Wednesday in Hawkville: Think Schneider for NFL Executive of the Year

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 26:

John Schneider

FOCUS ON

John Schneider. Add another name to the list of those associated with the Seahawks that deserves consideration for honors this season. With Schneider, it’s NFL Executive of the Year.

The Seahawks’ team that will host the Rams in its regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field on Sunday is 10-5 and clinched a playoff spot with last week’s decisive victory over the NFC West-leading 49ers. And the core of this team that has become the sixth in franchise history to post double-digit victories has been constructed the past three years by Schneider, the general manager, and coach Pete Carroll.

This year’s draft class included quarterback Russell Wilson, who was selected in the third round by Schneider and is a candidate for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year; middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, a second-round pick and candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year; first-round pick Bruce Irvin, who leads all rookies with eight sacks; running back Robert Turbin, a fourth-round pick who has provided the physical presence that was missing to complement leading rusher Marshawn Lynch; cornerback Jeremy Lane, a sixth-round pick who could start his third consecutive game on Sunday; and J.R. Sweezy, a former college defensive lineman and seventh-round pick who is the likely starter at right guard against the Rams.

“We’ve just continued to grow,” Carroll said. “Our way of thinking was hindered last year when we didn’t have the offseason (because of the 136-day lockout) to get our guys ready, because we wanted our guys to play early. That was hard as it could get, to see our philosophy and our approach to playing the young guys come to life.

“This is really the culmination of the three years, and the approach showed up this year I think successfully. You can see that we had a terrific draft and we’ve utilized those guys and they’ve grown to where they’re regular football players for us now.”

While it’s been three giant steps in the right direction for Carroll and Schneider, Carroll added, “We still feel like we’re in early stages. But we have been through three drafts, and he’s done a marvelous job with the drafts and with all of the transactions we’ve done.”

And with Carroll, that means tweaking the norm, because he looks for players with unique talents, rather than those who look as if they stepped out of the NFL-specs machine.

“To me, he’s an absolute joy,” Carroll said of Schneider. “Because we can talk about everything, work through everything and understand that we have to come to an agreement using all of the strengths and the savvy that we have. And we’ve turned out a pretty good product.

“I can’t imagine anybody doing a better job general managing than John has done. He’s just done an incredible job.”

FIVE VOTED TO PRO BOWL

Left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger were named starters on the NFC Pro Bowl team today, while kick returner Leon Washington also made the squad and running back Marshawn Lynch and free safety Earl Thomas are reserves.

To further the point Carroll made above, Okung and Thomas were the first-round draft choices in the first year Carroll and Schneider were in charge, while Washington and Lynch were acquired in trades during that first year.

For more on the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl selections, click here.

EDWARDS IMPRESSED WITH WILSON

Former Chiefs coach Herm Edwards, now an analyst for ESPN, has selected his 10 most impressive players for 2012 and a certain rookie quarterback made the list.

Edwards on Wilson: “Wilson has been answering questions about his size (5-foot-11) his whole career. I think it’s time to put those to rest. The Seahawks have done a tremendous job expanding the playbook for Wilson over the course of the season, giving him only as much as they thought he could handle. He has terrific poise, is extremely accurate down the field and has led the Seahawks to road victories in Chicago and Buffalo before blowing out San Francisco on Sunday. In the red zone this year, he has 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions.”

Edwards also gives cornerback Richard Sherman honorable mention, offering: “Although his status for the playoffs is uncertain, Sherman has had an excellent season. A smart player, Sherman is very physical at the line of scrimmage and has great change-of-direction and ball skills, especially with his back to the quarterback. He has selective memory, which is important as a cornerback, and doesn’t fear anyone. He has evolved into a true shutdown corner.”

OPPONENT WATCH

Brandon Gibson. The Rams’ second-leading receiver (48 receptions) and leader in touchdown catches (five) played at Washington State University and obviously is developing into a nice complement to leading receiver Danny Amendola.

“Gibby’s done great,” Jeff Fisher, the Rams’ first-year head coach, said today during a conference-call interview. “He’s been making plays since we arrived. He’s real smart. He’s tough. He can make the tough catch.

“It’s fun to see him, not only on Sundays, but make some tremendous catches on the practice field. Most of the catches should be easy and are easy, because Sam (Bradford) is an accurate passer. But every once in a while he needs to put it someplace and Gibby can go get it. He’s one of those guys you want on your football team. He’s fun to coach and fun to be around.”

POWERING UP, PART DEUX

Monday, we mentioned that the Seahawks had jumped to No. 3 in Peter King’s “Fine Fifteen” at SI.com and to No. 6 in the Power Rankings at ESPN.com. Today, they continued their ascent in some other Power Rankings.

No. 2 in Bryan McIntyre’s Power Rankings at YahooSports.com: “The Seahawks showed that they’re for real with a 42-13 blowout of the 49ers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday night. From an advanced metrics standpoint, the Seahawks are the No. 1 team in the NFL, ranking in the Top 5 in Football Outsiders’ offensive, defensive and special teams DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average). With a win over the Rams and losses by the 49ers and Packers, the Seahawks will get a first-round bye in the playoffs.”

No. 5 in Pete Prisco’s Power Rankings at CBSSports.com: “They are building something special up there for the long haul.”

No. 5 in Don Banks’ Power Ratings at SI.com: “As I said last week, let the Seahawks hang up a stupid number against the stout 49ers defense, and a legitimate case of Super Bowl Fever will break out in the Pacific Northwest. All systems go on that front. Seattle’s only fear might be peaking before the playoffs arrive.”

O-LINE “MADDEN-ED” AGAIN

For the second consecutive week, the Seahawks’ offensive line has been selected as the winner of the Madden Most Valuable Protectors Award.

“With great balance on offense behind the steady play of offensive line and rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks are now poised to make a playoff run,” Hall of Fame coach John Madden said in the release announcing the selection of the Seahawks’ line.

The starting unit is comprised by – from left tackle to right – Okung, Paul McQuistan, Unger, Sweezy and Breno Giacomini. And because of the lopsidedness of the 42-13 win over the 49ers, backups Frank Omiyale and Lemuel Jeanpierre played in the second half.

Wilson threw for a career-high four touchdowns, while Lynch ran for 111 yards and scored twice.

