Soon after the parade and television appearances and celebrations were over, the message changed for the Seattle Seahawks.
Winning the first Super Bowl in franchise history was just that — history.
“What’s happened before is obviously significant, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we go out and keep working,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Seattle begins training camp Friday with mostly the same roster that raised the championship trophy last February in New Jersey. The Seahawks’ offseason priorities were focused on keeping their own, and they accomplished that task by signing safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman to long-term extensions, wide receiver Doug Baldwin to a shorter deal, bringing back defensive end Michael Bennett before he reached free agency and keeping Carroll in charge through 2016.
The attrition that came with being the Super Bowl champ created position questions Seattle must solve in training camp to help it remain on top of arguably the toughest division in football.
“I definitely believe we’re way further ahead. It’s exciting. You have an itch because you know how to do it at a very high level, and the best part about it is we can continue to do it better,” QB Russell Wilson said. “There’s a lot more ways that we can be better, there’s a lot more ways that I can be better, and that’s the great part about it.”
Some things to watch for as Seattle opens camp:
MONEY TALKS: Running back Marshawn Lynch nearly skipped June’s mandatory minicamp because he wants the final two years of his contract reworked. He ultimately showed to avoid a hefty fine, but that doesn’t change his desire for a little more cash. Lynch is scheduled to make $5.5 million in 2014.
Lynch has been the workhorse Seattle has leaned on the past three seasons. He’s helped bring the team its first Super Bowl title, and despite his quirks, has wide-ranging respect in the locker room. The last thing the Seahawks would seem to need is Lynch unhappy heading into the season.
DOUBLE NICKEL: The depth in Seattle’s secondary is one of the strengths of its defense. But it will be stretched this season. The Seahawks have no true backup for Thomas and they must replace nickel cornerback Walter Thurmond, who signed with the Giants. The immediate replacement will be Jeremy Lane, who has proven worthy of being a starter in previous chances with the Seahawks. It’s an important position considering the pass-happy offenses — Green Bay, San Diego, Denver — they face the first three weeks of the season.
ON THE LINE: Seattle must find replacements at right tackle and left guard after Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan left in free agency. If James Carpenter can stay healthy, he would get the nod at guard, and finally a chance to prove he was worth a first-round pick. Michael Bowie has the inside track at right tackle, but Seattle is high on third-round draft pick Justin Britt at that position.
RUSH, RUSH: One of Seattle’s biggest discoveries last season was a rotation on the defensive line that found situations where they could be most impactful. That’s why Seattle’s third-down defense was so good. The Seahawks had a package of rushers specifically for those passing situations that could get pressure on the quarterback.
Two major pieces are gone with Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald. The Seahawks believe they’ll be fine with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril returning. But Seattle still needs to find either an edge rusher or someone to push the pocket from the inside in order to give Bennett freedom. Look for Cassius Marsh, Bruce Irvin, Jordan Hill and Greg Scruggs to be in the mix.