Quarterback Russell Wilson completed 24 of 36 passes for 385 yards and two touchdowns. He also had seven rushing attempts for 60 yards and a touchdown. Wilson set an NFL rookie record for passing yardage in a playoff game. He became the first player in NFL history with at least 385 yards passing and 60 yards rushing in a postseason game. Wilson’s performance established him even more firmly as a franchise quarterback and one of the best young players in the NFL.”

Sando also has a look at Wilson’s potential path to the Pro Bowl next weekend in Honolulu, Hawaii, “Aaron Rodgers’ withdrawal from the Pro Bowl moves Seattle Seahwaks rookie Russell Wilson one step closer to playing in the game. Wilson was the third alternate for the annual all-star game. Rodgers, Robert Griffin III and Matt Ryan were the three quarterbacks named to the NFC roster. Griffin is already out while recovering from knee surgery. Ryan would be out if his Atlanta Falcons advanced to the Super Bowl. Drew Brees was named to the game as the first alternate. Eli Manning was the second alternate. Wilson would be named to the NFC roster if Ryan were in the Super Bowl or if one of the other alternates skipped the game.”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has released his first mock draft of 2013 and has the Seahawks selecting 6-foot-3, 358-pound defensive tackle John Jenkins out of Georgia with the No. 25 pick in the first round, “Analysis: John Schneider and Pete Carroll showed great instincts in the 2012 draft, adding players they felt could help them immediately, even as analysts (myself included) questioned slot value. The defense was very good this past season, but I think an interior defender who can occupy blockers, occasionally penetrate and even wreck the pocket from the inside is a need. Jenkins was a little uneven at times in 2012, but has the upside of an impact interior lineman.”


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Tuesday cyber surfing: Optimism abound for Seahawks

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, January 15.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have a lot to look forward to with Russell Wilson at quarterback, “From now until he decides he’s done, Wilson is here to captivate, inspire and — most important — lead. Despite the difficulty of the NFL, despite the understanding there are few assurances in this sport, despite the Seahawks’ limited history of sustained excellence, Wilson provides extreme confidence that it’s safe for this franchise to dream the biggest dreams. He’s that special, and he’s a star that illuminates all the other special things the Seahawks are doing to become a championship-caliber team. The Seahawks have so much going for them, from general manager John Schneider’s deft talent-evaluation to a young core of stars to a coach who complements and directs them perfectly. You keep looking for the trap door, for the way the Seahawks will end up as heartbroken as they were in their last-minute, season-ending loss to Atlanta on Sunday. But the more you look for fatal flaws, the more you come back to Wilson and the level of trust he demands. ‘He’s a baller,’ Carroll said. ‘A real football player.’ “

Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times has a look at three things we learned and three things we’re still trying to figure out after the Seahawks’ season-ending loss at Atlanta, “Zach Miller is one tough hombre. The guy tore his plantar fascia on Seattle’s third play of the game. He went to the locker room, took a pain-killing shot on the bottom of his foot and returned to have the most prolific receiving day in not only his two-year tenure with the Seahawks, but his six-year NFL career. We’ve made a big deal out of how seldom he has been targeted in the passing game since coming to Seattle. He caught 50 or more passes in three successive seasons with the Raiders only to come to the Seahawks and catch a career-low 25 passes in 2011. He had 38 receptions in 2012, but had not had more than 59 yards receiving in any game for the Seahawks. Until Sunday. He showed exactly what he can do if the opponent neglects to account for him. Miller caught eight passes for 142 yards, most of any player in a game that also featured Atlanta’s Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez.”

