These Seahawks play with a point to prove

RENTON, Wash. -- A 15-3 record and a spot in the Super Bowl isn’t too bad for a bunch of underappreciated guys with a chip on their shoulder.

Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman was a fifth-round draft pick, something that still eats at him. Receiver Doug Baldwin wasn’t drafted at all, something that led to his nickname -- ADB: Angry Doug Baldwin.

“I don’t have a chip on my shoulder,” Baldwin said last week. “I have a boulder on my shoulder.”

Quarterback Russell Wilson didn’t get selected until the third round because many experts said he was too short (5-foot-11) to make it as an NFL starter.

All of them are starters for Super Bowl-bound Seattle, but they aren’t the only Seahawks who have been undervalued (in their eyes, at least) for the skills they possess.

Despite everything they’ve accomplished this season, the Seahawks still believe they don’t get the respect they deserve. And it’s not a coincidence they ended up with Seattle.

“We’ve really chosen guys that have a feeling that they got something to prove," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “I think we’re all like that. [Seahawks general manager] John [Schneider] is like that. I feel like that. We all kind of feel like that. It’s made a little bit of a chip-on-the-shoulder kind of mentality around here.”

The Seahawks have been built with players other teams overlooked, undervalued or didn’t want. These guys play with that chip at all times, which is exactly what the Seahawks' brain trust wanted.

“Our guys have tremendous resiliency to be successful,’’ Carroll said. “That makeup drives them. That’s really what we’re looking for.”

Three of the top players on the Seattle defensive line -- Michael Bennett, Chris Clemons and Tony McDaniel -- were not drafted out of college. Even the Seahawks gave up on Bennett as a rookie in 2009 when they released him, but he was signed as a free agent last spring and has been Seattle's best defensive lineman this season.

Outside linebacker Malcolm Smith was a seventh-round pick, and starting cornerback Byron Maxwell was a sixth-round selection.

On the offensive line, starting right guard J.R. Sweezy was a seventh-round pick who played on the D-line at North Carolina State.

Receiver Jermaine Kearse, who caught the 35-yard TD pass Sunday that gave Seattle the lead in the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship Game, was not drafted out of the University of Washington.

All of them have proved that some people were dead wrong about their capabilities as NFL players, and they all have that chip. But Carroll prefers a different description.

“I think grit is a better word,” Carroll said. “The guys that have a chip on their shoulder are made up that way. But I’ve come to believe that grit is the key factor in deciding success and maybe overcoming shortcomings and stuff like that.

“The guys that have the grit, they’re the ones that you’re looking for. It’s that competitiveness, that mentality of there’s no obstacle too big. They never give in to the thought that they can’t win.”

They also constantly defend each other. One of Sherman’s many pet peeves is the unending criticism of Seattle's receivers. Sherman’s postgame comments Sunday became national news, but no one was talking about his praise of Baldwin after the receiver caught six passes for 106 yards in Seattle's 23-17 victory over the 49ers.

“Doug Baldwin is one of the best receivers in this league.” Sherman said. “You can quote me on that. He showed up big-time for us in this game. I think a lot of people throw our receivers under the rug, but they do everything our team needs them to do.”

Carroll believes that constant desire to prove their worth leads to a better competitive environment.

“That competitiveness is something I recognized in my second year here [2011]," Carroll said. “We had a bunch of guys that understood what that meant. We’ve kind of built on that in some ways.

“We’re a very, very competitive group. They understand the value of that and how it’s going to get us where we want to go. It’s a very powerful feeling we have.”

To reach that point, Carroll and Schneider were willing to take chances on players other teams might have overlooked or disregarded. It’s one reason some people say Carroll is more open-minded than most coaches.

“I look at it more competitively than I do open-minded,” Carroll said. “I understand why you say that, but I think it’s a little bit different way of looking at it. I don’t want to miss out on somebody because maybe they’re not like me. I’m OK with that. I’m just trying to figure out where they fit in and if they can help us.”