NFC West: Seattle Seahawks

RENTON, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks had a little bit of good news on the injury front when left tackle Russell Okung was a full participant and center Max Unger was a limited participant in practice Wednesday, leaving some hope that Unger could play Sunday against St. Louis.

Okung
Unger
Okung, who missed last weekend with a bruised lung, is expected to return Sunday.

Unger has missed the past five games with a high-ankle sprain. The Seahawks will have to weigh whether to play Unger Sunday or hope they win against the St. Louis Rams, which would mean Unger could heal up until the second weekend of January for what would be Seattle's first playoff game.

As expected, wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (hamstring) and cornerback Tharold Simon (shoulder) did not practice and are not expected to play Sunday.

Also missing practice Wednesday were tight end Cooper Helfet (ribs), defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle), wide receiver Chris Matthews (hamstring) and running back Marshawn Lynch, who always rests his back on Wednesdays.

Tight end Tony Moeaki, who didn’t play at Arizona because of a shoulder injury, was a full participant in practice Wednesday.
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SELECTIONS

Bobby Wagner, LB, first Pro Bowl selection: Despite missing five games with turf toe, Wagner is voted in for the obvious difference he made to the Seattle defense when he returned five games ago. The Seahawks have allowed only 33 total points and have won all five games since his return at middle linebacker. Wagner's 94 tackles are second on the team, despite his missing those five games.

Whom he beat out: This was an easier choice for voters this year, given that 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman missed the entire season and Patrick Willis missed most of the season due to injuries.

Marshawn Lynch, RB, Fifth Pro Bowl selection: Lynch is having one of the best seasons of his career with 1,246 yards rushing and 17 total touchdowns. His remarkable 79-yard TD run Sunday night at Arizona, where he broke four tackles and tight-roped the sideline, is one of the highlight-reel moments of the season. Richard Sherman said Tuesday he thinks Lynch should be the NFL's MVP.

Whom he beat out: He didn't need to beat out anyone, but Green Bay's Eddie Lacy is the odd-man out.

Richard Sherman, CB, Second Pro Bowl selection: Sherman doesn't have the stats he had a year ago, but the voters recognized that happened because quarterbacks were avoiding Sherman's side of the field most of the season. When they do throw his way, bad things happen. Sherman has four interceptions and has not given up a TD catch all year. His 24 interceptions and 68 passes defensed lead the NFL since he entered the league in 2011.

Whom he beat out: He didn't need to beat out anyone, but Antonio Cromartie has played well for the Cardinals this season. He did, however, fall down on a 49-yard completion from Russell Wilson to Doug Baldwin on Sunday night.

Earl Thomas, FS, Fourth Pro Bowl selection: He only has one interception this season, compared to five a year ago, but Thomas continues to be the glue in the Seahawks secondary and ranks third on the team in tackles, with 85. His presence in the middle makes it almost impossible to beat the Seahawks on a deep post route or seam route.

Whom he beat out: Devin McCourty of the New England Patriots is having his best season.

Kam Chancellor, SS, Third Pro Bowl selection: Chancellor started the year still recovering from offseason hip surgery, played through ankle problems and missed two games with a groin injury. But he's been his body-slamming Bam-Bam self the past six games. Almost every game, he makes a hit that intimidates opponents. He has 71 tackles, five passes defensed and one interception that saved the game against Denver.

Whom he beat out: Antoine Bethea has had an outstanding season in his first year with the 49ers, including a pick-six last week against Philip Rivers of the Chargers.

SNUBS

Russell Wilson, QB: This is quite possibly the biggest snub in the NFL this season among Pro Bowl candidates; Wilson was chosen only as an alternate. He became the only QB in NFL history to rush for 100 yards and pass for 300 in the same game, which he did Oct. 19 in St. Louis. He is the fifth QB in NFL history to rush for 100 yards with a TD and pass for 200 with a TD in the same game, which he did at Washington on Oct. 6. That night, he also set a Monday night quarterback record with 122 yards rushing. Wilson has rushed for 842 yards this season, for a 7.5-yard average, and he leads all QBs with six rushing TDs. Wilson also has passed for 3,236 yards with 20 TDs and only six interceptions, despite being under constant pressure from on offensive line that has struggled at times with pass blocking. Wilson passed for 339 yards in the 35-6 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday night and rushed for 88 yards, including a 55-yard run. He might lead his team to a second consecutive Super Bowl. What more does the man have to do?