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times writes that while the Seahawks may have been hurting after Sunday’s loss, plenty are looking forward to what’s in store for the team next season, “Wilson, who wore a sweatshirt Monday that read ‘No Time 2 Sleep,’ was living out that message already. The morning after the season ended, he was reviewing game tape. ‘There are so many areas where I could get better, and that’s the thing that I’ll have to do this offseason is continue to watch the film, continue to look at all the cut-ups of this past season and what I’ve done well and what I could have done better. The goal for me is … ‘How can I get 10 times better?’ ‘ A shared motivation, it seems, for a team that has the look of a perennial contender. ‘If you didn’t know who the Seahawks were before the season, I’ll guarantee you know who they are now,’ said defensive end Bruce Irvin. ‘There are a lot of positive things coming for the organization, and I can’t wait to get it started again in a couple months.’ “

Mayers also passes along comments from several players on their thanks for the support of the 12th Man, ” ‘It’s amazing to have the fan base that we have. They make the game fun. They make it easier to play your heart out and leave it all on the field, because you know you’re playing for such fantastic fans, and they deserve it.’ — Richard Sherman, cornerback”

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says the Seahawks have plenty of reasons to be optimistic about their future, “At this point, nothing Wilson does, whether it’s leading a fourth-quarter comeback or working non-stop off the field, will really surprise anyone in Seattle’s locker room. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why the Seahawks are so excited about their future even as they struggle to accept that their season just ended. ‘After the Chicago game, you had a team full of believers that he could do anything,’ said cornerback Richard Sherman, speaking about the touchdown drives Wilson led in the fourth quarter and overtime as Seattle defeated the Bears on Dec. 2. ‘We’d be surprised if he walked on water and fell in. He’s a great quarterback, he’s a great person, and he deserves the success he has. He works hard for it, he does everything you could ask of a quarterback and more.’ And to be fair, the Seahawks have plenty of reasons for optimism beyond the play of their young quarterback. The Seahawks are young, which means a lot of these players have room to grow. And only two starters — linebacker Leroy Hill and defensive tackle Alan Branch — are free agents. Also, the good health that helped Seattle finish the season so strong will also lead to a more productive offseason.”

Tim Booth of the Associated Press comments on the play of Wilson and what it means for the Seahawks going forward, “While some franchises continue to search for a solid foundation at quarterback, the Seahawks go into next season knowing that the position is all but locked up for the foreseeable future. That’s why Wilson spent some of Monday morning watching film rather than packing up his locker. ‘Obviously, there are very high expectations for our football team now, and that’s great to have,’ Wilson said. ‘That means that we’ve got to work that much harder in practice, we’ve got to work that much harder in the offseason, and we’ve got to play that much better come game time. I look forward to those challenges and that’s what I wait for.’ “

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com revisits what went wrong for the Seahawks in the last 25 seconds of Sunday’s game, “The Seahawks had been bringing extra pressure all game, a necessity given the lack of pass rush they were getting from their defensive line. That pressure was a factor on Ryan’s first-quarter interception, when he threw an errant pass to Wagner as Trufant was bearing down on him. Trufant and Guy both had blitzed from the left side on that play. It was those two coming off the left side again on second down of the final drive. This time, though, the Falcons picked it up. Ryan hit Gonzalez at Seattle’s 36, and Gonzalez shed linebacker Bobby Wagner’s tackle before picking up an extra five yards. ‘They made two great plays and that’s all it took,’ Carroll said.”

Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his report from Monday’s end-of-season media availability, “DT Alan Branch will be an unrestricted free agent after spending his last two seasons in Seattle. Branch expressed a sincere desire to be back with the Seahawks next season. ‘I love the team here. I would love to be back here. I have developed great friendships with the guys, especially in the D-line room, but throughout the team. I didn’t really have as many friends as I do on this team on any team I had in Arizona. I think it’s a special group,’ Branch said. ‘Hopefully they want me here and the whole money situation gets settled. But if not there won’t be a better group of guys than this, I’m sure.’ “


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Game at a glance: Seahawks 24, Redskins 14

Marshawn Lynch

LANDOVER, Md. – A recap of the Seahawks’ 24-14 victory over the Redskins in their NFC wild-card playoff game at FedExField on Sunday:

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Marshawn Lynch. The Seahawks’ Beast Mode back had an all-over-the-map game that matched the effort of the team he led to the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983.

