Pete Carroll has preached it to his players for at least the past four years, he said.
The core of the Seattle Seahawks is here, he’s told them, and he and the front office want to keep it that way for as long as they can.
Cliff Avril has only heard that message for two years, but he learned he’s just as much a part of that core after the team announced his agreement to a four-year extension reportedly worth $28.5 million with $16 million guaranteed.
“I didn’t want to go back into free agency. I didn’t like that whole process two years ago,” said Avril, who spent five seasons with the Detroit Lions — including their 0-16 season in 2008 — before signing with the eventual Super Bowl champion Seahawks.
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“And I like it out here. I love what Coach Carroll is doing with the guys here, I love the scheme, the guys in the locker room make it so fun to play here, and, again, just being in Seattle and the environment we have going. I want to keep the party going.”
Avril had eight sacks last season and has 41/2 in 14 games this year, though he’s been relied on far more. His snap count has increased from 52.8 percent last year to 71.8, according to Football Outsiders.
“I’ve learned how to win,” Avril said, laughing, before backtracking, “Oh, sorry Detroit.
“Obviously, the way Coach Carroll runs things is a little different. It’s not an uptight environment. I enjoy coming to work.”
And the Seahawks clearly enjoy having him.
The signing was their declaration of Avril’s place among the core. The Seahawks spent their offseason re-signing fellow defensive lineman Michael Bennett, then locking up Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin.
Fast-forward to this week: Seattle announced extensions with linebacker K.J. Wright on Thursday and Avril on Friday.
And there’s plenty more ahead, according to Carroll.
“I think we have been able to make a couple really strong statements with K.J. and Cliff the past couple days that we’ve been following with what we’ve been trying to do the whole time,” he said. “We found the core guys that we really liked and we are trying to keep them here.
“Really, so many of these things have been planned for some time. It was just a matter of timing and there’s always questions. But it’s been a direction that we set our course on and we’ve been able to accomplish it and we’re doing it.
“We’re not done. There are more things to do here.”
So far the longer extensions have involved locking up defensive players, with two members of the defensive line, a linebacker and three in the secondary now under contract until at least 2018.
And why not? Especially when those players have been instrumental for a defense that’s allowed the fewest yards each of the past two seasons and the fewest points two of the past three (it’s second at 17.3 points per game this year behind Detroit).
Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner could be next in line, as well as quarterback Russell Wilson. Both have one more season left on their rookie contracts.
“What John and I thought we were going to create here is a real stable program,” Carroll said. “We’ve told these guys for years, at least four years, of this message that the core is here and we want to keep it together and see how far we can take it. We are proud to be able to do that.
“Our players have confidence in what we are doing football-wise. And they are learning to have confidence in the administration stuff, as well, because we are so clear. John and I feel really good about standing for that, doing what we say and coming through.”
SWEEZY ‘READY TO GO’
Carroll indicated guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle) will play Sunday night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals.
What makes that more crucial is that Carroll said left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger won’t.
Okung suffered a bruised lung last week against the San Francisco 49ers, reportedly coughing up blood on the sideline at halftime. Unger has been out since being carted off the field Week 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Carroll said Unger (ankle) tried to come back last week, but had a setback in his recovery.
“It’s one of those high ankles; sometimes they make it, sometimes they don’t,” Carroll said. “He did work and run (Thursday) and he did again (Friday), so he’s got a chance for next week.”
That still leaves the Seahawks without two Pro Bowl offensive linemen against a Cardinals pass rush that sacked Wilson seven times their last meeting on Nov. 23.
Alvin Bailey will start at left tackle, Carroll said, but he wasn’t clear on who would start at center between Patrick Lewis and Lemuel Jeanpierre.
“Those are two All-Pro level guys,” Sweezy said of Okung and Unger. “It’s tough having them out of the lineup. But we have guys like Pat and Alvin who can step up and play at the same level that we are comfortable playing alongside. We’ve prepared well all week and we are excited about our game plan and ready to execute it.”
Sweezy said poor communication hurt the Seahawks in their first meeting with the Cardinals.
“As long as we are on the same page where we keep the pocket clean, because where we got in trouble last time was our communication broke down,” Sweezy said. “We have cleaned it up a lot.”
WR Paul Richardson (hamstring) practiced and is probable for Sunday. … RB Marshawn Lynch (back), TE Cooper Helfet (ankle) are also probable. … TE Tony Moeaki (shoulder) and WR Chris Matthews (hamstring) didn’t practice. They are questionable. … DE Demarcus Dobbs (ankle) is doubtful but Carroll said they hope to have him back by the end of the season.