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RENTON, Wash. – It started on the first day back during offseason workouts.
There was no acknowledgment of the case being constructed in the lobby where the Seattle Seahawks' first Lombardi Trophy would reside. Or of the giant banner hanging in the indoor practice facility listing the name of every player and coach a part of the 43-8 Super Bowl triumph.
Pete Carroll's way of humbling his players still on a high from earning the first title in franchise history came from returning to the most basic elements. Things as rudimentary as cradling the football properly in your arm as a ball carrier. Or as a defender, ways to knock the ball free.
Seems simplistic, almost condescending to professional athletes. But that wasn't the point. It was a conscious effort by Carroll to reprogram his team.
"Repeating doesn't matter unless we take care of our business right now," wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "There was no talk about repeating. It was going back to the basics."
Don't be mistaken. The end goal, albeit unspoken, is to be the first team since the New England Patriots 10 years ago to become repeat champions. Why is Seattle more likely than others to accomplish the feat?
At least in part, because of Carroll. He went through the process of winning a title and trying to do it again at Southern California. The blueprint is similar, if not the same.
"I love this opportunity that we have," Carroll said. "We are so fortunate to have this chance to come back after a season like that to see if we can find that kind of discipline and find that kind of ability to focus. It's challenging, it's difficult, it hasn't happened a lot and we are going to see what happens."
Here's what to watch this season as Seattle attempts to repeat:
THE FIXER: Carroll believes Russell Wilson should be better in his third year. This after Wilson completed 63 percent of his passes and threw 26 touchdowns against only nine interceptions last season and capped his year with a pair of touchdowns tosses in a nearly flawless Super Bowl performance. Whenever the Seahawks needed a play, Wilson came through.
Wilson's thrown for more than 300 yards only three times, but as part of Seattle's offensive evolution, he may get more chances this season to put the ball in the air.
"He's elevated his ability to see what's going on and anticipate and read defenses," Carroll said. "He's real excited about that because he's seeing things better than he has before."
BRING THE BOOM: Seattle's secondary remains the best in football. The Seahawks insist that will not change even with safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor and cornerback Richard Sherman getting big contract extensions in the past two years. Cornerback Byron Maxwell will be in the spotlight moving into the role of full-time starter opposite Sherman and knowing he'll get picked on.
SUPERSONIC: Speed could be the element added to Seattle's offense that was never fully on display a season ago. Percy Harvin will be used all over the field as Seattle tries to get him the ball in space and use his quickness. But he's not alone. Second-round pick Paul Richardson could be just as fast as Harvin, but in a more traditional wide receiver role. And Seattle intends on getting running back Christine Michael more involved after he barely saw the field last season.
"Being explosive is what we want to do," Wilson said. "We want to be able to get the ball in the right guy's hand at the right time, make the right decisions and be on time with it and throw a great pass where they can get upfield and make a play."
INSIDE JOB: The unit that took the biggest hit in the offseason was Seattle's defensive line, losing three main contributors. Re-signing Michael Bennett was vital to pair with Cliff Avril, but the signing of veteran Kevin Williams could be a coup. The addition of Williams provides Seattle the flexibility to play a bigger run-stuffing grouping of three defensive tackles, and continue the rotation of linemen that was so successful last season.
THIN AIR: If Seattle is to join a rare fraternity to reach consecutive Super Bowls, it will have to manage a schedule with no rhythm early and that gets extremely difficult late.
After the Thursday night opener with Green Bay, the Seahawks face San Diego and host a Super Bowl rematch with Denver on consecutive Sundays before the earliest bye week in the league. Seattle returns from its bye for a Monday night road game at Washington.
But Seattle would probably trade the lack of normalcy early for a less punishing close. The Seahawks face Arizona twice, San Francisco twice, go to Philadelphia and host St. Louis over the final six weeks of the regular season.
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