The Pro Bowl running back started slowly, with 5 yards on two carries in a first quarter Dominated – yes, with a capital D – by the Redskins. He warmed up a bit in the second quarter, scooping up a fumble by QB Russell Wilson and running for 20 yards on the drive towards the Seahawks’ first touchdown and contributing 14 yards to the half-ending drive that resulted in a field goal.

In the third quarter, Lynch had 26- and 15-yard runs in a drive that put the Seahawks on the front porch of the Redskins’ goal line, only to fumble at the 2-yard line. But in the fourth quarter, he had an 18-yard run in what proved to be the game-winning drive to his 27-yard touchdown run that made it 21-14 with seven minutes to play.

When all was said and run, Lynch had rushed for 132 yards (a franchise tying record for the postseason) on 20 carries, caught a 9-yard pass, turned one potentially disastrous play into a positive and atoned for another by pushing the Seahawks into next Sunday’s divisional-round matchup with the top-seeded Falcons in Atlanta.

Of the fumble play, Wilson said, “The ball just came out funny on the (center) exchange. Marshawn had my back. He was right there, picked up the ball and had a huge gain. That was big for us. I think that was one of the biggest plays of the game, to be honest with you. For Marshawn to be able to pick that ball up in the situation that we were in, the way he played right there, that was big-time.”

UNSUNG HERO

Jon Ryan. When a calf injury Steven Hauschka got in the second quarter limited him to kicking field goals, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl-caliber punter added kickoff duty to his resume.

And Ryan didn’t just step in, he stepped up. And like the rest of the team, he got better as the game progressed. His first kickoff went 58 yards to the Redskins’ 7-yard line. The second went 63 yards to the Redskins’ 2. The third? A 69-yarder that went 4 yards into the end zone.

“Johnny Ryan really came through,” coach Pete Carroll said.

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Offense: It has to be the game-winner, as Lynch made his way into the right corner of the end zone in a pile of bodies – and with Wilson leading the way. These two were the focal points of the five-game winning streak to close the regular season, so it seems only fitting that they would be involved in the play that propelled the Seahawks to the next round of the playoffs.

“That’s not even his job,” fullback Michael Robinson said of the QB turning into a blocker. “Just awareness and football IQ allowed him to figure Marshawn was coming back. Great job by the quarterback.

“I hate to see him take hits. He’s like my little brother. I just hate to see it, but he’s a tough little man. And as he goes, we go.”

Offered Wilson, “Marshawn always tells me, ‘Russ, I got your back. No matter what, I got your back.’ So I just try to help him out every once in a while when he gets down field and I just try to make a play for him and help our football team win.”

Defense: Earl Thomas’ interception in the second quarter. The Redskins were up 14-10, so if the pass from Robert Griffin III had found its way into the hands of Pierre Garcon at the Seahawks’ 24-yard line, well, that scenario doesn’t need the what-if conclusion. Cornerback Brandon Browner, in his first game back after serving a four-game suspension, was all over the Redskins’ wide-out like a second jersey anyway. But Thomas’ playing-free-safety-like-a-centerfielder pick was just the kind of play the Seahawks needed at the point in the game.

“A lot of quarterbacks in this league like to play with me when I’m in the middle of the field,” the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl free safety said. “They know what we’re going to do, because they know we’re in single-safety high. A lot of quarterbacks try to look me off and do all that kind of stuff. But he didn’t have time to do all that. And I was able to make a great break on the ball and finish the play.”

Special teams: Wilson’s pass to tight end Zach Miller for a two-point conversion following Lynch’s fourth- quarter TD. OK, so maybe that’s an offensive play. But it took the place of a special teams play and the two-pointer gave the Seahawks a seven-point lead with seven minutes remaining.

“That was just a great throw by Russell,” Miller said. “He put it right on my body and I big-bodied the defender, just like we drew it up.”

804 homecoming: A special category for a special play, as Wilson passed 4 yards to Robinson for the Seahawks’ first TD. Each grew up in Richmond, Va., which is less than a two-hour drive from FedExField.

“Oh man, it was awesome – 804 threw it to me, 804 scored a touchdown,” Robinson said, using the Richmond area code. “It just feels good to know there were some people from Richmond out there in the crowd. It’s my first time playing this close to home. Love Richmond, and I’ll always love Richmond.”

