If this playoff road game at the conference’s top-seeded team — one that has lost only twice in the last 14 months — is supposed to be daunting, the Seahawks aren’t acting daunted.
One comedy act after another was featured Thursday at team headquarters. The jokes came before and after practice, making the Seahawks look and seem looser than usual. And for this sometimes madcap team that blares music through practices and meetings, that’s saying something.
Michael Bennett’s weekly news conference usually includes a laugh or three. Asked if he likes the media, the glib, Pro Bowl defensive end, who’s been battling big-toe pain, said: “Not really. I just deal with you guys. Kind of like a sore toe.”
But on Thursday, Bennett got a surprise guest. Fellow end Cliff Avril ran from the locker-room area into the main auditorium, then leaped onto the stage to join Bennett.
Asked if the quality of his play is about getting sack numbers, Bennett said: “It’s only about numbers with the media, and when they make the facts.”
“And the paycheck,” Avril said, 13 months after he signed a $28.5 million contract extension.
“And when you get your paycheck,” replied Bennett, who signed a $28.5 million deal before last season. “Other than that, the numbers don’t really matter.”
During defensive coordinator Kris Richard’s postpractice meeting with reporters, safety Kam Chancellor and linebacker Bobby Wagner ambushed the group with peanut-gallery chiding.
“Thank you, guys,” Richard said, smiling as a dad would to his ornery kids.
When the meeting moved to the hallway outside the indoor-field area, Richard got catcalled from a floor above by players heading to the team’s dining area.
“We love you, Kris!” they yelled down in shrill voices at the youngest coordinator in the league.
Even the usually straight-shooting Russell Wilson was laughing and joking with The News Tribune’s Dave Boling over the columnist trying to pre-empt one of the quarterback’s pet clichés when answering questions about the tasks in the playoffs.
“You said it for me: The field’s the same. It’s still 100 yards, 53 and a third (yards wide),” Wilson said.
Then he chuckled over being so predictable in his speech.
“Cliché for you,” Wilson said. “But it’s the truth.”
FOCUS ON TURNOVERS
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll calls practices on this day of the week “Turnover Thursday.”
“I call it ‘No Turnover Thursday,’ ” Wilson said, mindful of his standing edict to take supreme care of the ball on offense.
He’s done that this season. Wilson threw 34 touchdown passes, a Seattle record, with only eight interceptions.
Thursday’s practicing of stripping the ball and picking off passes defensively while wrapping tight grips over the ball and safe throws offensively probably meant more to the Seahawks than most.
Carolina led the league during the regular season with a turnover margin of plus-20. That was six turnovers better than the second-best margin, Kansas City’s (incidentally, the red-hot Chiefs are another of the final eight teams still alive in the postseason).
The Panthers had 39 takeaways (24 of them interceptions) and 19 giveaways. Cam Newton threw for 35 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
These numbers are a big reason why the Panthers went 15-1.
The Seahawks were tied with New England and the New York Giants for fifth in the NFL with a turnover margin of plus-5.
Bennett says he realizes in his third season with the Seahawks that Carroll’s focus on turnovers each Thursday is more than a catchy slogan and lip service.
“I think when you emphasize on certain things and points, and you have it around the building, it gets embedded in guy’s minds,” Bennett said. “You think about (Bill) Belichick or (Bill) Parcells or guys like that, and you think about coach Carroll. They have a mindset and a philosophy, all the way to (Alabama coach) Nick Saban. When guys constantly see it, and see it all over, they begin to get brainwashed and it becomes a part of you, a part of your DNA. I think when they do that, you see guys take it with them. Guys leave here and they take that same mentality and go to other teams.
“When you see that, and a day named after it, it just becomes part of you. You think getting the ball back is just a normal thing.”
Seattle has a turnover margin of plus-4 in its last six road games, all victories.
RB Marshawn Lynch practiced fully for the second consecutive day. He’s done that in all five practices since he returned to the team last week from his native Bay Area, where he spent all of December rehabilitating after abdominal surgery on Nov. 25. He hasn’t played since Nov. 15, and while all signs point to him playing Sunday at Carolina, that’s what it looked like at this time last week. He then told the team he didn’t feel he could play at Minnesota, and that he wouldn’t be making the team’s trip there. … Bennett was limited in practice after missing Wednesday to rest that troublesome toe. He’s following the same routine he had last week before playing as usual. … TE Luke Willson practiced for the second consecutive day, reinforcing that he likely will return to action this weekend after a concussion kept him out of the last two games. … FB Will Tukuafu (hamstring) was the only member of the active roster to miss practice. … The forecast for Sunday’s game: partly sunny with a high of 44 degrees. That would be 50 degrees warmer than what the Seahawks played in last weekend.