By Danny O'Neil

It's not the start that coach Pete Carroll emphasizes to his team.

It's the finish.

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Two of the Seahawks' final five games will be against San Francisco, one of three teams to beat Seattle in 2013. (AP)
That will be especially true for his Seahawks this season with a 16-game schedule that starts out tough and winds up with a decidedly brutal run of five division games over the final six weeks. Two of those division games are against San Francisco, a pair of grudge matches separated only by 17 days and a few years worth of bad blood.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. While the first part of Seattle's schedule is not the worst, it's a long way from easy. Each of Seattle's first three opponents made the playoffs a year ago, the Seahawks kicking off the season at home on Sept. 4 against Green Bay, traveling to San Diego the next week before hosting the Broncos in Week 3 in a Super Bowl rematch.

Then the Seahawks get a bye to catch their breath before playing their only Monday night game of the season, Oct. 6 at Washington.

But in a six-week stretch from October to mid-November, the Seahawks will face exactly one team that made the playoffs last season. That would be the Panthers, who host Seattle Oct. 26, the third consecutive season in which Seattle has played at Carolina.

The gauntlet starts Nov. 16 in Kansas City. Of Seattle's final seven regular-season games, six will be against teams that won 10 or more games a year ago. Five of those games will be against division opponents. Two of those games will be against San Francisco, the NFC's top two teams a year ago playing on Thanksgiving in San Francisco before holding a rematch in Week 15 at CenturyLink Field.

Throw in a pair of games against the Cardinals, first on Nov. 23 and then Dec. 21, a game at the NFC East champion Eagles on Dec. 7 and a regular-season finale at home against St. Louis and the final half of Seattle's schedule doesn't look like a closing stretch so much as a colossal test of strength that will put some teeth into one of Carroll's favorite sayings.

Because it's not how Seattle starts this first season after a Super Bowl title that will decide the Seahawks' fate, but how they finish.

Week Date Time Opponent
1 Sept. 4 5:30 p.m. Packers (Thursday night)
2 Sept. 14 1:05 p.m. at Chargers
3 Sept. 21 1:25 p.m. Broncos
4 -- -- BYE
5 Oct. 6 5:30 p.m. at Redskins
6 Oct. 12 1:25 p.m. Cowboys
7 Oct. 19 10 a.m. at Rams
8 Oct. 26 10 a.m. at Panthers
9 Nov. 2 1:25 pm Raiders
10 Nov. 9 1:25 p.m. Giants
11 Nov. 16 10 a.m. at Chiefs
12 Nov. 23 1:05 p.m. Cardinals
13 Nov. 27 5:30 p.m. at 49ers (Thanksgiving night)
14 Dec. 7 1:25 p.m. at Eagles
15 Dec. 14 1:25 p.m. 49ers
16 Dec. 21 5:30 p.m. at Cardinals (Sunday night)
17 Dec. 28 1:25 p.m. Rams

By Brent Stecker

Things started looking up for Sidney Rice about a week ago.

The veteran NFL wide receiver had a bad end to his 2013 season in the form of an ACL tear in Week 8 against the Rams, and it went to worse when the Seahawks released him as a cost-cutting measure on Feb. 28. But it all turned around last Monday.

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Sidney Rice said he is "ahead of schedule" in his recovery from a torn ACL that ended his 2013 season in Week 8 and held him out of the Seahawks' Super Bowl run. (AP)

That's when Rice was cleared by doctors to work out for teams, and as luck would have it, the same organization that released him just months earlier had a need for a receiver with his exact kind of skillset. By Wednesday, Rice himself had announced his return to Seattle.

It may seem surprising that Rice decided to sign with the same team that cut him, but as he told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny," he never felt disrespected by the team he spent the past three seasons playing for.

"The door was always open," Rice said. "When I went up to (general manager John) Schneider's office to talk to him and coach (Pete) Carroll right when they decided to release me, that was one of the first things they mentioned, that they would love to have me back. It was just a few things that they had to work out, and me being in the league for seven years now I understand that it's a part of the business, that things happen like that sometimes."

Rice, whose one-year deal is reportedly worth $1.4 million, said the reaction from Seahawks fans to his injury last season factored into him taking less money to come back to Seattle than what he was offered by the New York Jets offered.

"I don't think I've been around a place where you get injured and still have the full support of the fan base, and that really meant a lot to me," he said. "Just to be back and have another opportunity to play in front of the 12s at C-Link is a huge part of the factor, too."

