Is it football season yet?

Michael Bennett

Happy Seahawks Blue Friday, 12s!

Our normal writer for this segment is under the weather this week with a severe case of football withdrawals. We here at hope he gets well soon (for my sake especially). You can send him your well-wishes and get-wells at @tonydrovetto.

Anyway, back to the lecture at hand, it feels like forever since we last stepped foot on CenturyLink Field but the days are slowly counting down to the start of 2013.  Michael Bennett days until the Seahawks kickoff the 2013 regular season against the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. That’s 72 days for those of you who may be unfamiliar with our not-so-unfamiliar free agent defensive end signed from Tampa Bay. Fortunately, it’s not 96 days until kickoff as was the number Bennett wore the first time he was with us as an rookie free agent out of Texas A&M.

But even with 72 days remaining until kickoff, there’s less than a month’s wait until players report back to VMAC for Seahawks Training Camp presented by Bing on July 25. To help us cope in these final days without football, here’s a detailed look at what’s going on this week, June 28 – July 5, with your Seattle Seahawks:

Friday, June 28:

  • Voting for The ESPYS started yesterday and will continue through the start of the show on July 17 at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN. Russell Wilson is up for Breakthrough Athlete of the Year.
  • Free safety Earl Thomas kicks off his football camp for kids in Orange, Texas along with other members of the Legion.

  • Second-year cornerback DeShawn Shead celebrates his 25th birthday – you can wish Shead #HappyBirthday on Twitter @dshead24.

Saturday, June 29:

  • Thomas’ camp finishes in Texas, Wilson’s Passing Academy makes it way to Madison, Wis. and defensive end Cliff Avril hosts his inaugural youth football camp in Green Cove Springs, Fla.
  • Kicker Steven Hauschka celebrates his 28th birthday.
  • The 16th annual Rookie Symposium in Aurora, Ohio comes to a close. All 254 members of the 2013 NFL Draft class reported to the symposium to learn about life in the NFL prior to training camp starting up in late July.

Sunday, June 30:

Monday, July 1:

  • Farnsworth continues his positional previews with a look at the big uglies up front who will be tasked for making holes and keeping Russell Wilson off his back – a look at the 2013 offensive line.

Tuesday, July 2:

  • Positional preview series focus turns to the defensive line and how Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant will look given all the new additions along the line.

Wednesday, July 3:

  • On the eve of our nation’s 237th birthday, Farnsworth examines the position with the biggest question mark but with the biggest upside. Young Bobby Wagner who just celebrated his 23rd birthday leads an equally young linebacking corps.

Thursday, July 4 – Independence Day:

  • #HappyBirthdayAmerica!
  • Drovetto returns with a feature on America, football, and the Seahawks. It may bring a tear to your eye and a fire to your cracker.
  • Be safe. Be loud. Have a great 4th of July, America!

Friday, July 5:

  • Linebacker Malcolm Smith is the other veteran on our defensive midfield and today, at 24, he is officially a year older than counterpart Bobby Wagner who celebrated 23 on June 27. Wish him a #HappyBirthday at @MalcSmitty.
  • On a throwback Friday, Farnsworth catches up with former Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney who went back to school to get his MBA. What is he doing now?
  • Drovetto will be back this Friday to help you countdown the week of Jake Bscherer days until the Seahawks 2013 season kicks off!

Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from a sunny — at the monent — CenturyLink Field, where some of the Seahawks already are on the field preparing for this afternoon’s home opener game against the Arizona Cardinals – with kickoff set for 1:15 p.m. on Alumni Day and also “Back to 12” day and TV coverage on Fox (Channel 13 in the greater Seattle area).

The Seahawks are 0-2 after road losses at San Francisco and Pittsburgh to open the season and desperately need a win. As coach Pete Carroll put it this week, “There is a real sense of urgency.”

Today’s opponent will have a familiar look, for the obvious reason and the not-so-obvious. First, it’s the Cardinals, the Seahawks’ NFC West rival. One of these two teams has won the division over the past seven seasons – the Seahawks last season, as well as from 2004-07; the Cardinals in 2008 and 2009.

But the Cardinals also are playing a variation of the defensive scheme the Seahawks saw last week in Pittsburgh, where they were blanked by the Steelers 24-0. That’s because Ray Horton, the new coordinator, came from Pittsburgh – as well as the University of Washington and Tacoma’s Mount Tahoma High School.

As with the Seahawks’ offense in this year where there was no offseason to help digest the newness, there have been growing pains for the Cardinals’ defense, which is allowing an average of 466 yards per game. As free safety Kerry Rhodes said, “It’s a tough system to learn. Coming into a new season with it, it’s been a little frustrating.”

