The Seahawks are practicing right now. Max Unger and Byron Maxwell are on the field with them -- and will be for the NFC title game Sunday against Green Bay.
Unger "feels fine," in the words of coach Pete Carroll. The two-time Pro Bowl center played last weekend for the first time in seven games following a high-ankle sprain -- then got that ankle rolled on late in the divisional-playoff win over Carolina Saturday night and didn't finish the game. He initially feared it had re-injured the ankle worse than he did.
Maxwell is "great," and seems to have "turned a corner," Carroll said. The starting cornerback missed the Carolina game after getting what he said was a flu going around the team last week, then was short of breath and missed all but nine snaps on special teams against the Panthers.
"It was definitely tough," Maxwell said of watching the Panthers roast fill-in Tharold Simon repeatedly for big plays.
I asked Maxwell if he expected Green Bay to throw at Richard Sherman at least once this time, after Aaron Rodgers and the Packers didn't do that once in 36 dropbacks and went after Maxwell in the teams' Sept. 4 game in Seattle the Seahawks won 36-16.
"I would think it'd be different," Maxwell said: "We beat them by 20 points last time."
Carroll said rookie Kevin Norwood, Ricardo Lockette and, yes, former practice-squad and Canadian Football League receiver Chris Matthews will all fill in for Paul Richardson being out as the No. 3 wide receiver. Matthews is 6 feet 5. The Packers' starting defensive backs are 5-11, 5-11, 6-0 and 6-1. They don't have a defensive back on their roster taller than 6-2.
Richardson announced this today via Twitter:
Carroll talked about how Russell Wilson has developed a strong trust with Lakewood's Jermaine Kearse in these championship games over the last year. Kearse, undrafted out of Washington in 2012, caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Wilson in last January's NFC title game. In the Super Bowl he had four catches for 65 yards.
"He's a very poised guy. Where other players it might affect, it doesn't affect him," Carroll said. "He plays like he's capable. He's got big plays in him. He's got great catching range and he has a knack, too, to make a play. Just shows who he is. And when it comes to game time, I know Russell does count on him a great deal to make some plays and make some catches when maybe he's not open but he'll give him an opportunity to because he trusts in him."
--Yes, B.J. Daniels is a great athlete. But Carroll going on and on about this week's practice-squad promotion and No. 3 quarterback as a potential kick returner/wide receiver/running back/even defensive back seems just a tad or three like gamesmanship, too. Can't see a ton of the game plan invested in a guy who hasn't been active for a game in the season and a half since the Seahawks claimed him off waivers from San Francisco in October 2013. More likely that Daniels is on some kickoff- and punt-coverage teams Sunday.
--The dominoes continue to fall on head-coaching vacancies around the league -- the Jets hired Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, the Raiders hired Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and the 49ers hired some guy named Jim Tomsula -- no, not Donshula. Atlanta's and Chicago's jobs are still open, though reportedly the Bears are interviewing former Broncos head man until yesterday John Fox today. The Falcons' job is lining up for Dan Quinn, if the Falcons are willing to wait for the Seahawks' defensive coordinator's season to end here in Seattle.
Here is what Carroll said today:
HEAD COACH PETE CARROLL
NFC Championship Press Conference
Wednesday, January 14, 2015
PETE CARROLL: What a great time this is. It's a great time for coaches and players and fans and all that. Playoff time, championship time, and we're really looking forward to this opportunity. Our guys are tuned in. They can't wait to get on the field today, and the coaches feel the same way.
I know this is an extraordinary match‑up for us, and you know that. We're playing a great team, coaches and leadership and quarterbacks and receivers and running backs, they've got it all, defensive highlight guys all across the board. It's just the way it should be. It should be just like that right now, and so we expect to have ‑‑ we have a great opportunity. We expect to play well in this situation. We're going to try and do everything like we've been doing it and we're not changing anything. We have tremendous regard for these guys, and we know we'd better play our best game to have a chance.
With all that, we're really excited for it. What do you got?
- You talked about the other guys, great team, great coaching, all that, but how much of what you do is about you and not about the other team as you prepare for this game?
We expect, like I said, they're going to be a great championship team out there, and we need to be at our best, so that's what we focus on. We do focus on us.
- Much like last week you will be facing an opponent that you saw earlier in the year. In what ways does Green Bay look different than in week one?
I think that's what's obvious. Their younger players have had a lot of opportunity to be engaged, and they've developed into guys they're counting on. Just look at what Davante did last week; you can see the factor he played. Like we should be right now, we should be at our best. This is what we're playing for, and they certainly are.
- On Packers OLB Clay Matthews playing inside, because that seems to coincide with the Packers running the ball better…
And they've moved Clay around. He's played behind the line of scrimmage and they've utilized him for all of the great ability that he has and the aggressive nature that he has, shows up when he plays off the ball as well as when he's on the ball. We have to wait and see. We don't know how they're going to use him. We know how they have and anticipate some stuff, but we're going to have to wait until game time to see how they do it. But it's interesting how that has coincided with their turn. I think it was at the nine‑game mark or whatever when he came in. Great coaching, obviously. It's made a big difference.