The Seahawks’ line joins the 49ers (three times), Texans (twice), Giants (twice) and Vikings (twice) as multiple winners of the weekly Madden honor. But the Seahawks are the first unit to win it in back-to-back weeks.

PRACTICE-SQUAD SHUFFLE

Tight end Cooper Helfet has been signed to the practice squad. Defensive end Monte Taylor was released to clear a spot. Helfet was signed in May as a rookie agent, but was waived/injured on the roster cut to 53 players in August.

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as released by the team:

Did not practice

DE Red Bryant (foot)

OT Breno Giacomini (elbow)

LB Leroy Hill (hamstring)

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

TE Anthony McCoy (back)

WR Sidney Rice (knee)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

Full participation

FS Earl Thomas (ankle)

With Giacomini sidelined, Omiyale worked at right tackle. Greg Scruggs filled in at defensive end Red Bryant. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse got snaps at split end for Rice. Washington and Turbin shared the reps at running back with Lynch out.

For the Rams:

Did not practice

CB Cortland Finnegan (thigh)

RB Steven Jackson (illness)

LB James Laurinaitis (back)

CB Scott Wells (knee)

Limited in practice

S Craig Dahl (knee)

Full participation

WR Austin Pettis (shoulder)

STAT DU JOUR

Among the Seahawks’ 10 victories are wins over three other teams that have won double digit games, which ties for the most in the league. Here’s a look at the league-leaders in that category, as well as a look at how many of those wins the teams that have won more than 10 or more games have:

Most wins vs. teams with 10-plus wins

Team                            Wins     Teams

Seahawks                      3          Packers, Patriots 49ers

Texans                           3          Broncos, Ravens, Colts

Patriots                         3          Broncos, Colts, Texans

49ers                             3          Seahawks, Packers, Patriots

Rams                             2          Seahawks, 49ers

Giants                           2          49ers, Packers

Vikings                          2          49ers, Texans

Teams with 10-plus wins vs. other teams with 10-plus wins

Team (record)            Wins      Opponents

Seahawks (10-5)           3          Packers, Patriots, 49ers

Patriots (11-4)               3          Broncos, Colts, Texans

Texans (12-3)                3          Broncos, Ravens, Colts

49ers (10-4-1)               3          Seahawks, Packers, Patriots

Falcons (13-2)               1          Broncos

Ravens (10-5)                1          Patriots

Packers (11-4)               1          Texans

Colts (10-5)                    1          Packers

Broncos (12-3)              1           Ravens

UP NEXT

“Competition Wednesday” gives way to “Turnover Thursday” as the players continue to prepare for Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Rams.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Watching @DangeRussWilson this weekend really took me back. He has to be this season’s #NFL Rookie of Year. @Seahawks.” – a tweet from former Vikings and Giants QB Fran Tarkenton, who Wilson has been compared to this season and especially during NBC’s telecast of Sunday night’s game against the 49ers


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 cyber surfing: Wilson exceeding expectations, developing better rapport with receivers

Russell Wilson

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 19.

The club made a roster move yesterday afternoon, releasing tight end Evan Moore and promoting rookie tight end Sean McGrath from the practice squad to the active roster.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times writes why Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson deserves the NFL’s Rookie of the Year award, “Wilson, unlike the other rookies, wasn’t granted the luxury of time. His future was now. He had early games against Dallas, Green Bay and New England. If he wasn’t ready, if he made even the usual amount of rookie mistakes, the Seahawks could have been buried early and the call for Flynn would come swiftly and loudly from the sellout crowds at CenturyLink. But the Hawks won all three. Wilson has surpassed — I suspect even Carroll’s — most optimistic expectations. And, with two games left in the regular season, I believe he should be NFL Rookie of the Year. Wilson had to win. And he has. He had to get better. And, oh my, has he. He has run the Seahawks like a 10-year veteran. He has dodged blitzes and escaped pass rushers like no quarterback since the Minnesota Vikings’ Fran Tarkenton in the 1970s.”

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune highlights the relationship between Wilson and wide receiver Sidney Rice, “In the past seven games, Rice has 27 receptions for 422 yards and five touchdowns, becoming the big-play threat the Seahawks were looking for when they signed him to a lucrative deal as an unrestricted agent during the 2010 offseason. Wilson has developed a better rapport with Rice, Golden Tate, Zach Miller and the rest of Seattle’s receiving threats, throwing more passes in rhythm and doing a better job of anticipating when players are coming out of their breaks. ‘Things have slowed down for him some,’ Seattle coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson. ‘He’s much more comfortable with situational football — red zone, he’s better at because he has had repetition running the offense. Third downs, he has been more consistent lately. I think he’s way more comfortable throwing the ball to Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Zach Miller primarily, with Anthony McCoy getting in there as well. I just think he’s better and more comfortable.’ “

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Seahawks fans have the right to dream big, “This is a team, after all, that is hitting its stride at the right time, and momentum has often proven to be more important than seeding in the NFL playoffs. After starting the year as a team hoping to win with defense and a running game, the Seahawks are suddenly dangerous on offense. One of the lowest scoring teams in the league early on, the Seahawks now rank 11th in scoring at 25 points per game, a scoring average they haven’t bettered since 2005. Buoyed by back-to-back blowouts, Seattle now has a plus-131 point differential this season, a total that trails just New England, San Francisco and Denver. And even if the Seahawks can’t take over first place on Sunday, they can with one more victory clinch a playoff berth as well as their first 10-win season since 2007. But as much as the Seahawks have done to change people’s opinions of them while winning five of their past six, nobody is patting themselves on the back just yet. ‘We ain’t done nothing yet,’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. ‘When that happens, it happens. Every one of these games are championship matchups. Every one of them makes the statement that you’re still in it and you get it. We just have to go play this football game, and play it really, really well.’ “

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com notes that San Francisco 49ers second-year linebacker Aldon Smith, who has 19.5 sacks through Week 15, is the latest challenge facing the Seahawks pass protectors, “San Francisco’s defense ranks second in yardage and first in scoring. It has playmakers and Pro Bowlers at every level, but it’s the guys up front that seem to generate the most fear. ‘Really, their front seven is I think definitely the best in the league. They’ve shown it,’ Seahawks tight end Zach Miller told ‘Bob and Groz’ on Monday. “They have a great defense with those two linebackers, [NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis], and then you’ve got Aldon Smith coming off the edge and Justin Smith in the middle there. There’s some challenges we’re going to have, but I like what we’ve been doing lately.’ What the Seahawks have been doing lately – aside from scoring at least 50 points in their last two games – is protecting their quarterback much better than they did a season ago. Seattle allowed 50 sacks last season, the fourth-most in the NFL. That number is 26 through 14 games this season, tied for eighth-fewest.”

