The mass of Seahawks fans, warmed by recollections of last season’s 42-13 thrashing of the San Francisco 49ers, are spending this week wading through a rising tide of their own drool.
But coaches and most of the players involved are trying to convince everybody that the best contemporary rivalry in the NFL, set for Sunday evening prime-time renewal, is merely the next game on the schedule.
Rivalry, what rivalry?
It appears this is the Week of Speaking Carefully, and as much as they would not like this to get out, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll are sounding a lot alike.
“The next game on the schedule is the biggest game of the year; that’s how we look at our opponents each week,” Harbaugh said on a teleconference with Seattle media on Wednesday.
Cue Carroll, who was speaking almost the same words at almost the same time. Their press conferences were simultaneous.
“It’s a championship opportunity for us, just like last week; it’s no different,” Carroll said. “You know, these games will all weigh in at the end. We have a real strict mentality to that. It’s the biggest game in the world to us and next week will be the same.”
Yeah, boy, whipping Jacksonville the following Sunday would be as satisfying as putting another 29-point beat-down on the Niners.
In a strange coincidence, that Seahawks romp on Dec. 23 came on Harbaugh’s 49th birthday. When they meet again at CenturyLink on Sunday, it will be Carroll’s 62nd birthday.
The two do not exchange cards.
While neither said anything of note during their media obligations Wednesday, Carroll used more words in the process.
Harbaugh was typically pithy.
He was asked if a memory or two stood out in his mind as he looked back to that game at CenturyLink in December.
“Um, no,” he said.
At least he gave it some thought. I was tempted to point out to him that, apparently, there are drugs that can help those with short attention spans, but he has already established his position on their usage while hurling a slam this spring at Seahawks players who had been suspended.
He did profess “great respect for the Seahawks, their players and coaches, front-office decisions, the way they’ve drafted, the way they’ve constructed their team and how they play. There is nothing not to respect there.”
The double-negative gets a little tricky, but it seems like a compliment. And so was his assessment of his quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, toward whom he expressed genuine feeling during the course of a full paragraph of commentary.
“I think he has a wonderful competitive heart, and he’s extremely talented, smart, competes like a maniac,” Harbaugh said. “All the things you love in a football player.”
He was generous, too, in comparing Kaepernick and Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. “They’re both cut from the same (cloth) … each guy has everything that you want in a football player.”
Kaepernick, a gifted young quarterback who shredded the Packers for 412 passing yards in the opener, also was in somewhat less than a sharing mood.
Memories from the December game in Seattle? “We played bad.”
Feelings about coming back to Seattle? “Very eager.”
Asked if the notable crowd noise at CenturyLink caused problems for the Niners last season, Kaepernick gave a verbal shrug: “I think our efficiency in the huddle was more of a factor than the crowd.”
Seahawks fans might take vocal exception to Kaepernick’s opinion on the matter.
But neither Carroll nor Harbaugh is going to publicly pump this up as the heated rivalry it really is.
“It doesn’t suit us right; we are not into that,” Carroll said. “We want to play every opponent and give it everything we got until the end and then start it all over again the next week.
“This is a huge opportunity because we are coming home. We need to get this thing started at home and the next week will be just as big. That’s not to make light of anything. That’s just the way we look at it. I don’t expect everybody to understand or comply with that. That’s just the way we do it.”
Or, as Harbaugh said: “Um, no.”