INJURY REPORT

Defensive end Chris Clemons is scheduled to have an MRI on Monday to determine the extent of the injury to his left knee he got in the third quarter. The Seahawks’ sack leader did not return to the game.

WORTH NOTING

As he did 11 times during the regular season, rookie middle linebacker Bobby Wagner led the Seahawks in tackles with nine.

Rookie defensive end Bruce Irvin replaced Clemons when he went out and contributed a sack and a tipped pass to the Seahawks’ dominating defensive effort in the second half, when they limited the Redskins to 63 yards.

Defensive tackle Alan Branch also was a force for the Seahawks’ defense with a sack among his season-high five tackles and a QB hit.

The Redskins allowed an average of 95.8 rushing yards during the regular season to rank fifth in the league, but the Seahawks ran for 224 (a franchise record for the postseason) – 67 by Wilson, 22 by Robert Turbin and 3 by Robinson, in addition to the 132 by Lynch.

The Seahawks, who won one of their first six road games this season, now have a three-game road winning streak.

The Seahawks also have a three-game winning streak over the Redskins in the postseason, as they also eliminated Washington in 2005 and 2007 playoffs.

YOU DON’T SAY

“No, I don’t think that at all. Because I don’t really believe he was in anybody’s shadow.” – Carroll when asked if Wilson emerging as the only one of the three rookie QBs to start in the playoffs on Sunday had allowed him to step from the shadows of RGIII and the Colts’ Andrew Luck


Friday in Hawkville: Trufant and Thurmond questionable

A recap of the events at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 21:

Walter Thurmond

FOCUS ON

Cornerbacks. Those who returned to practice, as well as the one who wasn’t at today’s practice.

Marcus Trufant and Walter Thurmond got some reps with the No. 1 defense. Trufant has missed the past three games, while Thurmond sat out last week’s game – both with hamstring injuries. Is it possible they could be ready for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field?

“They made it through this day,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We’ll go all the way to game time with those guys. They’ve got to show us they can play.

“We’ve got to make sure we make a good decision on that. They have been out for a couple of weeks. But it’s good to just get them close to getting back.”

Trufant and Thurmond are listed as questionable for Sunday night’s game.

Richard Sherman, who leads the team with six interceptions, will be able to play against the 49ers, Carroll said. Sherman was excused from practice today and Thursday because he is appealing his four-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances.

“I’m anticipating that we’ll have him,” Carroll said. “I have heard nothing else at this point.”

Missing practice time is not ideal, especially heading into such an important matchup, but Carroll said, “He is as smart a football player as we have on our team. He’s totally into everything that we’re doing. We can tell when he’s not out here, because he is so sharp and he communicates to other guys. He knows when he left that he was preparing to miss a couple of days. We sent him with a bunch of stuff, so he should be fine.”

In the meantime, second-year corner Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane got most of the work with the No. 1 defense.

INJURY REPORT

The official end-of-the-week status report, as released by team:

Questionable

S Jeron Johnson (groin)

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

Probable

DT Alan Branch (ankle)

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

CB Richard Sherman (not injury related)

RB Robert Turbin (illness)

RB Leon Washington (illness)

Branch practiced for the second consecutive day. “We’re surprised we got Alan Branch back,” Carroll said. “He’s going to go.”

Rice was limited today after sitting out Wednesday and Thursday. “We’re still going to make sure he can run on game day,” Carroll said. “He feels pretty good right now. But we’ve got to get to game day and run him and see how he can tolerate it. He thinks he’s playing. He feels like he’s going to.”

Johnson was rested because of the groin injury he got in practice this week. “We don’t think it’s bad at all,” Carroll said. “There’s a really good chance he’s playing.”