Mike Salk of 710Sports.com has a look at why the Seahawks’ zone-read offense has been so successful under Wilson in this short video.

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his latest “MVP Watch” putting running back Marshawn Lynch at No. 7 and Wilson at No. 9 on his list of 10 candidates, “Lynch trails only Peterson in rushing yards this season. He has 21 carries for 241 yards over his past two games. The four other backs with at least 200 yards over that span have needed between 42 and 55 carries to get their yardage. That includes Peterson (55-366), Knowshon Moreno (54-237), Alfred Morris (50-216) and Arian Foster (42-211). Lynch has eight games with at least 100 yards this season. He has four additional games with at least 85 yards. He also ranks tied for fourth in rushing touchdowns with 10. … A strong performance in victory against the 49ers might be enough for Wilson to overtake Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as the perceived leading candidate for offensive rookie of the year. Wilson was the only one of the three to appear in MVP Watch this week for three primary reasons. One, Luck has slipped a bit lately and is coming off a defeat. Two, an injury forced Griffin to watch from the sideline while Kirk Cousins led Washington to victory in Week 15. Griffin’s injury status is affecting his candidacy. Three, Wilson has been sensational. He leads the NFL in Total QBR (85.1) and ranks second to Rodgers in passer rating (106.7) over the past 10 weeks.”

Sando also has a look at NFC West QBR ranks from Week 15, “Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks (99.2 QBR, 104.4 NFL rating). Wilson completed 14 of 23 passes (60.9 percent) for 205 yards with one touchdown, zero interceptions, two sacks and 10 passing first downs. He carried nine times for 92 yards and three touchdowns, with five first downs rushing. He had no fumbles. The Bills sacked Wilson on the first play of the game. They had a hard time getting a hand on him most of the day, however. The Bills did not touch Wilson on any of the quarterback’s nine rushes. Wilson and running back Marshawn Lynch continued to play off one another effectively on option runs.”

Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth has a recap of “Tuesday in Hawkville” with a focus on rookie cornerback Jeremy Lane, who has gained the confidence and trust of the coaching staff with his recent play.

Farnsworth has his first look at the San Francisco 49ers, who are 5-0 in primetime games this season and will face a Seahawks team on Sunday Night Football at CenturyLink Field that is 6-0 at home.

Farnsworth also recaps a surprise visit from Wilson to Skyline High School quarterback Max Browne, who was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year yesterday, “Browne’s selection as National Player of the Year shouldn’t come as a surprise, despite the stiffest of competition, because he was awesome during his senior season. He led the Spartans to a 14-0 record, capped by the victory in the state title game. He passed for 4,526 yards and 49 touchdowns while completing 277 of 377 passes and throwing only five interceptions. During his career with the Spartans, Browne set the state record with 882 completions, which led to 12,947 yards. But there’s more to Browne than just impressive stats and overwhelming victories. He has a 3.5 GPA and volunteers for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and Generation Joy. Sound familiar? Browne shared the stage on Tuesday with another QB who’s too good to be true – on and off the field. ‘He’s just a tremendous person, first of all,’ Wilson said. ‘He has a great attitude, a great personality. He works so hard. Max is a tremendous football player and Gatorade found the best football player in the country. Max does a tremendous job in the three pillars of what Gatorade does in terms of naming a National Player of the Year. Athletically, obviously he’s very good.  But academically he’s carried a 3.5 his whole career in high school. And then to do what he does in the community, and put so many smiles on so many faces, is really unbelievable.’ “


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Tuesday in Hawkville: Lane handling life in the fast lane

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 18:

Jeremy Lane

FOCUS ON

Jeremy Lane. It didn’t take the Bills long to see what the rookie cornerback had during Sunday’s game at Toronto’s Rogers Centre.

On their second play, and first pass play, QB Ryan Fitzpatrick went to wide receiver T.J. Graham – and at the Seahawks’ sixth-round draft choice. But there was Lane, not only matching Graham stride for stride as they ran up the sideline, but having a better read on the ball than the intended receiver as the pass fell incomplete.

“He did a great job,” coach Pete Carroll said. “They went after him right off the bat and tried to get him and he played a great deep ball.”

Lane, who was making his first NFL start, could be needed again in Sunday night’s nationally televised game against the NFC West-leading 49ers at CenturyLink Field. Carroll is keeping his fingers crossed that Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant will be able to return from the hamstring injuries that have sidelined them – Thurmond for the game against the Bills, Trufant for the past three games.

But when the players begin practicing for the 49ers on Wednesday, it’s likely that Lane will be on the right side and Byron Maxwell will be the nickel back. The coaches also got a good look at Ron Parker, who was just re-signed last week, in the fourth quarter of the 50-17 rout of the Bills.

“All three guys did a good job,” Carroll said. “All of those snaps are just hugely valuable to us in bringing those guys along and getting a feel for them.”

Carroll also gave credit where credit is due – to secondary coach Kris Richard and passing game coordinator Rocky Seto, who were down to their third and fourth options with Lane stepping in for Thurmond, who had stepped in for Trufant, who were needed but unavailable because Brandon Browner is serving a four-game suspension.

“Kris Richard and Rocky Seto are doing a really good job coaching those guys,” Carroll said. “They’re playing with really good technique and again this week they stayed on top like they’re supposed to. They’re gaining confidence. We’re seeing reason to trust them more. And it’s really crucial for us that that’s happening right now.”

McGRATH ADDED TO 53-MAN ROSTER

Sean McGrath’s up-and-down season with the Seahawks spiked today when the practice-squad tight end was signed to the 53-man roster. He replaces tight end Evan Moore, who was released.

Moore was signed in September after tight end Kellen Winslow was released. But Moore caught only one pass for six yards.

McGrath, a rookie free agent from Henderson State, was signed in April after the NFL Draft. He was released on the roster cut to 53 players on Aug. 31, signed to the practice squad the next day and then released two days later. He returned to the practice squad on Sept. 8, was released again on Sept. 27 and then signed again on Oct. 2.

