By Danny O'Neil
RENTON – No player embodies Pete Carroll's Seahawks more than Golden Tate, from the inconsistencies of the first two seasons to the breakthrough of 2012.
The third player chosen in Carroll's tenure, Tate was prone to the youthful mistakes that were Seattle's hallmark in those two 7-9 seasons to start Carroll's run as coach. Then came 2012, a great leap forward for Tate and for his team.
Now, both Tate and the Seahawks find themselves at a crossroads that is also an opportunity. They have proven they can be good. The question is whether they can be great, and the fact that this is the final year of Tate's rookie contract puts a clock on the situation.
"I want to prove my value," Tate said Monday.
That's not the only thing he wants.
"I want to be here," Tate said. "I really love this city, everything about this city. I can't see myself anywhere else."
|2012 (15 games)|
|Yards per catch:||15.3||Touchdowns:||7|
|2011 (16 games)|
|Yards per catch:||10.9||Touchdowns:||3|
|2010 (11 games)|
|Yards:||227||Yards per catch:||10.8||Touchdowns:||0|
But Harvin is out the next couple of months after undergoing hip surgery, and while he was never acquired to replace Tate, Harvin's absence figures to provide Tate with both more opportunity and more scrutiny as he will start at split end and return punts.
After blossoming into one of Seattle's best playmakers with seven touchdown catches last year, Tate heads into this season in a situation every receiver loves: wide open.
"We love what he does," Carroll said. "He's such an unusual player."
At 5 feet 11, he is Seattle's best receiver in jump-ball situations, and somebody who has been compared to a running back the way he moves with the ball after the catch.
But then, athleticism has never been a question for Tate, who assumed he'd come to Seattle as a second-round pick and be able to do what he had always done first in high school and later in his three years at Notre Dame.
"I'll run around, I'll jump around," Tate said, recalling his mindset as a rookie. "I'll just out-athlete people and make plays."
It takes more than ability in a league populated by some of the country's most athletic human beings. Tate learned that quickly as he was left off the active roster for his first regular-season game in 2010. He caught more than four passes in a game only once in his first season and a half as a Seahawk.
If Tate could turn back the clock and give himself advice as a rookie, what would it be?
"You've actually got to put in the work," he said, "and that's when you'll see the difference."
You certainly have witnessed the results with Tate, who not only caught 45 passes last season, but more tellingly, the guy who once struggled with the precision of his routes has become one of the team's most dependable targets.
"He's the highest tester in terms of assignments," Carroll said.
That explains how he's come this far with the Seahawks. The question now is how far he'll go with the Seahawks.
"Hopefully, the best is yet to come," Tate said.
It's a statement that holds true for the team, too, and in that way Tate may once again serve as a weather vane for Seattle's fortunes. It is no coincidence that Tate came into his own the year Seattle established itself as a bona fide contender.
Now, the question is about staying power both for Tate and this team.