Coming off his injury, Rice told "Brock and Danny" he's confident about his ACL and is eager to get back to work on the field.

"I'm doing really well. I'm quite ahead of schedule," he said. "I got cleared last Monday to start doing cutting and things like that. I was just excited to get back here to the facility.

"Right when I walked in the facility (Friday), the first thing I did was walk to my locker and put my Seahawk gear on, my shoes, my pants, and went up there, signed my contract, and just went immediately downstairs to get with our trainers and start our training session right away."

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Jermaine Kearse (center) scored memorable touchdowns in both the NFC Championship game and Super Bowl. (AP)

By Danny O'Neil

Our countdown of the players on the Seahawks roster with the most to gain this season continues with a look at Seattle's group of receivers and there's one who has more room to grow than any other, and no, we're not talking about the return of Sidney Rice.

WR Jermaine Kearse

Age: 24

Experience: Entering third season

Pedigree: An undrafted rookie out of Washington, Kearse first made the Seahawks roster because of his play on special teams. Last season, he had an early opportunity at wide receiver and he grabbed onto it. With both hands.

A player knocked for the passes he dropped during his four years in college became known for the balls he caught with the Seahawks. Whether it was the 43-yard touchdown in the season-opening victory at Carolina – Seattle's only touchdown that game – or the play in which he spun away from four different Broncos en route to the end zone in the Super Bowl.

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Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse's rapport with quarterback Russell Wilson has been apparent since the two arrived at training camp as rookies in 2012, writes Danny O'Neil. (AP)

Kearse averaged 15.7 yards per catch in 2013, most of any Seahawk who caught more than five passes during the regular season. He caught four touchdowns in the regular season, each spanning more than 25 yards.

Predicament: There's plenty of competition at wide receiver even with Golden Tate's free-agent departure to Detroit. Seattle hopes to have Percy Harvin for a full 16-game schedule, Doug Baldwin is a factor not just for opportunities in the slot, but on the outside and Seattle brought back Sidney Rice. Kearse will have a chance to get more opportunities this season, but no guarantees.

The possibilities: Rice's return is a nice story, the Seahawks bringing back their leading receiver from 2012. Whether it's a significant story, though, depends in part on Kearse and whether he builds on what was a promising second season.

Kearse's rapport with quarterback Russell Wilson was evident as far back as the 2012 training camp when both are rookies. In the second season, that trust translated into two routes in which Kearse excelled, beginning with the go route that resulted in that touchdown in Carolina back in Week 1.

His success on those patterns set up opponents for the back-shoulder fade, which also became part of the arsenal. By the playoffs, Kearse had evolved from a promising youngster to a trusted target, as evidenced by the fact he was the one Wilson threw to on that fourth-down freebie against the 49ers, turning into the 35-yard touchdown.

Kearse isn't the fastest receiver on the team nor is he the biggest, but his combination of size and speed and that ability to make plays in traffic makes him the player who is best positioned to see his production skyrocket with Tate gone.

By Brent Stecker

Highlights from the latest edition of "Hawk Talk" with Danny O'Neil:

Jdoster06 asked if 50 catches is the best case for newly re-signed wide receiver Sidney Rice in 2014.

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Danny O'Neil said the role of the recently re-signed Sidney Rice Seahawks receiving corps in 2014 will depend on where Jermaine Kearse is placed on the depth chart. (AP)

O'Neil: Best case? Fifty is a lot. That would presume two things: He's healthy; He's ahead of Jermaine Kearse on the depth chart.

tom page asked if the Pete Carroll would be interested in bringing in trouble 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith if he were released.

O'Neil: Aldon Smith is an incredibly intriguing player though someone who is very likely going to be facing league discipline before the start of the year. The short answer: Yes, I think the Seahawks would be interested. He's an elite pass rusher, and Pete has shown a willingness to give guys a second chance. The one thing we haven't seen him do is take second chances on guys with documented substance-abuse issues.

good idea at the time asked what can be expected, if anything, from offensive guard James Carpenter this year?

O'Neil: I've started hearing the annual "he's in better shape" rumblings. Which I've taken with three grains of salt I will then use to season a hamburger.

BlatantChipmunk asked how many touches running back Christine Michael should be expected to get next season.

O'Neil: Too soon to tell. If he doesn't average 3-5 carries over the course of this season, I think we can conclude that he hasn't progressed the way the team hoped when it chose him in the second round last season.