STATS ’N STUFF

Marshawn Lynch remains No. 2 in the league in rushing (1,379 yards). He’s the first Seahawks back to surpass 1,300 yards since Shaun Alexander led the league in rushing with 1,880 yards in 2005, and only the fourth back in franchise history it do it – joining Curt Warner, Chris Warren and Alexander. Lynch also is fourth in the league in total yards (1,542) and tied for seventh in first downs (69).

Leon Washington also remains second in the NFL in kickoff return average (30.0), while Jon Ryan is fifth in net punting average (41.6). Rookie QB Russell Wilson is eighth in passer rating (95.5).

With six interceptions, cornerback Richard Sherman is tied for fourth in the league, and defensive end Chris Clemons is tied for fifth with 11.5 sacks.

As a team, the Seahawks rank No. 3 in the league in overall defense, passing defense and rushing offense. They’re also sixth in turnover differential at plus-11.

STAT DU JOUR

The Seahawks can clinch a playoff spot on Sunday, even if they don’t beat the 49ers. According to the scenarios issued by the league, here’s how the Seahawks can get in:

Beat the 49ers.

Tie the 49ers and have the Giants lose and the Bears lose or tie; or the Giants lose and the Vikings lose or tie; or the Bears lose or tie and the Vikings lose or tie; or the Cowboys lose, Redskins win and Bears lose or tie; or the Cowboys lose, the Redskins lose and the Vikings lose or tie.

The Bears, Vikings and Redskins lose; the Bears and Vikings lose, the Cowboys lose or tie and the Redskins tie.

UP NEXT

The players return from having two “off” days to begin practicing for Sunday’s game on “Competition Wednesday.”

Just a reminder: Kickoff for Sunday’s game is 5:20 p.m., not 1:25 p.m., after it was flexed in the primetime spot.

YOU DON’T SAY

“Oh, I realize that the 49ers-New England matchup was supposed to be the most epic event in the history of the free world. But when you consider all the factors, beating Seattle is more paramount.” – San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy


Game at a glance: Seahawks 50, Bills 17

Russell Wilson

TORONTO – A recap of the Seahawks’ 50-17 victory over the Buffalo Bills at the Rogers Centre on Sunday:

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Russell Wilson. Like last week’s 58-0 shellacking of the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field, this could be a full squad selection because so many players made contributions and everyone got to play. But what the rookie QB did was special.

Wilson became the first QB in franchise history to rush for three touchdowns in a game – on runs of 14, 25 and 13 yards. He threw for a fourth – on a 4-yard pass to tight end Zach Miller. He carried nine times for 92 yards, giving him 402 for the season to break the club record of 343 by Rick Mirer in 1993. His 10.2-yard rushing average was the third-best in franchise history behind the efforts of Marshawn Lynch in the past two games – 11.6 against the Cardinals last week and 11.3 against the Bills on Sunday.

He also completed 14 of 23 passes for 205 yards and did not throw an interception, which made for a passer rating of 104.4.

All in a day’s work as the kid QB continues to grow in the offense, and allow the offense to grow because of him.

“You saw him out there,” said right tackle Breno Giacomini, who more than did his part by holding Mario Williams to no sacks and one QB hit after the Bills defensive end entered the game with 10.5 sacks. “He’s getting better by the week. His preparation is there. He just keeps getting better and we just keep getting better with him.”

PLAYS OF THE GAME

Offense: It wasn’t a touchdown run, but Lynch’s 54-yarder in the second quarter to setup Wilson’s TD pass to Miller definitely proved a point. It was the Bills who made Lynch the 12th pick overall in 2007 NFL Draft. It was the Bills who traded Lynch to the Seahawks in 2010 for next-to-nothing. On that run, as on just about all of Lynch’s runs, he showed his strength, determination and more speed and shiftiness than anyone gives him credit for.

It also allowed Lynch to finish with 113 yards on just 10 carries, for his eighth 100-yard rushing performance of the season.

Defense: Earl Thomas didn’t just make a diving interception of a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass in the third quarter, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl free safety returned it 57 yards for a touchdown. And it was another of those uh-plays, where Thomas’ speed makes it appear that everyone else on the field has stopped running because he is running so fast.

“It was a great feeling,” Thomas said of his third interception of the season. “As soon as I caught the ball, I was thinking end zone – especially this season. I could have had eight or nine picks this season. But this was just a great play, gave our defense a lift and kept the momentum on our side.”

Special teams: The Seahawks had practiced a fake punt during the week and called it on Sunday, despite leading 47-17 at the time. The snap from Clint Gresham went to Chris Maragos, rather than punter Jon Ryan. Maragos handed the ball off to Michael Robinson, who ran 29 yards to the Bills’ 14-yard line.

Coach Pete Carroll explained that they were just trying to pick up a first down, and apologized if it looked like they were kicking the Bills when they already were down. But the play did slap an exclamation point on the 17-yard, 88-yard drive that allowed the Seahawks to hold the ball for more than nine minutes of the fourth quarter and setup Steven Hauschka’s third field goal of the day.

Turning point: It might sound crazy to say there was a turning point in this game. But after the Bills had scored 10 points in the final 70 seconds of the first half to cut the Seahawks lead to 31-17, Stevie Johnson made a leaping one-handed grab of a pass from Fitzpatrick on the third play of the third quarter – a third-and-20 play, no less – for a 25-yard gain and a first down at the Buffalo 39. But on the next play, linebacker K.J. Wright picked Fitzpatrick and returned the interception 24 yards to setup Lynch’s TD that pushed the Seahawks lead to 37-17.

“We knew we just had to come out and stop them,” Wright said. “Somebody had to do something, and fortunately I was able to come up with the turnover.”

INJURY REPORT

Defensive tackle Alan Branch sprained an ankle and Carroll said he wasn’t sure how severe the injury was. Other than that, the postgame report included nothing more than bumps and bruises.

WORTH NOTING

The Seahawks became the NFL’s third team to score 50 points in consecutive weeks, joining the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, who both did it in 1950, according to STATS Inc. And the 108 combined points over two weeks matched the NFL’s third-highest total. The New England also scored 108 points in consecutive games last month.

