AP Sports Writer
RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Ask Max Unger about becoming the Seattle Seahawks' second interior offensive lineman to ever be named All-Pro, and he gives the typical answer about being honored for the recognition and that the success of those around him is the reason he was noticed.
Ask Unger – a born-and-raised Hawaiian – about being selected to start in the Pro Bowl last season, and he becomes more thoughtful.
"That was pretty special. You grow up in Hawaii knowing that the Pro Bowl is played at Aloha Stadium and not a lot of guys from the islands have been able to do that," Unger said. "So going back home and playing in that game was pretty cool."
It's rare for a player to find a Pro Bowl selection more meaningful than being All-Pro. And while Unger was honored to be recognized for both, getting the Pro Bowl nod and playing before family and friends was special for the Big Island.
Especially when it's not easy for an interior offensive lineman to get major recognition in the first place.
"You have to score points, you have to win games in order to get a lot of recognition," Unger said. "Especially on the (offensive) line you have to keep your quarterback clean, you have to do that kind of stuff and the benefit of that is people recognize our quarterback is not getting touched, we're running the ball a lot something good must be happening."
Unger's awards in 2012 came largely because of the success of Seattle's offense. The Seahawks were nearly unstoppable on offense the final nine games of the regular season and were a matter of seconds from playing in the NFC championship game before losing to Atlanta in the playoffs.
But within the eye-popping points Seattle posted late in the season was a change in its offense that was made easier because Unger is under center. He's the prototype of offensive lineman Seahawks assistant head coach Tom Cable wants orchestrating his line with three distinct attributes: Smart, tough and quick.
"When I say smart, they are usually exceptional. They're not your run-of-the-mill, stereotypical what people would think of linemen. They are high test scores, very diligent, great finishers, a little bit anal sometimes. I think they have a gift mentally," Cable said. "And then they have to be really tough because they get banged around and beat up in there all the time. And then quick so they can get from where they're at, snap the ball and then reach a guy."
Asked which of those is Unger's strength Cable had a quick response.
"All of the above," Cable said. "We're fortunate because he has great gifts and he kind of fills every one of those."
It was around the midpoint last season when Seattle started using more of the zone-read offense where quarterback Russell Wilson would line up in the shotgun and often keep the ball instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch. For some centers, the transition to suddenly being in the shotgun the majority of the time, combined with making the calls for a zone-blocking scheme might be a challenge.
Not for Unger. He'd been there before, having played collegiately at Oregon when the Ducks were running some similar offensive principles.
"Going back to it was pretty natural. It wasn't learning something new, as much as dusting it off and that's a big difference especially at this level," Unger said. "It's such a chess match out there that if you have to add on one more pre snap thought it carries so much weight. Luckily we didn't have to do that with the shotgun snaps."
Wilson raves about his relationship with Unger, how the duo work together and how their leadership qualities are similar.
"We have a purpose. You know we come to work with a purpose every day of helping our offense be better," Wilson said. "You know that's as simple as it gets. I don't know how else to explain it, but we come into work and we feel like it's between me and him, and we have to get everyone else better."
Notes: WR Sidney Rice returned to full practice Sunday for the first time following his trip to Switzerland for treatment on his knee. ... RB Robert Turbin (foot) passed his physical, coach Pete Carroll said, and is expected to be on the practice field Monday. ... LB Bruce Irvin was held out of practice because of a slight groin strain but Carroll hoped he would be ready Thursday night for the preseason opener at San Diego.
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