Buckminster Fuller asked if Danny can recall past Seahawks offseason workouts that had the same level of participation as quarterback Russell Wilson's in California.

O'Neil: Well, during the lockout, everybody was all gaga over how Drew Breese orchestrated his team's workouts. I think that Russell Wilson does indeed help set a tone and provide some continuity. But that's like Reason No. 12 or Reason No. 13 on why he's the right quarterback. I generally think offseason workouts like that are vastly overblown.

Hawker asked who will replace Golden Tate as the Seahawks' main punt returner.

O'Neil: (I) am very interested to see who they try there. I've always thought Doug Baldwin would make a great candidate with his hands and fearlessness. Jeremy Lane worked some at kickoff.

Conner asked who the Seahawks value more at the linebacker position moving into the future: Bobby Wagner or K.J. Wright.

O'Neil: Bobby Wagner because of the position he plays in the middle of the defense.

Line guy asked if offensive tackle Russell Okung will be get re-signed after next season, considering his injury history, or if Carroll and general manager John Schneider will let him walk.

O'Neil: I truly don't know. I think that Russell Okung might be the biggest question in terms of long-term value, even more so than linebacker. I am reasonably certain that Seattle values (highly) Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Russell Wilson. Now, whether the team's value is high enough to sign them remains to be seen.

By 710Sports.com staff

Sidney Rice's return and the Seahawks' draft prospects were covered in the latest "Hawk Talk" with Danny O'Neil.

The full transcript can be accessed below.

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Christine Michael carried the ball just 18 times as a rookie, but that number should go up significantly in 2014. (AP)

By Danny O'Neil

Seattle's offseason conditioning program begins next week, and we're counting down the five Seahawks who have the most to gain this season in everything from playing time to future contract negotiations.

We started with Bruce Irvin at No. 5 and Byron Maxwell at No. 4. Next:

RB Christine Michael

Age: 23

Experience: Entering second season

Pedigree: The first of Seattle's draft choices last season was the fifth running back chosen, which made him one of the draft's biggest surprises. The Seahawks didn't exactly have a need, having not only signed Marshawn Lynch to a four-year contract in 2012 but then drafting Robert Turbin in the fourth round.

The selection of Michael wasn't about 2013, though. That should be obvious given the fact he dressed for only four games during a rookie season that was the NFL equivalent of a redshirt. He carried 18 times, which ranked 20th out of the NFL rookie class.

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Christine Michael is one of the most explosive Seahawks, general manager John Schneider has said. (AP)

But in many ways, that makes Michael symbolic of the draft class in general, as only fifth-round choice Luke Willson and seventh-round choice Michael Bowie saw significant playing time. Seattle's draft class was more about the future than the present.

Predicament: It's not like there's more room in Seattle's backfield. Lynch is coming off his third successive season with more than 1,200 yards rushing. Turbin was the team's third-down back a year ago ahead of Michael, and he's not going to get worse. Not only that, but Seattle's hoping to add wide receiver Percy Harvin, who missed all but one regular season game, for a full 16-game diet, which isn't going to increase opportunities elsewhere.

The possibilities: First, consider the possibility Lynch might not be available for the full season. Remember when Lynch pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving earlier this year? Well, he faces the possibility of further league discipline given his previous suspension under the personal-conduct policy.

Second, while it would be unfair to assume Lynch's productivity is going to decline, Seattle has to be prepared for that possibility. Lynch is turning 27 this year, and he's got some pretty heavy mileage. At some point the wear and tear will start to show.

The final thing to consider is that Michael is going to come into his own with a full year to improve his pass protection. Unlike his rookie season, Michael is going to get an opportunity this season. General manager John Schneider made that pretty clear earlier this month during an appearance on 710 ESPN Seattle.

"We feel like two of our most explosive offensive players barely even played last year in Christine Michael and Percy," Schneider said.

By Brent Stecker

First-year Huskies football coach Chris Petersen has continuously been asked this spring about the status of suspended quarterback Cyler Miles and wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow, and by and large he hasn't had much to say on the manner.

On Wednesday, he at least presented a loose timetable for a decision on their futures to 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny."

petersen practice
Huskies coach Chris Petersen told 710 ESPN Seattle's "Brock and Danny" on Tuesday that the absences of suspended players Cyler Miles and Damore'ea Stringfellow is "painful for everybody involved." (AP)

"We'll probably let everybody know in the fall what's going on with those guys when we start back up," Petersen said. "I always want to be patient and make sure we digest things and do the right thing. ... In terms of where we go forward, we'll have that all figured out by the time we start in August and we'll have answers for everybody."