With 2.5 sacks, Chris Clemons upped his season total to a career-high 11.5 – half a sack more than he produced in each of his first two seasons with the Seahawks. It also made the Leo end the first Seahawk to have double-digit sacks in three consecutive seasons since Michael Sinclair (1996-98).

Rookie Jeremy Lane made his first NFL start at right cornerback for Walter Thurmond, who injured a hamstring in practice Wednesday. Lane was all over Fitzpatrick’s long – and incomplete – throw to T.J. Graham on the Bills’ first pass play of the game and finished with three tackles.

While Wilson continued to make his case for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner continued to do the same for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He had a game-high 12 tackles, the fifth time this season he has posted double digits.

The Seahawks had three plays for 40-plus yards – Lynch’s run, as well as Wilson’s 44-yard pass to Golden Tate and a 41-yarder to Sidney Rice. The 44-yarder came after Wilson pitched the ball to Lynch, who threw the ball back to Wilson, who then completed the pass to Tate.

Despite the lopsided score, the Bills had a 100-yard receiver (Johnson with 115 on eight receptions) and a 100-yard rusher (C.J. Spiller with 103). They also had only one less first down (21) than the Seahawks (22).

Hauschka had another busy week, with three field goals, six PATs (one was blocked) and 10 kickoffs. Last week against the Cardinals, he had 21 kicks.

YOU DON’T SAY, NATIONAL-EXPOSURE EDITION

“I watched a lot of tape and it was probably the most physical game I’ve watched all year.” – former Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison, on the pregame show for Sunday night’s 49ers-Patriots game, discussing the Seahawks-49ers game in Week 7

YOU DON’T SAY, LOCKER-ROOM EDITION

“I’ve never been a part of something where two weeks in a row we’re able to put up so many points.” – Miller on the back-to-back 58-0 and 50-17 victories, the first time since 1950 that an NFL team has done that


Countdown to kickoff

Roger Centre

TORONTO – Greetings from, well, not Buffalo, but the Rogers Centre in Canada’s largest city. The Seahawks will play the Bills here this afternoon in the fifth – and final – regular-season game of the deal the Bills signed with Rogers Communications Inc. in 2008 to lease one “home” game each year as well as three preseason games to the Toronto-based company for $78 million.

How’s that worked out for the Bills? They’re 1-3 in their previous four regular-season games played here, and have not exactly found a new fan base or even enlarged the existing one.

As defensive end Mario Williams, the Bills’ big free-agent acquisition this year, told reporters this week: “Even if it is supposed to be a home game, I mean, you can’t really say it’s going to be that way. You’re going somewhere where some people they might not even care much about football. It’s not really a big deal. They don’t care who wins.”

Ah, but we digress. And the Seahawks cannot afford to do that today.

This game that means so much to the Seahawks is wedged between the impressive victories they posted the past two weeks – over the Bears in Chicago and against the Cardinals at CenturyLink Field – and the much-anticipated nationally televised rematch against the NFC West-leading 49ers next week in Seattle.

It also is against an opponent that’s 5-8, and that a much-different Seahawks team last played in 2008. And it’s in a city where hockey rules (even with the NHL lockout moving into its third month) and the CFL Argonauts just won the Grey Cup.

At 8-5, the Seahawks currently hold the No. 5 seed – or first wild-card berth – in the NFC playoff picture. With a win today, and a 49ers’ loss to the Patriots in New England tonight, the Seahawks could move atop the division by beating the 49ers next week.

The Seahawks also are down to their fourth and fifth options at cornerback, with second-year corner Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane stepping in on the right side and at the nickel spot because Brandon Browner (suspension), Marcus Trufant (injury) and Walter Thurmond (injury) are not available.

Yes, this one has all the trappings of a trap game. Just don’t mention that to Pete Carroll. The Seahawks’ third-year coach cringed when the subject was broached after Friday’s practice.

“Oh no, not around here. No trap games, I don’t even know what that means,” he said, before adding, “On the other end of the spectrum, I guess I believe in it so much that we start talking about how you respond from games – different types of games – the first day we start talking to these guys about going into game time. Because they can be factors, and if you don’t handle it right, you can get in trouble. But we have a whole mindset and a discipline about it that I hope it keeps us going.

“The idea is that you don’t want to play to the situation. You don’t want to have to try to play up to the situation or whatever. The conversation, the language that we use, the expectations, the way we practice, everything is geared to come back to a consistent, balanced approach so that we don’t become a team that goes up and down.”

The Seahawks’ “ups” have been uplifting – especially the wins over the Packers, Patriots and Vikings at home and the overtime win against the Bears in Chicago; as well as the more decisive victories against the Cardinals, Jets and Cowboys. Just as the “downs” have been forehead-slappers – losses on the road to the Cardinals, Rams, Lions and Dolphins.

“Really this team has been very solidly consistent, all the way from preseason throughout,” Carroll said. “We don’t win all of the games, but we’re playing at a pretty good clip. And I’m proud of that. I think that’s something that these young guys have already captured.”

Point made. The Seahawks’ five losses have all come on the road, and by a combined 24 points. The Seahawks had a chance to win each in the fourth quarter, and actually had fourth-quarter leads against the Lions and Dolphins. They have compensated for those losses by going 6-0 at home, and finding ways to win in Carolina and Chicago.

Now comes today’s game – a home game for the Bills that really isn’t; a road game that means so much to the Seahawks because of what they’ve just done and what lies ahead next week.

“Now we will see how we finish,” Carroll said. “But we have continued to hold on to the right mentality regardless of who we’re playing.”

Today, it’s also a matter of where they’re playing.

Enjoy the game, with kickoff set for 1:05 p.m. PT. You can watch on Fox (KCPQ/13 in the greater Seattle area) and listen on 710 ESPN and KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.


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Friday in Hawkville: Thurmond out, so Maxwell and Lane are in

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 14:

Jeremy Lane, Byron Maxwell

Cornerbacks Jeremy Lane (pictured left) and Byron Maxwell (pictured right)

FOCUS ON

Next man up. Again. With Walter Thurmond being ruled out for Sunday’s game against the Bills in Toronto, Byron Maxwell and rookie Jeremy Lane will take over at right cornerback.

Thurmond stepped in two weeks ago to replace Marcus Trufant as the nickel back, and then slid to the right side last week after Brandon Browner was suspended four games for violating the league’s performance enhancement policy – with Lane moving in as the nickel back. But Thurmond injured a hamstring in practice on Wednesday. Trufant will miss his third consecutive game, also because of a hamstring injury.

