How comfortable are the Seattle Seahawks now at this time of year, days before the pressure-packed, all-everything postseason begins?
Pete Carroll was bumping Notorious B.I.G. throughout the meeting room as the entire roster filed in for a noon meeting Wednesday.
Michael Bennett was producing gems for quotes.
And Doug Baldwin was zinging Jim Harbaugh.
Just another playoff-bye-week day for the NFC’s top seed.
Wednesday’s final day of 2014 was the first of only two practice days this week for the Seahawks. The NFC West champions get Friday through Sunday off, during which they will find out which team they will host Jan. 10 in the divisional round. The Arizona Cardinals play at the Carolina Panthers on Saturday and the Detroit Lions are at the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday in the wild-card games.
It’s the two-days-on, five-days-off arrangement Seattle (12-4) used this time last year — also as the NFC’s No. 1 seed — before it won two playoff games at home and February’s Super Bowl in New Jersey.
Bennett and Baldwin were already in game-quality mode with their talk.
Baldwin went undrafted in 2011 after playing for Harbaugh at Stanford — and before becoming a Super Bowl-winning, $13 million primary wide receiver for Seattle. He was asked Wednesday for his thoughts on Harbaugh leaving the San Francisco 49ers returning to college football on Tuesday to coach Michigan.
“I wish him the best of luck,” Baldwin said, “and go Buckeyes.”
Yes, Baldwin went rival Ohio State on Harbaugh on his former coach’s second day back in Ann Arbor.
Baldwin has been frosty for years with what he has called the military-like style with which Harbaugh, a former Michigan quarterback, coached at Stanford. He described last January before the NFC championship game against Harbaugh’s 49ers how close he was to quitting the prestigious school.
“My junior year, I was actually going to transfer to Vanderbilt,” Baldwin said Jan. 16. “I had the transfer papers already filled out on my behalf, and I was very close. Basically it came down to whether my mother was going to let me do it or not. She said no and that I had to stick through it. And I eventually came to the realization that I needed to stick through it, as well. I was very close though.
“All of you guys know that Jim Harbaugh and I did not have the best of relationships while I was at Stanford, but all of that stuff is settled now,” Baldwin said 111/2 months ago. “I was immature, I was a young athlete who thought I knew everything so we clashed at times, and I was dealing with injuries so that kind of held and prevented me from performing how I wanted to on the field. So a lot of things went into it.”
The always-glib Bennett last week said Marshawn Lynch was running so hard that the last time anyone in this country had seen anything like it was the Underground Railroad. The defensive end who’s spent a large chunk of this season hanging out in opposing backfields talked Wednesday about how comfortable the Seahawks are in this playoff-bye setting.
“Yeah, it feels like something we do. Getting a bye, getting home-field advantage, playing at a high level,” Bennett said. “We’ve already been through it one time. We know what to expect, what the scenarios are. What the anticipation for the game is going to be, the intensity. So we’ll be ready for it.
“It’s comfortable, because we have a lot of same guys on the team that have played in great games. … So we’re going to approach the game like a regular game, nothing bigger than it needs to be.”
But his best stuff came after that. It included Bennett’s New Year’s resolution.
“Stop talking to the media,” he said.
He was joking. Hopefully.
On his Seahawks having the league’s top-ranked defense for the second consecutive season, and becoming the first unit since Minnesota’s “Purple People Eaters” of 1969-71 to lead the league in fewest points allowed three consecutive years, Bennett said: “Ninety percent of the NFL is scared to tackle — and a lot of our guys are in that (other) 10 percent.”
Bennett wasn’t totally impressed with the tumbling interception teammate and fellow defensive lineman Jordan Hill had last weekend to change the game in the win over the St. Louis Rams, the sixth consecutive victory that clinched the division for Seattle.
“When I catch the ball I usually score,” the defensive end said, a reference to last season’s grab of a sack-fumble out of the air and return for a score against the New Orleans Saints. “He got tackled.
“I have offensive skills.”
While talking about how the team’s unity strengthened in the middle of the season, which is what he, Pete Carroll and most Seahawks credit for turning the team from 3-3 to 12-4, Bennett was asked when specifically that change occurred.
“I don’t know the exact date,” Bennett said. “I didn’t write it down.”
Bennett knows the Seahawks are allowing just six points per game during their ongoing, six-game winning streak. And he says they aren’t happy with it.
“When we give up six points we are like ‘Damn, we gave up SIX POINTS?!’ ” he said.
He went on longest when asked if he, as a defensive player, feels today’s NFL is set up against defenses and overwhelmingly for offenses.
“I think the league is a fantasy football league. You take the play that Suh did, he actually stepped on (Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’) foot. He gets fined because it’s a quarterback,” Bennett said of the NFL fining Detroit defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh $70,000 for his stunt last weekend — but changing its mind about suspending him for this weekend’s playoff game at Dallas. “I mean, as a defensive lineman, people are always stepping on you.
“People are hitting you in the head. There is always something happening to you. But nobody cares, because you are a defensive lineman. Who cares about defensive linemen and offensive linemen?
“So it is a thing where it is a fantasy football league, and it’s driven like that, statistically. The things that they do — ‘Oh, you can’t hit the quarterback here. You can’t put your hand on a receiver.’ … It’s hard to play defense. But we figured a way out, and we continue to play at a high level.
Bennett wasn’t done on that. He then referenced league royalty.
“If I get knocked on the ground, the referee just steps over me and says, ‘Oh, it’s part of the game.’ But if Peyton Manning falls on the ground, the referee helps him off the ground,” Bennett said. “I thought everybody was equal. But that’s a lie.”
Carroll said on Sirius Satellite Radio that Tom Cable is interviewing for the New York Jets’ vacant head coaching job and that defensive coordinator Dan Quinn “is up for three jobs.” That is believed to be the head coach openings with the 49ers, Bears and Jets. Carroll also told Sirius’ “Moving the Chains” program that offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell “interviewed the other night with the Raiders.” Oakland has had Tony Sparano as an interim coach since firing Dennis Allen in late September.