RENTON — Brandon Mebane — a third-round draft pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2007 — became the senior tenured player on the team in the offseason when Marcus Trufant and Leroy Hill left in free agency.
However, the 28-year-old defensive tackle is not exactly ready to apply for his AARP card.
“It doesn’t seem like I’ve been here that long,” Mebane said. “But time flies. I don’t really see myself as an old, old veteran. I mean, I’ve been on the team the longest, but I don’t see myself like that yet. I haven’t even hit 30 yet.”
With the Seahawks listed as one of the favorites to win this season’s Super Bowl, the team sees Mebane as one of its level-headed veterans whose task will be to keep his teammates humble. Mebane, center Max Unger, defensive end Red Bryant and punter Jon Ryan are the only roster holdovers from when coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider took over in January 2010.
“For the fans it’s very exciting,” Mebane said. “And I think we’re excited, too. But I think the main thing you have to do is still come out here and work and prove that we are who we are. We can’t really buy into all the media hype — what ESPN is saying and all that stuff. We still have to come out here and work hard.”
Mebane, playing at a high level in his prime, is Seattle’s physical, run-stuffing defense tackle.
Possibly one of the more underrated players in the NFL, Mebane finished sixth on the team in tackles (56) and tied for third on the team in sacks (3) last season. Mebane started all 16 games for the third time in his career in 2012, and was voted as a fourth alternate for the Pro Bowl last season.
Since 2011, Mebane ranks third among interior defensive linemen in the NFL with 112 tackles. Still, Mebane jokes his focus this training camp — and every training camp — is on making the final, 53-man roster.
“You’ve got to make the team,” Mebane said, smiling. “You’ve got to keep your performance up.
“It’s important to just get the camaraderie with the guys, just to get going and keep your tools and technique sharp. So you have to keep that focus and don’t get complacent. That’s my goal.”
While Mebane likely is assured of making the roster, he understands going into his seventh season that this year might be the most talented defensive unit he’s been a part of during his time in Seattle, particularly with the additions of pass rushers Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.
But he emphasizes that talent is just on paper.
“First of all, as a group we want to be the best defensive line in the NFL, and we want to be the best defense in the NFL,” Mebane said. “That’s something we’re striving for every day.
“We’ve had some talented groups in the past, and this is one of them. I think we can do a lot of great things, but we’ve still got to go out there and prove it. Because we can have a great unit, but you still have to go out there and show that you’re capable of doing what you’re supposed to do.”
At 6-foot-1, 311 pounds, Mebane is in the third year of a five-year, $25 million contract that will pay him $5 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2013. Even though he’s one of the best nose tackles in the game, Mebane says there’s always room for improvement.
“I’m just trying to stay sharp with things and focus on fundamentals,” he said, “Just getting smarter with certain things that a lot of offenses like to do and just staying focused.
“I’m just doing my job. I’m not a huge, vocal guy. I’ll just do what I can do on the field, make plays, or be in my gap and stay on my blocks. Whatever the play calls for me to do, I just try to be at my best.”