Time to heal.
Those three words could be the offseason theme for the Seattle Seahawks, who need to heal physically as well as mentally. And it’s going to be a slow process.
The painful way the Seahawks lost in Super Bowl XLIX does not go away overnight. QB Russell Wilson's ill-fated pass at the end will be second-guessed for years.
And it still hurts for fans, for players, for coaches, and everyone involved in a team that was close to winning back-to-back Super Bowls.
“Like everybody else, we’re licking our wounds a little bit and trying to move forward," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Tuesday on 710 ESPN Seattle radio. “It's always going to sting. But we always talk around here that there is no finish line. We're moving forward and we have a plan in place and we're going to keep attacking it."
One question people keep asking is whether the disappointment of such a heartbreaking loss will linger for the players and cause them to lose focus or lack confidence moving forward.
Anyone who thinks that's the case just doesn’t know or understand the makeup of this team and these players.
“This is a young, resilient football team,” Schneider said. ‘‘They are very confident and very prideful. I just have the confidence that we’re going to get this thing back on track.”
Actually, it isn’t really off track. The team was one play away from winning the Super Bowl on Feb. 1. But Schneider’s point is that one disheartening moment will not define the Seahawks.
“There are challenges, absolutely,’’ Schneider said. “But to have a head coach like Pete Carroll and players who are true competitors, I think we have a great shot to be a championship-caliber team for a long time.”
To do that, this team has to get over the mental anguish of the Super Bowl loss and use it as motivation. No team is better than this one when the players feel like they have something to overcome. They proved it in 2014 when they were 6-4 and ran the table down the stretch.
The Super Bowl hangover is not an issue. The real issue is getting healthy again. This is a banged-up bunch of guys, starting with the Legion of Boom. All three Pro Bowl-honored players ended the season hurt.
Free safety Earl Thomas is having a torn labrum repaired in his shoulder. Strong safety Kam Chancellor played the Super Bowl with a torn MCL in his left knee. And cornerback Richard Sherman has a torn ligament in his left elbow. Fortunately, he will not need surgery, but his recovery will take time. And nickelback Jeremy Lane had surgery to repair a complete fracture in his left arm suffered in the Super Bowl. His recovery will take several months.
And that’s just the beginning. Nose tackle Brandon Mebane is coming back from a torn hamstring. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill, who broke out in the second half of the season, ended the year on injured reserve with a knee injury.
“We had a number of injuries this year,” Schneider said. “I’m really excited for some of our younger guys to get back out there and show their true worth.”
The Seahawks need to learn some things about a few 2014 rookies who are coming off injuries. Big things were expected of defensive end Cassius Marsh and outside linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis. Marsh played only five games before breaking his foot. Pierre-Louis played in only seven games because of hamstring and shoulder problems.
Wide receiver Paul Richardson, the team’s top draft pick in 2014, finally was showing his talent in the second half of the season before suffering a torn ACL in the first playoff game. It’s unlikely he’ll be ready to go for the start of next season.
How quickly all these players recover and how much some of the younger players can step up and contribute will be big factors in how the Seahawks perform in 2015. Salary-cap implications mean tough decisions are coming about some players, like Mebane and Miller.
As was the case last year, the Seahawks will lose some quality players through free agency. Cornerback Byron Maxwell will be tough to keep, but Schneider thinks the organization is better prepared to replace the losses this year.
“We feel like this is an attractive place,’’ Schneider said. “There are a lot of guys that may want to play here that would fit specific needs, and a lot of guys we’d like to have back. We have to make smart decisions as we move along.”
That’s always the case, but the main thing the Seahawks have to do heading into next season is to heal up, mentally and physically.
“I’m proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished,” Schneider said. “We want to be a consistent championship-caliber football team that our fans are extremely proud of all the time.”