Added coach Ken Whisenhunt, ““When we’re on the same page, when guys are understanding what we’re doing, we’re a pretty good defense. But when we make our bad plays, they’re really bad. Drops in coverage, not hitting the right gaps, we’re not stepping the right way when we’re blitzing. We are not where we want to be.”

The Seahawks’ offense will have a couple of new wrinkles today, with Paul McQuistan stepping in for Robert Gallery at left guard and wide receiver Sidney Rice stepping into the huddle for the first time as a Seahawk in a regular-season game.

You can read more about McQuistan taking over for Gallery here, as Gallery is expected to miss at least a month with a groin injury that required surgery. You can read more about Rice’s return from sitting out with a damaged shoulder here.

The big question with Rice is how he’ll react when he takes a hit for the first time since the third preseason game. But he doesn’t sound all that concerned about the situation.

“I’m not worried about it,” said Rice, who was signed in free agency after playing the past four seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. “Whatever happens happens. I should be able to tolerate whatever it is and I’ll have no problem out there.”

The defense also will have a new look, with rookie K.J. Wright stepping in at strongside linebacker for Aaron Curry. Wright earned the shot because of how he played at middle linebacker while subbing for David Hawthorne in the opener; and Curry had a disappointing performance in last week’s loss at Pittsburgh. You can read more about that situation here.

We’ll back later with the list of inactive players for today’s game.

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Countdown to kickoff

PITTSBURGH – Greetings for Heinz Field, which is located on a tip of The Steel City where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join the Ohio. Some of the Seahawks already are out on this beautiful mid-September morning preparing for today’s game against the Steelers.

No one is giving the Seahawks a chance in this one – which is not only the Steelers’ home opener, but a perceived get-better-quick matchup after they were spanked 35-7 by the Ravens in Baltimore last week.

Pete Carroll was asked about the lopsided “line” for today’s game on Friday, but the Seahawks coach pooh-poohed the notion that he might use that as motivation for his players.

“It means absolutely nothing,” Carroll said. “We never even ever think about talking about it. It’s not necessary.”

Same story when it comes to the storyline about the game being refereed by Bill Levy, who has admitted he made a couple of bad calls in the Seahawks’ loss to the Steelers in Super Bowl XL.

“It’s too far in the past to think that it’s going to be a factor,” Carroll said of that game that was played on Jan. 22, 2006, in Detroit. “I don’t know why it would be.”

Only two players remain on the Seahawks’ roster from that game – cornerback Marcus Trufant and linebacker Leroy Hill. Carroll? He was coaching at USC at the time.

“It feels like a long time ago, so that’s why I don’t even think it’s a factor now,” Trufant said. “I think we’ve got to go in there and we’ve got to be worried about us and make sure we do things right.”

Now that Carroll will agree with, and the most obvious place for the Seahawks to start is getting off to a better start – a quicker start; a don’t dig-yourselves-into-a-hole start. Last week, the offense generated 37 yards in the first half against the 49ers in San Francisco, and slow starts also plagued the Seahawks during the preseason.

“All there is is the mental preparation to be ready when we leave the locker room,” Carroll said. “So that everybody’s right and they’re feeling comfortable and we can play at the tempo we want to. Our tempo picked up in the third quarter (against the 49ers). We got stronger as the game went on.

“So we’re just trying to make the point that this whole preparation is to get us mentally right and hopefully the focus and the experiences will allow our guys to be clued in right from the get-go. That’s what we try to get done. But it isn’t about how you start, though. It doesn’t matter. It just makes it harder if you start poorly.”

Because as anyone who knows Carroll – or at least has been listening at all – is aware, it’s all about how you finish.

The Steelers, however, are capable of playing mind games with opponents, especially in Blitzburgh. They just don’t lose at home very often, and have not lost their home opener since 2002. They’ve won big – 34-15 over the Ravens in 2003; 34-7 over the Titans in 2005; 26-3 over the Bills in 2007; and 38-17 over the Texans in 2008. They’ve won close games, as well – 24-21 over the Raiders in 2004; 13-10 in overtime against the Titans in 2009; and 15-9 in overtime against the Falcons last year. They’ve won the in between games – 28-17 over the Dolphins in 2006.

Bottom line: They’ve won. That eight-game winning streak in their home openers is the second longest in the league.

To alter that trend, the Seahawks will have to play a lot better than they did against the 49ers, and start doing it a lot sooner.

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