“He’s not going to make it. Unfortunately he’s not going to be there,” coach Pete Carroll said after today’s practice when asked about Thurmond. “We’ll play those guys in rotation – that would be Jeremy Lane and Bryon.”

Both will play a lot, because the one who is not at right corner will be the third corner in the nickel defense.

Maxwell, a sixth-round draft choice last year, is ready – because he has to be; and prepared – because he got a lot of snaps in the second half of last week’s 58-0 win over the Cardinals.

“It was great just to get out there and help the team,” said Maxwell, who got time at cornerback in one game last season and his first game this season against the Cardinals. “We were up by so much that they took Sherm (left cornerback Richard Sherman) out and it was just the young guys in there – me and J-Lane – getting some experience under our belts.”

It allowed Maxwell to get into the flow of the game, which was important because in most games his contributions are limited to the one snap dash-and-bash that is playing special teams.

“Which is important,” Maxwell said. “There’s nothing like game-time experience.”

Outside? Inside? Does Maxwell have a preference?

“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I just want to be on the field.”

MARTIN TO IR

Wide receiver Charly Martin has been placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season after pulling a calf in practice on Thursday.

OPPONENT WATCH

Scott Chandler. Stevie Johnson leads the Bills with 61 receptions, but it’s Chandler who has caught a team-high six touchdown passes – on 37 catches. And the production by the sixth-year tight end has not escaped Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.

“It’s another real threat, especially in third-down situations,” Bradley said. “He’s one of the top receiving threats on third down. It’s a matchup that we’ve got to take a look at and see the threat he is. You’ll see Chandler with a lot of special routes or a lot of deep-developing routes. So they obviously feel pretty good about him getting away from defensive backs and linebackers.

“The NFL is such a matchup league, and offenses are looking for matchups. So we’ve always got to be aware of that.”

The 6-foot-7, 263-pound Chandler also is averaging 13.2 yards, tops on the team among receivers with more than five receptions.

INJURY REPORT

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

Out

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

Probable

DE Red Bryant (foot)

SS Kam Chancellor (groin)

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

Rice, Bryant and Chancellor practiced today for the first time this week and Carroll said he expected all the play against the Bills.

Linebacker Leroy Hill will return to the starting lineup after missing the past two games because of a sprained ankle, but Malcolm Smith also will play, Carroll said. Smith started the past two games on the weakside for Hill.

For the Bills:

Out

RB Fred Jackson (knee)

C Eric Wood (knee)

Questionable

LB Nick Barnett (knee)

S Jairus Byrd (shin)

DE Marcell Dareus (shoulder)

DT Spencer Johnson (knee)

CB Leodis McKelvin (groin)

DE Mark Anderson (knee)

OG Andy Levitre (knee)

CB Justin Rogers (foot)

WR Donald Jones (calf)

Probable

DT Kyle Williams (ankle)

DB Ron Brooks (hip)

TE Scott Chandler (groin)

OG Kraig Urbik (knee)

LB Chris White (thumb)

S Da’Norris Searcy (hand)

RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder)

CB Aaron Williams (knee)

DE Mario Williams (wrist)

STAT DU JOUR

Bobby Wagner, as we wrote last Friday, is putting up numbers worthy of NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. The Seahawks’ middle linebacker is third among rookies in the league in tackles and tied for third in interceptions – the only player among the Top 3 in both categories:

Tackles

Player, team                                    No.

LB Luke Kuechly, Panthers           130

LB Lavonte David, Buccaneers     117

Bobby Wagner, Seahawks            108

Interceptions

Player, team                                     No.

CB Casey Hayward, Packers             5

S Tavon Wilson, Patriots                   4

LB Bobby Wagner, Seahawks           3

CB Alfonzo Dennard, Patriots          3

CB Janoris Jenkins, Rams                  3

CB Leonard Jackson, Buccaneers    3

S Harrison Smith, Vikings                  3

UP NEXT

The team flew to Toronto after the players had a midday practice. Saturday’s walkthrough will be in Canada’s largest city.

YOU DON’T SAY

“They’re very explosive. There’s a little bit of an emphasis that we’re going to see (C.J.) Spiller more. If you look at his numbers, you can see why they would do that. He’s got great numbers in the running game and the passing game. That doesn’t help us any. So we have to really tune in to him. He’s the factor that can really change them. The perimeter stuff that he does is very dangerous. He has extraordinary speed and it shows up on the field. That’s a big deal for us.” – Carroll on Spiller becoming the feature back for the Bill with Fred Jackson out


Friday cyber surfing: Malcolm Smith earning his way

Malcolm Smith

Good morning, and here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, December 14.

Joshua Mayers of the Seattle Times writes that the Seahawks plan to continue featuring running back Marshawn Lynch, who will face his former team this Sunday, “Lynch, who signed a four-year, $31 million deal in March, has seven 100-yard rushing games this season, second-best in the NFL. He has reached the milestone in five of the past seven games, including a dominant performance last week versus Arizona with 128 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns on just 11 carries. ‘He’s been very consistent with his output and his effort and his style,’ Carroll said of Lynch. ‘Everything has been there every single game.’ Added quarterback Russell Wilson: “He’s the best running back in the NFL — one of the best, for sure — and he does a great job of just being a workhorse. … I think the biggest thing is you have to keep feeding him.’ “

Mayers also has the Seahawks and Buffalo Bills injury reports from yesterday, noting that wide receiver Sidney Rice (foot) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (hamstring) did not participate in practice.

Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune catches up with linebacker Malcolm Smith, who has seen increased playing time lately while veteran linebacker Leroy Hill recovers from a sprained ankle, “During his first season in Seattle, Smith had trouble staying healthy. Smith missed two games because of a hamstring injury, and two games with a concussion. But this season, Smith has been active for all 13 games. And he’s been a key special teams contributor, with five tackles and a blocked punt. ‘The speed on special teams is even more than defense,’ Smith said. ‘So being able to do that has helped a lot for sure. That was the plan when I came here. They said you have to earn your way. And that’s my way of showing up.’ “

Williams also chats with Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News, who regularly covers the Buffalo Bills, and asks him five questions leading up to Sunday’s game, “Q: C.J. Spiller was one of the most explosive players in the 2010 draft. He’s on the verge of rushing for 1,000 yards for the first time in his career, and has an impressive 6.6 per carry average. However, he’s still had to split carries with Fred Jackson, who was recently placed on the injured reserve list with a knee issue. Do you feel Spiller has been used effectively? A: Gaughan: He has been used effectively but not enough. He needs to get the ball more. There are some understandable reasons why he hasn’t gotten the ball in this situation or that situation. But the bottom line is he’s their best offensive weapon and he hasn’t gotten it enough. The offense was on the field 58 plays vs. St. Louis and he got eight touches. They lost by three.”

