Behind Enemy Lines: Lions/Seahawks, Part One

In Part One of a four-part series, takes you behind enemy lines with an insider's perspective as Nate Caminata asks Seahawks.NET Publisher Doug Farrar the first five of ten questions that Lions fans should know the answers to as their team gets ready for Sunday's kickoff in Detroit!

Nate Caminata (Q): Most Seattle fans and players are still very familiar with the team's last trip to the Motor City. Do you believe Sunday's contest will evoke any memories for the club? Has the return to Detroit been an issue of discussion between the coaches and players?

Doug Farrar (A): I think it will be less of a factor than some might make it – this team is mature and smart enough to know that the only thing they can control at this point is what happens when they hit the field THIS Sunday.

Q: Immediately following that ill-fated Super Bowl contest, the Seahawks and head coach Mike Holmgren were vocal about their displeasure regarding the officiating. Is the team still bitter over the way they lost? Are they using that frustration as fuel for the 2006 regular season?

A: Again, far less than everyone thinks. Mike Holmgren has made exactly two public statements about the officiating in Super Bowl XL – one about "having to play the guys in the striped shirts" at a postgame rally in Seattle, and a few acrid words when Mike Pereira, the league's head of officiating, came to Seahawks HQ to explain the new rules for 2006. All comments were made with tongue firmly in cheek, and at no time has anyone in the Seahawks organization been as vocal as Pittsburgh's Joey Porter has been about the officiating in the Steelers-Colts divisional playoff game. Porter came just short of accusing the league of fixing games and he's still flapping his yap about it. Yet he gets a free pass while Holmgren gets pilloried by many of the same press people who were up in arms about the job Bill Leavy and his crew did right after the fact.

The Seahawks have to be sick of hearing that they're "constantly whining" about the Super Bowl, because they're not. The national media, however, will not let it go.

Now…do I think the team is taking what happened in February to heart and using it as fuel in the new season? Teams will use any motivational ploy they possibly can, so it wouldn't surprise me at all.

Q: Detroit fans are plenty aware of the ‘East coast media bias' theory, but the apparent lack of respect and coverage of the Seahawks is another beast entirely. Do you expect that to continue even after the Super Bowl appearance? If so, is that a source of frustration for the fans and team, or does it make it easier and more rewarding to fly under the radar for the bulk of an NFL season?

A: Here's where I think media ignorance is a problem for teams like Seattle and Detroit: When you're courting free agents (especially marquee guys at the very top of the business), you must factor in that most of these guys are either used to national attention on a grand scale, or they crave it pretty much ceaselessly There are exceptions, of course, but most professional athletes are exhibitionists, and they play for attention. Teams without that national presence may have to pay more for players because of the "attention deficit".

I expect the Seahawks to continue their role as the best red-headed stepchild in the NFL, but that could have something to do with my own distaste of the way Seattle's season was handled by the national media. In a way, I'd rather have the team I root for out of their hamfisted clutches.

Q: How will the Seahawks cope with the loss of former Michigan standout Steve Hutchinson, and how does his loss affect running back Shaun Alexander and team's running attack?

A: Losing Hutchinson will be a blow to the offense – there's no doubt. When you lose the best guard in the game, it's not something you can gloss over. Where Seattle has an advantage is that they have been building amazing depth on the line for a number of years, especially at the guard position. Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack is an immense run-blocking beast who will be very effective if he can stay healthy. Rookie Rob Sims impressed in the preseason, and Chris Spencer, drafted in the first round in 2005 as a center, can also play guard in a pinch. Don't forget that whoever takes Hutch's place will line up to the right of tackle Walter Jones, the best lineman in the game. In 2005, Jones might have been the league's best player.

Alexander's worst season was in 2002, when Hutchinson lost 12 games to a broken leg. But Seattle has had a much longer to prepare for this departure, and I wouldn't expect an enormous dropoff.

Q: Seattle still seems to have a vested interest in acquiring Deion Branch, despite reports that WR Darrell Jackson could return in time play in the season opener. Does the rumored mega-offer to Branch reflect the team's lack of confidence in its WR corps (and Jackson's ability to return)? What is the state of Matt Hasselback's receiving targets?

A: There is interest in Branch, but it's more responsive at this time. New England shows little interest in trading Branch without getting up to two first-round picks in return (depending on what the story is today), which tends to put a damper on things. Jackson's knee is a concern, but Seattle is okay at receiver. Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram are reliable and effective supporting players (Burleson has some breakout ability as a #2 receiver), and Engram is the ideal slot receiver – a tough, drive-extending veteran machine.

The kid to watch out for is third-year man D.J. Hackett out of Colorado – he has great potential and flashed ability in limited action last year. If Jackson's knee is still an issue this season (though he's expected to be ready to go against the Lions), Hackett's role could greatly increase. The Seahawks really like this kid.

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