Petersen has been in no rush to make a definitive declaration on the status of the two players, who were suspended indefinitely in early February after being linked to an alleged assault. The King County prosecutor's office announced on April 3 that Miles would not be charged, but Stringfellow has been charged with three gross misdemeanors in the case.

One thing that is for sure – if the players do return, they'll be well behind their teammates after missing the entirety of the spring practice session.

"There's already a lot going on right now by the fact that they're not in spring ball," Petersen said. "That's tremendously painful for everybody involved with this thing. That's a new system, a new staff, and they haven't been around forever. That's a lot right there."

Petersen also gave "Brock and Danny" some insight into his spring practices, and he admitted that there are growing pains he and his staff are still working through.

"Anybody that takes a new job and thinks you're gonna hit the ground running and you're all good is kidding himself," he said. "I mean, we are behind just because we're new and we're implementing new systems and how we do things, and all that takes a while to get. But we are pleased with how hard the guys are going."

He still expects to have offensive tricks like the ones he employed during his successful tenure at Boise State to be ready by the start of the 2014 season, though.

"You're gonna see a lot of little wrinkles," he said. "There's gonna be some formations that are different. You may see more trick plays. And we're not gonna run trick plays just to do them – they need to work, and they've worked for us in the past."

By Danny O'Neil

Seattle's offseason conditioning program begins next week, and we're counting down the five Seahawks who have the most to gain this season in everything from playing time to future contract negotiations.

We started with Bruce Irvin at No. 5. Next:

CB Byron Maxwell

Age: 26

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Byron Maxwell went from being the Seahawks' fourth cornerback to starting in the Super Bowl last season, and he has a big opportunity in 2014 after Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond went elsewhere. (AP)

Experience: Entering fourth season

Pedigree: He began last season as the fourth cornerback on the roster who had a history of leg injuries and an uncertain future. He ended the year starting in the Super Bowl, a player with enough future that the free-agent departures of Walter Thurmond and then Brandon Browner were met with a collective shrug.

A sixth-round pick out of Clemson in 2011, Maxwell has strong hands, a physical style and a nose for the ball. Remember the Super Bowl when he punched the ball away from Demaryius Thomas? Well, he has had a penchant for that in previous games and even in practice.

The Seahawks were excited about Maxwell as far back as his rookie season when he was impressive in training camp. Maybe even more impressive than his fellow rookie that year, a guy named Richard Sherman. Maxwell was susceptible to muscle strains, though, and last season was the first time he played more than nine games in a season.

Predicament: Maxwell was the presumed starter even before Thurmond signed with the Giants, Browner with the Patriots. Now, Maxwell must prove both his durability and the ability to stand up to opponents who are more likely to throw his way given the fact Sherman is on the other side.

The possibilities: Maxwell is in a terrific spot to showcase himself, entering the final year of his rookie contract and playing for a team whose secondary is the biggest strength.

On the flip side, Seattle is now going to be counting on him to be healthy, and after Maxwell played his way up the depth chart a year ago, we'll see how he handles being a starter now. It's a great opportunity for Maxwell. It's also more pressure than he has had before.

Next »

Brock Huard

Brock Huard has co-hosted the show since 2009. After earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors at Puyallup High School, Brock went on to a record-setting career at Washington and then spent six years in the NFL, including four with the Seahawks. Brock also works for ESPN as a college football analyst in the booth and the studio. He makes his home on the Eastside with his wife Molly and their three young children.

Danny O'Neil

Danny O'Neil, the new co-host of "Brock and Danny", is the son of a logger, a graduate of the University of Washington and has been a working journalist in Seattle since 1999, first at newspapers and since 2012 at 710 ESPN Seattle. He is married to Sharon Pian Chan, associate opinions editor at The Seattle Times. They live on Capitol Hill with their wrinkled, smelly dog.

Tom Wassell

Tom Wassell has produced the show since 2011 and also co-hosts "Seattle Sports at Night" with Colin Paisley and Matt Pitman. A native of Connecticut, Tom came to 710 ESPN Seattle after working at ESPN Radio's headquarters in Bristol, Conn. for five years. Tom studied communications at Indiana University, is color-blind and has a weak sense of smell.



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