For the 49ers:

Doubtful

LB Clark Haggans (shoulder)

Questionable

DT Justin Smith (elbow)

LB Tavares Gooden (ribs)

WR Mario Manningham (shoulder)

DT Will Tukuafu (concussion)

Probable

K David Akers (pelvis)

OG Alex Boone (knee)

LB NaVorro Bowman (shoulder)

LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder)

CB Tarell Brown (shoulder)

S Dashon Goldson (foot)

RB Frank Gore (wrist)

OG Mike Iupati (shoulder)

RB Bruce Miller (shoulder)

CB Carlos Rogers (knee)

LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)

S C.J. Spillman (illness)

LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

Carroll is planning on having to face Justin Smith. “He’s a tremendous football player,” Carroll said. “I think he’s going to play. If there’s ever a guy that’s going to fight through whatever, he’s going to make it. I’d be surprised if he didn’t. He must really be hurt if he doesn’t play, because he’s going to get out there. He’s a fantastic competitor.”

STAT DU JOUR

Almost lost in everything else going on in Sunday night’s game is the impact that Gore has had on this series since entering the league in 2005. In the games where Gore has rushed for more than 100 yards, the 49ers are 4-0. When the Seahawks hold Gore to fewer than 100 yards, the 49ers are 3-6. Here’s a look at what he’s done against the Seahawks:

Triple-digit games (4-0)

Year      Att.  Yards    Avg.

2006     24     212      8.8

2006     29     144      5.0

2009     16     207    12.9

2012     16     131      8.2

Double-digit games (3-6)

Year (W-L)      Att.   Yards    Avg.

2005 (L)           2         5         2.5

2007 (L)         16      79        4.9

2007 (L)         13      72        5.5

2008 (W)       19      61        3.2

2008 (L)         18      94        5.2

2009 (L)           9      25        2.8

2010 (L)         17      38        2.2

2011 (W)       22      59        2.7

2011 (W)       23      83        3.6

UP NEXT

The players will have a walkthrough on Saturday, their final on-field preparation for Sunday night’s game. And remember, the game starts at 5:20 p.m. because it was flexed into the primetime spot on NBC.

YOU DON’T SAY, PLAYER EDITION

“Yeah, we definitely talk about it. It’s a championship game. That’s the way we approach it this week – it’s a championship game. We’re going to have to prepare and play like it. We know it will be a great one.” – quarterback Russell Wilson when asked if the players have allowed themselves to talk about clinching a playoff berth with a win over the 49ers

YOU DON’T SAY, COACH EDITION

“I’m really looking forward to it. I know our guys are. It’s been really like a celebration of being a football coach and a player when you get here. It’s just that much fun at CenturyLink. The way that the fans respond so consistently and they love it so much, it is a factor. I mean, I can feel it. It changes the energy level. So hopefully we can perform up to that. We don’t have to do much about it, but show up and play well. And they’ll be doing their thing. It is a boost and we’re excited to be finishing up here at home.” – Carroll when asked about the final two regular-season games being played at CenturyLink Field


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Thursday in Hawkville: Wilson, Wagner flaunting their rookie games

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 20:

Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner

FOCUS ON

Rookies of the Year. There’s no question that quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner have been the Seahawks’ offensive and defensive rookies of the year.

You would have to consider their production heading into Sunday night’s bigger-than-big rematch with the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field as beyond impressive for seasoned vets. Wilson has passed for 21 touchdowns, run for 402 yards and three scores and taken the offense to unprecedented heights. Wagner leads the league’s No. 3-ranked defense with 121 tackles and has developed into a productive every-down player, as evidenced by his three interceptions and two sacks.

Not surprisingly, Wilson, who was selected in the third round of the NFL Draft, and Wagner, a second-round pick, have played their way into contention for the league rookie honors as well. And each definitely has noticed the contributions of the other to the Seahawks’ 9-5 record.

Wilson on Wagner: “Bobby Wagner has done a tremendous job. He’s one of our leaders on our defense, for him to be able to play at such a high level. He can run around. He can make all the plays. He’s come up with several interceptions already. What he’s doing as a rookie and how he approaches the game, in terms of just getting here early and doing what he needs to do to be successful on Sunday and lead, is really exceptional.”