Michael Rushton of The Sports Network previews the Week 15 matchup between the Seahawks and Bills, “Working against Seattle is the fact that it has been a much better team at home than on the road. Had it faced off against Buffalo during the early string of this Toronto series, it might have been even ground. However, [Bills coach Chan] Gailey feels his team is starting to get a following a little further up north. ‘Last year it really felt like a home game. The first year it was a little bit more of a neutral site, but last year it felt like a home game. That is what you hope to create and continue to develop where that becomes like a game right here (in Buffalo). If we can get that, that would be great,’ he said. Gailey better hope Toronto’s allegiance isn’t riding on this game as Seattle has too much momentum and talent on the defensive side of things for the Bills’ struggling offense to overcome. Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Seahawks 17, Bills 14″

John Boyle of the Everett Herald highlights the recent play of the linebacker Smith, “It’s way too early to say if Smith will join the long list of Seahawks defenders who have gone from draft-day afterthoughts to key contributors to a very good defense, but he’s done nothing to hurt the perception that Carroll and general manager John Schneider have a real knack for finding and developing talent on the third day of the draft. ‘It’s really fun to see the maturity of Malcolm,’ linebackers coach Ken Norton said. ‘I couldn’t be more pleased with Malcolm.’ “

Brady Henderson of 710Sports.com has a look at where the Seahawks pass rush stands after investing in a first round draft pick and free agent acquisition along the defensive line, “Irvin. The 15th overall pick leads all rookies in sacks with eight. He picked one up late in last week’s blowout win over Arizona to avoid going a third straight game without a sack. The Seahawks raved about Irvin’s explosiveness when they drafted him. [Defensive line coach Todd] Wash said he recently fell back into a habit of not coming off the ball as quickly as he could. ‘Timid’ was the word Wash used. Wash also said Irvin is developing a nice spin move. Jones. The Seahawks hoped Jones would improve their interior pass rush when they gave the versatile lineman a one-year, $4.5 million deal. Jones has 2.5 sacks and has missed two games with an ankle injury.

Bill Swartz of 710Sports.com has his report from Thursday’s practice, “Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said both young defensive backs Jeremy Lane and Byron Maxwell played well against the Cardinals. They are preparing to play either outside or at nickel. Bradley is concerned the defense is no longer allowed to have padded practices under terms of the NFL collective bargaining agreement. Statistics showed the Seahawks gave up one more yard per carry last season after a non-pads practice week.”

Bob Stelton and Dave Grosby of 710 AM ESPN Seattle’s “Bob and Groz” discuss cornerback Richard Sherman’s mentality in this short video.

Tim Booth of the Associated Press details the play of the Seahawks rookie class, “The most notable has been giving the Seahawks a key player in Wilson, the starting quarterback coming out of training camp. He’s on pace to challenge the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes and is the first rookie quarterback since 1970 to win his first six home games. At the same time that Wilson was named the starter, the Seahawks also decided Wagner would be capable of taking over as the organizer of the defense at middle linebacker. Wagner currently ranks third among all NFL rookies with 109 tackles. Irvin, the Seahawks’ first-round pick, currently leads all NFL rookies with eight sacks, and Turbin is coming off the first 100-yard rushing game of his career and looks like a suitable backup to spell Marshawn Lynch at running back without the Seahawks losing their punishing style of running. Carroll said he noticed near midseason that Wagner and Irvin both went through the typical rookie swoon of getting used to playing so many games. That wasn’t the case with Wilson. ‘With those other kids there was a time about eight, nine games in, they had already played 12 to 13 games, and it was hard on those guys,’ Carroll said. ‘Russell did not fall into that category; he just continued to progress the whole time. Why he has is because of the way he’s prepared himself. He’s just worked so hard and he will not back off. He continues to push, but not only does he continue to push and try hard, he’s getting better.’ “

Curtis Crabtree of 950 KJR AM has his report from Thursday’s practice, “Thurmond appeared on the injury report Wednesday with a hamstring injury that forced him to have his workload reduced. A day later, Thurmond wasn’t able to practice. If Thurmond can’t play, the Seahawks would turn to CB Byron Maxwell and CB Jeremy Lane to step up into more prominent roles. Both saw time last week against the Arizona Cardinals but have not seen extensive action as part of the defense.”

Mike Sando of ESPN.com has his NFC West offense and defense ranks thru Week 14, and offers a prediction for the Seahawks game against the Bills, “The Bills’ defensive front is playing better recently. Seattle has potential manpower concerns at cornerback and wide receiver, depending on Sidney Rice’s status. Still, if the Seahawks are a legit playoff team, they have to win this game, right? Marshawn Lynch is getting much of the attention heading into this game against his former team, but I’m thinking Russell Wilson will be the story, one way or another. Sando’s best guess: Seahawks 23, Bills 17.”

NFL Films previews our Week 15 game against the Bills in this short video.

Here at Seahawks.com Clare Farnsworth highlights Bills return man Leodis McKelvin, who is the only returner in the NFL to rank among the Top 5 in both punt return and kick return categories, and also recaps the events surrounding “Thursday in Hawkville“, with a focus on the play of the Seahawks rookie class.

Tony Ventrella has his “Seahawks Daily” as the Seahawks hope to keep the momentum up after an overtime road win in Chicago against the Bears in Week 13 and a 58-0 victory at home against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 14.

We have quarterback Russell Wilson’s full video press conference from yesterday available for you here, and you can watch defensive coordinator Gus Bradley’s full video press conference from yesterday here.

Lastly, our team photographer Rod Mar has an updated look at the week of practice in photos here.


