By Danny O'Neil
The Seahawks won't be resuming their pursuit of a championship on Thursday, but rather beginning it.
You don't get to pick up where you left off in the NFL, you start over, and when training camp opens on Thursday, the Seahawks will take their first steps in a season that is loaded with tons of expectation and more than a little uncertainty.
Seattle may be returning all but two starters from a team that went 11-5 and had the best December of any franchise in the league, but this team has plenty of questions that will be answered in the six weeks, starting with these five:
5. Is James Carpenter ready?
The Seahawks certainly hope so. Seattle's offensive line is established with a pair of Pro Bowlers in left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger. But if this group is going to take the next step and join San Francisco as one of the league's best offensive lines it will be because Carpenter asserts himself at left guard.
The former first-round pick was chosen to play tackle, and while many wrote him off as a bust after two knee surgeries and a shift to guard since entering the league, he is the strongest player on offense and his power would give Seattle a truly fearsome left side of the line if he can stay healthy. That's a big if, too. He has been placed on injured reserve and was limited in offseason workouts after an arthroscopic surgery, and his status will be one of the first things to look for Thursday.
There's been a lot of talk about the baggage Harvin brings as someone who tested positive for marijuana at the scouting combine in 2009 and didn't always see eye-to-eye with his former employer in Minnesota. But this gets overlooked: He's regarded as a supremely competitive individual whose fierce practice habits are bound to put him head-to-head against safety Earl Thomas.
Thomas is coming off an All-Pro season and his training-camp showdowns with tight end Kellen Winslow last year were both hotly contested and incredibly verbose. Harvin should pose just as spirited a challenge. These are two of the very fastest players on the team, and since iron sharpens iron, this is a matchup to watch to see who gets an edge.
3. Is Bruce Irvin lining up in a two-point stance?
If he is, that means Seattle is following through on the plan to try him at linebacker, an experiment that is made more complicated by his four-game suspension to start the season. Irvin has never played the position before so he needs time there not only to adjust but to allow the team's coaches a chance to evaluate him. He can't spend too much time there, though, because he's not going to be around for the first four games.
The Seahawks have Cliff Avril at defensive end and possibly Chris Clemons if he's sufficiently recovered from knee surgery, but where Irvin is going to fit into this defense remains a very big question.
2. Where is Walter?
Walter Thurmond is healthier than he has been in two years and was as impressive as any of Seattle's cornerbacks during the offseason program. One problem: There's no obvious spot for him to play with Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman established as the starting cornerbacks and Antoine Winfield signed to be the fifth defensive back in nickel situations.
But Thurmond is an explosive athlete who could force his way onto the field, and he has been told he'll have a chance to compete for playing time. As settled as Seattle's secondary is after the addition of Winfield, there's always a chance for Thurmond to play himself into the rotation and onto the field if he can stay healthy.
1. What does Russell Wilson have in store for an encore?
There have been nine quarterbacks to start a playoff game in each of their first two seasons, a list which is headlined by John Elway, Dan Marino and Ben Roethlisberger and most recently includes Mark Sanchez and Andy Dalton.
Wilson's bid to join that group will be aided by the fact that unlike last year, he's going to be the No. 1 quarterback from the get-go at training camp. Seattle's three-way competition last year diluted Wilson's repetitions, and the coaches needed a couple of months before they trusted Wilson completely. What will Wilson be capable of this year after spending a full year as the starting quarterback?