Wagner on Wilson: “I think Russell should win it. I feel like Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin, they were kind of deemed rookie of the year before they even set foot on the field or even proved themselves. The stuff Russell has been doing, going out there and performing every week, I feel like he has the numbers. So you can’t be biased just because the hype before those other guys got here. For me it’s like, the first-round guys, you expect them to do that. You didn’t expect Russell to come in and do what he’s done.”

But this stumping for Wilson and Wagner transcends VMAC. In his weekly rookie rankings at ESPN.com, Matt Williamson has elevated Wilson into the top spot (up from No. 3 last week) and lists Wagner at No. 10 – and as the third defensive player behind Packers cornerback Casey Hayward (No. 6) and Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly (No. 9).

Williamson on Wilson: “Led by Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and an extremely talented and opportunistic defense, the Seahawks are simply on fire right now. Wilson’s Seahawks have amazingly scored 108 points over the past two weeks, after dismantling the Bills in Toronto. Wilson was his usual efficient self throwing the ball, but he also ran for 92 yards and three touchdowns on nine carries. Wilson must be strongly considered for Offensive Rookie of the Year honors – and he is now quarterbacking the best team of any of this year’s rookie signal-callers.”

Williamson on Wagner: “Wagner has been on and off the Top 10 all season, and he is an excellent candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year. What Seattle’s defense has done of late is nothing short of remarkable, and Wagner is a key component to that great success. Against Buffalo, Wagner had 12 tackles, 10 of them solo. He is an exceptionally productive every-down linebacker on one of the elite defenses in the NFL.”

HAWAII CALLING?

The fans balloting for the Pro Bowl concluded on Monday, and the Seahawks players and coaches cast their votes today. Each segment counts one-third toward selecting the NFC squad for the NFL all-star game on Jan. 27 in Honolulu.

After the fan voting, Marshawn Lynch is second among the NFC running backs (534,073 votes) to the Vikings’ Adrian Peterson (828,225). Richard Sherman is third among the cornerbacks (169,404) to the Bears’ duo of Tim Jennings (312,595) and Charles Tillman (221,364). Leon Washington is third among the kick returners (68,151) behind the Packers’ Randall Cobb (131,626) and Bears’ Devin Hester (102,688).

Kam Chancellor is fourth among the strong safeties (83,310). Jon Ryan is fourth (81,208) among the punters. Max Unger is fifth (116,135) among the centers. Chris Clemons is fifth (159,088) among the defensive ends. Earl Thomas is fifth among the free safeties (63,585).

Broncos QB Peyton Manning was the top vote-getter in fan balloting with 993,045.

The NFC and AFC squads will be announced next Wednesday on the NFL Network.

LYNCH, OKUNG HONORED

Lynch and left tackle Russell Okung have been selected by their teammates as the Seahawks’ NFLPA Pulse Award winners.

The NFL Players Association recognizes players each year for their community service. From the field of team winners, five finalists will be selected and from that group will come the recipient of the Byron Whizzer White Award – the highest honor the NFLPA can bestow on a player. The White Award winner will be announced during a press conference at the Super Bowl in New Orleans.

Also among the team winners are four former Seahawks: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (Titans), wide receiver Nate Burleson (Lions), defensive lineman Cory Redding (Colts) and linebacker Aaron Curry (Raiders).

JONES OUT, FANGUPO UP, WALTERS IN

With defensive lineman Jason Jones being placed on injured reserve earlier today, it opened a spot on the 53-man roster for practice-squad lineman Hebron Fangupo, which opened a spot on the practice squad for wide receiver Bryan Walters.

“He’s really strong inside,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said of the 6-foot-1, 293-pound Fangupo. “It will be exciting to see, if he has a chance to play.”

Walters, who went to Juanita High School in Kirkland, played in four games for the Chargers last year and was with the Vikings in training camp this summer before being released.

“It’s pretty fun to be able to just be a part of the team you grew up watching and rooting for,” Walters said. “Even when I was on other teams, I was looking at the scoreboard to see the Seahawks’ score.”