Thursday in Hawkville: Rookies on a rampage no surprise to rampaging rookies

A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 13:

Russell Wilson

FOCUS ON

The rookie class. We’ve written a lot about the rookies, and for good reason. They’ve done so much to help the team already win more games this season (eight) than the Seahawks won in their first two seasons (seven) under coach Pete Carroll.

What’s news is how quickly the rookies realized they could be special.

“I knew that as soon as I got here for rookie minicamp,” rookie QB Russell Wilson said today of the first time the rookies gathered in May. “I had a great, great feeling about it. The passion and energy we brought to the practice every day. You wanted to see if that was going to continue into the summer and into the season.

“Everybody talks about that rookie wall. Well, we haven’t hit it. I really don’t believe we’ve hit it. We’re not even close and we’re ready to go.”

And the Seahawks can go to the postseason in the rookies’ first season, if they continue to take care of business one game at a time – starting with Sunday’s game against the Bills in Toronto.

While Wilson, a third-round draft choice, already has done things no other rookie QB in the history of the league has, first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin leads all rookies this season with eight sacks; second-round pick and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner leads the team with 108 tackles; fourth-round pick Robert Turbin had his first 100-yard rushing effort in last week’s game against the Cardinals; and cornerback Jeremy Lane (sixth round), guard J.R. Sweezy (seventh round), defensive lineman Greg Scruggs (seventh round) and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (free agents) also played a lot, and made plays, against the Cardinals.

“That’s the great thing about it, our energy and our passion for the game and for this franchise is very, very high,” Wilson said. “So we want to do our best to represent very, very well.”

That opinion on the rapid, and continuing, impact of the rookies is not a one-man band.

“Probably the first day of OTAs,” Wagner said when asked when he realized these rookies could be something special. “I saw Russell flinging the ball, and Bruce rushing the passer, and just everything we were doing.”

Richard Sherman

PLAYER WATCH

Richard Sherman. This time, the view comes from a teammate – Wilson, who was with the free-spirited second-year cornerback when a group of players visited Seattle Children’s Hospital on Tuesday.

“Richard is a tremendous guy,” Wilson said. “He’s very, very intelligent. You can see that. He has this love for football, just like I do. He may express it in a little different way, but that’s not a bad thing. That’s his personality in terms of competing. He brings that fire to his teammates. He brings that compassion and fire to himself. That’s how he motivates himself. That’s great.

“It’s the National Football League, he’s just having fun.”

The off-field view of Sherman isn’t that much different.

“I think the biggest thing is, when we’re in Children’s Hospital and stuff like that, you can see his love for people and just how he likes to talk to kids,” Wilson said. “And that’s great. To be around a guy like Richard Sherman who, for sure in my opinion, is a Pro Bowl-type player, to see him be around young kids is pretty awesome.”

INJURY REPORT

The official report, as issued by the team:

Did not practice

DE Red Bryant (foot)

SS Kam Chancellor (groin)

WR Sidney Rice (foot)

CB Walter Thurmond (hamstring)

CB Marcus Trufant (hamstring)

Limited in practice

RB Marshawn Lynch (back)

WR Charly Martin (calf)

With Thurmond sitting out after injuring a hamstring in practice on Wednesday, Byron Maxwell and Lane split the reps at right cornerback. Bryant and Chancellor sat out for the second day and were replaced by Jason Jones and Jeron Johnson. Rice was out of the walking boot he was wearing on Wednesday.

For the Bills:

Did not practice

LB Nick Barnett (knee)

RB Fred Jackson (knee)

C Eric Wood (knee)

Limited in practice

S Jairus Byrd (shin)

DE Marcell Dareus (shoulder)

DT Spencer Johnson (knee)

CB Leodis McKelvin (groin)

DT Kyle Williams (ankle)

DE Mark Anderson (knee)

CB Ron Brooks (hip)

TE Scott Chandler (groin)

OG Andy Levitre (knee)

CB Justin Rogers (foot)

TE Lee Smith (knee)

OG Kraig Urbik (knee)

LB Chris White (thumb)

Full participation

WR Donald Jones (calf)

S Da’Norris Searcy (hand)

RB C.J. Spiller (shoulder)

CB Aaron Williams (knee)

DE Mario Williams (wrist)

TAKE THE PLEDGE TO NOT TEXT AND DRIVE

It’s OK to text. It’s OK to drive. It’s just not OK to do both at the same time. Just ask Wilson, who is partnering with Verizon to reward the high school that gets the most pledges from students to not text and drive.

“I have an awesome partnership with Verizon Wireless, it’s ‘Save it Seattle,’ ” Wilson said. “Basically, we’re trying to get as many pledges as we can from all the high schools and all the high schoolers to not text and drive.

“I’ve texted and driven before, and you don’t want to do that. I’ve made that pledge myself.”

The school that gets the most pledges by next Wednesday will get a visit from Wilson.

STAT DU JOUR

With three games left in the regular season, the Seahawks’ postseason opportunities run the gambit from claiming the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs to not even making playoffs. How’s that for disparity in a league that loves parity?

How can the Seahawks leapfrog from the top wild-card spot, which they currently hold, to the No. 1 seed? It starts with the Seahawks beating the Bills, 49ers and Rams to finish with 11 wins. It also would entail the top-seeded Falcons (11-2) losing their three remaining games; the 49ers (9-3-1) losing two of their remaining three; the Packers (9-4) finishing with no more than 11 wins, because the Seahawks hold the tiebreaker with their Week 3 victory over Green Bay; and the Giants (8-5) losing another game.

How can the Seahawks leapfrog the 49ers to win the NFC West? This dare-to-dream scenario is more intriguing, and also closer to reality. If the Seahawks beat the Bills and the 49ers lose to the Patriots (10-3) in Foxboro on Sunday night, the Seahawks could move into first place with a win over the 49ers next Sunday night at CenturyLink Field – and then clinch with a win over the Rams at CenturyLink on the 30th.

What’s the fallback scenario? The Seahawks win two of their final three to earn a wild-card spot with 10 wins.

What’s that last option? We don’t want to find out.

UP NEXT

The team will fly to Toronto on Friday afternoon following a midday practice, and then hold its Saturday walkthrough in the Canadian city.

YOU DON’T SAY

“You’ve always talked about how coach Carroll was such a great inspiration to you, can you elaborate on that?” – Carroll, sticking his head into Wilson’s weekly Q&A session to ask a mock question, and make Wilson laugh