RENTON — “Let’s talk kickers,’’ gushed Pete Carroll, beginning his final press briefing of the Seahawks offseason on Thursday with unabashed enthusiasm over a mundane topic.
Ah, but not mundane in the slightest to the Seahawks’ 67-year-old coach, who still finds joy and wonder in all aspects of team-building. And so here he was, bursting with an unstoppable need to praise new placekicker Jason Myers, who had ended the last minicamp practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center by nailing a field goal in a simulated last-second, game-winning situation.
“That move we made to get him I think is going to work out great for us,’’ Carroll said.
And so it went, as the Seahawks moved into the six-week dark period prior to opening of training camp in late July riding a wave of good vibes.
Sure, Carroll would find good vibes in a storm shelter. And sure, the Seahawks still have Bobby Wagner’s unsettled contract hanging conspicuously over them. As Carroll said earlier this week, “The process of contracts and stuff can bring out some dark sides, and sometimes that shows up.”
But Carroll was speaking in generalities. In Wagner’s specific case, he has been present at every workout, voluntary or mandatory, fully engaged even as a non-participant. There are no visible signs of rancor.
“You know he’s as true blue a guy as you can get and we love him,’’ Carroll said.
All indications are that Wagner’s extension talks are moving toward a resolution before the players don their pads in July.
The other potentially contentious negotiation — that of quarterback Russell Wilson — at one point appeared headed for a similar end date. But that was resolved long ago and won’t be hanging ominously over the Seahawks as the season nears.
It’s all part of Team Tranquility, a relatively new state of affairs for Seattle. Last year, for instance, the tension over Earl Thomas’s contract demands was ratcheting up at this point of the offseason. It was on July 1 that Kam Chancellor essentially a nnounced his retirement via twitter, clarifying a dire need at safety. And then there were those annual national articles detailing the alleged dysfunction within the Seattle locker room.
None of that was visible during OTAs and minicamp, though who knows what lurks in the shadows. It is quite the opposite, Carroll said — a Seahawks team marked by harmony and cohesiveness.
“This has been — and you guys (the media) can try to do something about this — but it’s been pretty smooth,’’ Carroll said. “Coming from last season, you could tell it was a special group, and they have a way about themselves where they really care about getting along.
“They want to be part of this thing together, and they’ve been very open about that. … I’m so excited about it, because every day they come, they’re having fun and working hard and they’re competing too. That’s as much as we could hope for at this point.”
That’s not to say the Seahawks are without their problem areas, but it is the normal football stuff — injuries to be overcome, jobs to be settled, and players who need to step up. They still must untangle their secondary, sort out the receiver position in Doug Baldwin’s absence, and hope that Ziggy Ansah regains his health to augment the pass rush.
That’s just for starters, but it’s the sort of pure coaching challenge that still puts a sparkle in Carroll’s eyes. And so he waxed lyrical about new offensive lineman Mike Iupati, tackle/tight end George Fant, wide receivers David Moore and D.K. Metcalf, and numerous others.
“Sometimes, competition is a beautiful thing,’’ he exulted.
Carroll got so carried away in a question about the backup quarterback battle between Geno Smith and Paxton Lynch, and detailing the attributes of each, that he said, with a straight face, “I don’t think they’re going to catch Russ, but you never know. You never know.”
Actually, that’s one of the few things we do know with complete certainty. What remains an unknown, and a source of both angst and breathless anticipation for Carroll, is how the players handle this unsupervised stretch between now and training camp. He sees it as crucial to the fate of the 2019 Seahawks season.
“So many things can happen,’’ he said. “Guys can go south on you, they can get better. Changes can occur right now, and we’re really going to be focused, hoping we’ve helped them create a plan for their offseason to make sure they’re coordinated and organized and they’ll max this out.
“If these guys get back here and they’re like they were, we’re going to be fine. … There’s no reason every one of these guys shouldn’t come back in the best condition of their life. They’ve been challenged to make the most of this. I don’t know what other teams are going to do, but this is crucial to us that we do a great job here. We’ll win games right here in these next six weeks. Counting on them.”
And with that, Team Tranquility branches off the to all corners of the country. Carroll’s hope is that they return as they came — unencumbered by turmoil.