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as released by team:

Did not practice

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

CB Richard Sherman (not injury related)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

Limited in practice

S Jeron Johnson (groin)

RB Robert Turbin (illness)

Full participation

DT Alan Branch (ankle)

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

RB Leon Washington (illness)

With Trufant and Thurmond still out and Sherman excused from practice, Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell worked at the corners with the No. 1 defense and Ron Parker joined them as the third corner in the nickel.

Branch and Washington returned after not practicing on Wednesday, while Lynch took part in all phases of practice after being limited on Wednesday.

For the 49ers:

Did not practice

LB Clark Haggans (shoulder)

DT Justin Smith (elbow)

Limited in practice

LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder)

CB Tarell Brown (shoulder)

LB Tavares Gooden (ribs)

WR Mario Manningham (shoulder)

RB Bruce Miller (shoulder)

LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)

DT Will Tukuafu (concussion)

Full participation

K David Akers (pelvis)

OG Alex Boone (knee)

LB NaVorro Bowman (shoulder)

S Dashon Goldson (foot)

RB Frank Gore (wrist)

OG Mike Iupati (shoulder)

CB Carlos Rogers (knee)

LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

Justin Smith did not practice for the second consecutive day because of the elbow he injured in Sunday night’s win over the Patriots in New England.

STAT DU JOUR

Among Wilson’s mounting accomplishments has been his impressive performance in the red zone. The Seahawks’ rookie QB has the NFC’s fifth-best passer rating inside the oppositions’ 20-yard line. Here’s a look at his numbers, and those who rank ahead of him:

Player, team                          Att.  Comp.  Pct.    Yds.   TD   Int.   Rating

Aaron Rodgers, Packers       52       33      63.5    216    18    0      111.9

Drew Brees, Saints                81       50      61.7    359    25    0      111.6

Jay Cutler, Bears                    39       22      56.4    160    10    0      105.8

Robert Griffin III, Redskins   38       23      60.5    100      9    0      104.6

Russell Wilson, Seahawks     51      27       52.9    198   13    0      102.0

UP NEXT

“Turnover Thursday” gives way to “No Repeat Friday” as the players will hold their final full practice before Sunday night’s game. And don’t forget, the kickoff against the 49ers is 5:20 p.m., not the originally scheduled 1:25 p.m., after the game was flexed into the primetime spot on NBC.

 YOU DON’T SAY, LOCAL EDITION

“It’s going to be a blast. And we know it’s going to be a battle all the way to the very end of the game. We’re excited about that opportunity.” – Wilson on Sunday night’s game

YOU DON’T SAY, NATIONAL EDITION

“The Seahawks are playing fast-break football in December, and they don’t seem to know they’re not supposed to be hanging a Hawaii 5-0 on opponents. But this week is the ultimate test. If Seattle can put up a stupid number against the 49ers’ stout defense (kind of the way the Patriots did in the second half), then a case of legitimate Super Bowl fever may break out in the Pacific Northwest.” – Don Banks in listing the Seahawks at No. 7 in his weekly NFL power rankings at SI.com


Wednesday in Hawkville: Seahawks preparing for everything the 49ers can throw, and run, at them

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 19:

Michael Crabtree

FOCUS ON

Being prepared for everything the 49ers’ offense can throw, and run, at a defense. Even coach Pete Carroll admitted, “Really, that’s kind of the topic of the day,” as the Seahawks began practicing for Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field.

“It’s a very challenging team,” Carroll said today. “And it’s the running elements, but then they’ve got (leading receiver Michael) Crabtree and there’s (tight end) Vernon Davis and there’s the big fella Randy (Moss) out there running.

“This is a very talented football team and all of those guys present problems in concert. So it’s a real challenge.”

A challenge made even more challenging with Colin Kaepernick taking over at quarterback for Alex Smith. The second-year QB runs faster and has a stronger arm than Smith, and has displayed both traits during his five-game stint as the starter.

As for those running elements, there’s Frank Gore, who is having another 1,000-yard rushing season – his sixth in the past seven seasons – and ran for 131 yards in the 49ers’ victory over the Seahawks in Week 7. There’s also LaMichael James, who has taken over for the injured Kendall Hunter. Now there’s Kaepernick, who is averaging 7.2 yards per carry and has a 50-yarder among his five touchdown runs.

