Holmgren has Seahawks soaring

Mike Holmgren, whose team enters Sunday's game in San Francisco as the NFC's current No. 1 seed, talks Seahawks and 49ers and other issues surrounding the two teams and their matchup at Monster Park.

RE: How is (defensive coordinator) Ray Rhodes doing?

"He's doing much better. He works every day. He gets here early in the morning, but I send him home around four o'clock, which is unusual in this business. He's not on the field and he will not be at the game on Sunday. He'll be able to come back to the games in the following week. The doctors want him on this particular program. He really is doing better. He's involved in the planning, but John Marshall is coordinating on game day."

RE: How hard is it for you to keep him away?

"It's really hard. When he had his first stroke we set up some ground rules, but he kind of cheated a little bit. You guys know Ray. He's a hard-working guy that cares so much. It's hard for him and it would be for most coaches. He's doing not only what I say but what the doctors' say, and he's sticking with it."

RE: You mentioned (linebacker coach) John Marshall, how is he responding to his new role?

"John is doing great. It's very much a collaborative effort by John, Ray and the rest of the defensive staff. On Sundays, John is the man."

RE: What did Scot McCloughan mean to your organization during the years that he worked with you?

"I think Scot is one of the bright young talents in this league. I fought like crazy to keep him here. He was given the opportunity to go to San Francisco in a very responsible position. He did the right thing for himself and his family, but having said that, I wish that he was still here. He knows football and he will work very hard. The personnel department is in good hands there."

RE: What are some key elements that he brought to your organization?

"He has a real eye for talent. He's a very honest evaluator with the head coach. As a coach or decision maker you can't have yes men around you. You want to get the honest scoop. So while we might not have always agreed on a player, I knew that he saw them and evaluated them. I trusted him and he was a great guy for me to have around."

RE: Are there some guys on your current roster that are there because of Scot McCloughan?

"With the exception of the rookies that we drafted last year, Scot and Ted Thompson are responsible. Scot is a college guy and he had a say in all those fellows that helped build this team. We're not the strongest team in football, but we're pretty solid. I'll give him a lot of credit for that."

RE: You started off 2-2, but since then you have won five straight games. What do you contribute that success to?

"I thought we had a chance to be a pretty good football team. We had high expectations in training camp. We didn't know about our defense, because our defense is essentially all new over last year. We have nine new starters through free agency and the draft, so I didn't know how that was going to go. I thought maybe we could move the football. We were able to sign most of our key free agents on the offensive side of the ball. We have a pretty good offensive line that stayed together, but there were some question marks. We might have won another game if we hadn't hit the cross bar against Washington. The good thing about this team is that they really do have fun playing together. They're a pretty close knit group. It's one of those things that may have hurt us in the past. Some of the selfish play that hurt us in the past is gone. We don't have that anymore. It really seems as if the guys are genuinely happy for the others who are having the success. That has helped us this year."

RE: Does that camaraderie have to do with the people you brought in?

"I think so. In this business you have to be real. You become enamored with a player because he's a good football player, but sometimes you can ignore the idea of chemistry and team. That can be dangerous. I think they're feeling pretty good, but we haven't accomplished anything yet. We know that we're going into a hornets nest on Sunday and that's how we'll play."

RE: Although the 49ers have a 2-7 record, what are some things that you'll be looking for on Sunday?

"I looked at a lot of film on the 49ers and they beat a good Tampa Bay team in San Francisco. In my opinion they gave the New York Giants all they wanted, but the Giants made a couple of miracle catches in that game. Coach Nolan has the guys playing really hard and when you have these guys playing really hard good things can happen. When I talk to my team about the 49ers, we're not thinking about anything but how they play on film. We're not thinking about records, we're just thinking about the way they play on film and the effort that they put forth. We must match that on the road."

RE: Last year the Rams were a trouble spot for your team, but does beating them twice instill confidence in this team?

"That was big. We kind of exorcised some demons with those wins. Last year we lost to them three times. The third time was in a playoff game. We had some really close games with them. Everyone was kind of shooting for the Rams, so this year being able to beat them in St. Louis was big for our team?

RE: Has the play of your young linebackers this season surprised you?

"Anytime you're starting two rookie linebackers like we did last game (LeRoy Hill and Lofa Tatupu) you kind of hold your breath. They are really playing pretty well and I have no complaints that way. They're high effort guys and they work very hard in their preparations. Our whole linebacker crew is quite different from what it was last year. We have a bunch of young guys doing the very best that they can."

RE: Are you feeling comfortable with the way that Shaun Alexander's contract issue is going?

"That remains to be seen. I don't think a lot about it right now. We're in the season, and I think that Shaun has done a good job of blocking that out. My hope is that we get something done. I believe that he would like to be here and we would like him here as an organization."

RE: Speaking of contract situations, how is yours going?

"I take it a day at a time. I'm old now. When I was with San Francisco, I was a young guy, now I'm getting up there. I have another year left on my contract and I've never been one to quit anything."

RE: Chicago stacked a couple of men in the box to contain the 49ers running game. Will you take the same approach?

"I'm not going to talk too much about how we're going to handle their offense. We'll probably approach it like we approach most people. We know that we have to stop the run and then you deal with the passing game as it comes."


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