- Rodgers was obviously struggling a little bit with the calf. He was limping, didn't seem like he was escaping out as much as possible. How much does that change what you do?
- When you talk about the experiences your guys have had together and how that shows up on the field, is there an example that kind of jumps to your mind right away where having that experience of playing together all these years has really shown on the field?
I think really obvious linebackers. Those guys are talking. They have a tremendous language that they can talk about what's going on, and sometimes they don't even have to say stuff, they look, they make a little signal, just a little wave, and they know what's up.
The DBs are really fantastic at communicating. Those guys have really dug in. There's so many times when Earl [Thomas] will give a look to Kam [Chancellor] and he will pass it to Sherm [Richard Sherman] or Maxie [Byron Maxwell] and they know what's up and what's coming, the route, the alignment, the split that tells us something, and that's what we're talking about, and those things happen readily throughout.
- Kam Chancellor coming off a big game vs. Carolina - he seemed to kind of pick up his game in the postseason last year, as well. When he's at his best what does that do for the defense?
- Any word on Byron Maxwell and Max Unger since Monday?
- How many times have you had a cornerback like Richard Sherman never thrown on in a game like the Green Bay game and what does that do as far as the rest of the defense?
But that's pretty rare. Usually what would happen is if you have a brand new player, a guy that's off the street that you had to play, I've been in that situation more than I'd like to admit, but that's where the ball will really go to one side more than stay away from the guy. Very few players ever have that kind of a factor where the ball just won't go there. We saw that a little bit early, and it turned out to be very normal for the season. I think they still steered clear of Richard in general, but the ball has got to go both ways. I would expect and we expect that it's not going to be the same thing where the whole game goes the other way. I don't think that'll happen.
- How does that help you in that first game?
- You mentioned how Aaron Rodgers moved in the pocket when he couldn't run. How does that make a quarterback kind of a different threat, and how has Russell improved in that regard this year, just moving in that little area?
With Russell, you know, he's as creative a football player as you can find. He's going to figure out what's necessary on a moment's notice to escape to make a unique throw, to just sit in the pocket and gun it down because he has the opportunity. He has everything from one end of the spectrum to the other. I don't think Russell has improved at that. I think he came here like that. I think he grew up, he probably scrambled as much as anybody in the history of the game in his lifetime as a quarterback, and he's very comfortable and very gifted at that. We just learned to adjust to that and look forward to it. We understand that how dynamic that is when he does create like that. I don't think he's changed much, though.
- When Kam Chancellor came back healthy, how much of a difference did that make for your defense this year?
- Without Paul Richardson, how much do you target Kevin Norwood and what does his role look like?
- Can you talk about what TE Luke Willson has been able to add and his growth this year as he's been needed more?
- What were you expecting from Kevin Williams when you saw him, and what have you gotten from him?
Really since then ‑‑ he struggled a little bit in Kansas City just figuring it out, but from then on he'd been on it and been a really positive aspect of the defense up front.
- People talk about the noise at CenturyLink Field. Does that ever take an adjustment from your defense so they can learn how to communicate?
- What's realistic to expect out of B.J. Daniels Sunday?
- Does special teams include returning kicks?
- It looks like Green Bay lined up Randall Cobb a lot in the backfield the second half last week against the Cowboys. How much do you anticipate they'll do that against you guys, and what's some of the impact that will have?
You know, we don't know. We don't know how much they're going to use that. We're ready for them to use it quite a bit because they're very effective when they did. He's a terrific football player, and he gives them all kinds of options that he can carry out. We'll be ready for all of that. I don't know, maybe it was a dozen plays or something in the game. We need to be ready for that kind of number, or more.
- Your defense has been really stingy in the second halves the last several games. What's been the key to that stinginess especially in the fourth quarter?
We have a smart group that communicates really well, and so as the things happen in the game and we see what an opponent is doing, I think by the time we get to halftime, we're able to make adjustments, and I think Dan [Quinn] does a great job in communicating with the fellows to make sure that they know what we need to focus on to stop somebody in the second half, so we use all of that information. I think all of that being at our disposal helps us play better.
- You talked about Russell Wilson getting rid of the ball quicker in recent weeks. What was the reason for the emphasis on that? Why was emphasis placed on that? Was it about the defenses that you guys were playing?
- Jermaine Kearse has had a few big touchdown catches in the postseason. Is there anything to having a knack on the big stage for him?
- Eddie Lacy has been running the ball pretty well for Green Bay. What's your thoughts on him and how he can impact the game?
- How do you view the NFL's system of reviewing plays in New York and all that? Are you in favor of how it's done?
- Are you surprised at how much you're getting out of your backup D‑linemen like O’Brien Schofield and Demarcus Dobbs?
FastScripts by ASAP Sports