Offensive Line

POSITION WATCH

The offensive line. Make that the finally-gaining-some-notoriety-offensive line, as the unit was selected for the “Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award” this week by Hall of Fame coach John Madden.

“Seattle has done a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage on a consistent basis,” Madden, who coached the Raiders before becoming an iconic broadcast analyst for NFL games, said in the release announcing the selection.

Left tackle Russell Okung, left guard John Moffitt, center Max Unger, right guard Paul McQuistan and right tackle Breno Giacomini paved the way for the Seahawks to score on their first five possessions – including three rushing touchdowns by quarterback Russell Wilson – in the 50-17 rout of the Bills at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Marshawn Lynch added a fourth rushing touchdown in the third quarter as the Seahawks ran for 270 yards – including 55 in the fourth quarter, when backup linemen Frank Omiyale, J.R. Sweezy and Lemuel Jeanpierre were on the field.

“It’s cool, but I don’t know what that means,” Unger said of the honor. “I thought we played well. We gave up a sack that first play, then we kind of kept Russell (Wilson) pretty clean after that. There’s definitely a lot of room for improvement. But it’s pretty cool that Mr. Madden thinks that we played a good game.”

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as released by team:

Did not participate

DT Alan Branch (ankle)

DT Jason Jones (knee)

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

RB/KR Leon Washington (illness)

Limited in practice

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

Carroll said that Branch likely will sit out practice on Thursday as well to rest the ankle he sprained against the Bills, adding that he is hoping the team’s three-technique tackle will be able to practice on Friday. Clinton McDonald filled in for Branch today.

As for Trufant and Thurmond, Carroll said he’ll find out about their possible status as the week progresses. Trufant has missed the past three games and Thurmond did not play against the Bills. In their absence, rookie Jeremy Lane continued to work at right cornerback.

For the 49ers:

Did not participate

LB Clark Haggans (shoulder)

DT Justin Smith (elbow)

Limited in practice

LB Ahmad Brooks (shoulder)

CB Tarell Brown (shoulder)

LB Tavares Gooden (ribs)

WR Mario Manningham (shoulder)

RB Bruce Miller (shoulder)

LB Aldon Smith (shoulder)

DT Will Tukuafu (concussion)

Full participation

K David Akers (pelvis)

OG Alex Boone (knee)

LB NaVorro Bowman (shoulder)

RB Frank Gore (wrist)

OG Mike Iupati (shoulder)

CB Carlos Rogers (knee)

LB Patrick Willis (shoulder)

GUY, KNOX RETURN

Rookie safety Winston Guy practiced with the team for the first time since serving a four-game suspension. The Seahawks have a roster exemption for Guy. Also, linebacker Kyle Knox was signed to the practice squad. He was with the team in training camp until being released on roster cut to 53 players.

STAT DU JOUR

When Wilson threw his 21st touchdown pass of the season against the Bills last week, he moved into a tie with Cam Newton for third place on the all-time list for rookie quarterbacks in the NFL. Here’s a look at who Wilson is chasing with two games to play:

Player, team (year)                                    No.

Peyton Manning, Colts (1998)                 26

Charlie Conerly, Giants (1948)                 22

Russell Wilson, Seahawks (2012)            21

Cam Newton, Panthers (2011)                21

Andrew Luck, Colts (2012)                       20

Andy Dalton, Bengals (2011)                   20

Dan Marino, Dolphins (1983)                  20

UP NEXT

“Competition Wednesday” gives way to “Turnover Thursday” as the players continue to practice for Sunday night’s game.

YOU DON’T SAY

“No, you don’t bring up the playoffs until the playoffs get here. You’re still in the regular season, so that’s what we’re playing. We’re playing trying to win the rest of these ball games and see where the chips fall.” – cornerback Richard Sherman, when asked if the players were mentioning the P-word this week knowing that a win over the 49ers will clinch a spot in the postseason