Whom he should have beaten out: Ben Roethlisberger of Pittsburgh and Tony Romo of Dallas are having seasons that rank among their career bests.
RENTON, Wash. – St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker had a little dig ready when he was asked by Seahawks reporters if Tuesday was his first ever conference call with the media.

“Yes, thanks for asking,” Hekker said, obviously making light of Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s only response to questions after Sunday’s game at Arizona.

It was all in fun for Hekker, who was a big Seahawks fan while growing up in the Seattle suburb of Bothell. He played quarterback and punted at Bothell High School before a college career at Oregon State.

Hekker
“Shout out to my Bothell Cougars for winning their first state championship this year,” Hekker said. “I’m super proud of those guys.”

Hekker will be more proud if the Rams manage to pull off a huge upset Sunday and beat the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field.

A victory for the Seahawks likely would give them homefield advantage for the playoffs. A loss could make Seattle a wild card team and have to hit the road for the playoffs.

The 6-9 Rams don’t have much to play for except the opportunity to ruin the plans of their NFC West rivals.

“In the words of the Waterboy, it’s the last game, can’t hold anything back, man,” said Hekker with a little movie trivia. “It won’t change things for us this season, but it would be some nice momentum going into next season if we could sneak out of Seattle with a win.”

Hekker being sneaky is a big reason the Rams beat the Seahawks 28-26 earlier this season in St. Louis.

The Rams had a fourth-and-3 at their 18 with 2:55 to play but caught the Seahawks off guard when Hekker completed a pass in the left flat to Benny Cunningham for an 18-yard gain. It enabled St. Louis to keep the ball and run out the clock.

“I had no idea we were doing it when I ran on the field,” Hekker said. “Then I got the signal from the bench and I thought, 'Oh boy, here we go.’ ’’

It was the second time in his career Hekker burned the Seahawks. In his rookie season of 2012, the Rams faked a field goal against Seattle. Hekker, who was the holder, threw 2-yard TD pass to Danny Amendola in a game the Rams won 19-13.

“I guess I just channel my inner Bothell Cougar,’’ Hekker said. “I don’t really think too much about it. The more I think about it, the higher the likelihood is I’m just going to short-arm it or throw one right in the dirt.”

Hekker is one of the best punter’s in the NFL, averaging 46.3 yards per punt. He signed an $18 million, six-year contract before the start of this season. But he wouldn’t mind a chance at throwing a third pass completion Sunday against his hometown team if the opportunity presents itself.

“It’s very fun,’’ Hekker said. “But it’s also just kind of a ‘to much is given, much is expected.’ So we have to make sure that we’re always ready and do our best when those fake opportunities come. And being able to play for a coach [Jeff Fisher] that does that stuff, it throws players a bone that sometimes don’t get recognized. It gives us an opportunity to get some attention out there.”

QB snapshot: Russell Wilson

December, 23, 2014
Dec 23
1:00
PM ET
A quick observation of quarterback Russell Wilson and how he played in the Seattle Seahawks' 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16:

When your head coach says it was the best game you ever played, you probably did pretty well. Pete Carroll was asked if Sunday's performance was Wilson's best.

Wilson
"I think so," Carroll said on his 710 ESPN Seattle radio show. "Gosh, he made some great plays and great throws, just fantastic football.”

If Wilson is fortunate enough to return to University of Phoenix Stadium in six weeks for the Super Bowl, he'll have plenty of fond memories. Wilson was involved in 427 of Seattle's franchise-record 596 yards of offense. He passed for 339 yards, the most of his career in a regular-season game, completing 20 of 31 passes for a 122.9 QB rating. He rushed for 88 yards, including a career-best 55-yard scamper. He also had a 5-yard TD run, his sixth rushing TD this year, the most of any QB in the league.

Wilson has been at his best away from home this season. He had 14 TD passes and only one interception in Seattle's eight road games.

Last December, Wilson had a big game in a 23-0 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium, the place where he guided the Seahawks to a 43-8 victory in the Super Bowl a few weeks later.

An omen?
video

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Observed and heard in the Seattle Seahawks' locker room after their 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals:

Lynch
Defensive end Michael Bennett on Marshawn Lynch's beastly 79-yard TD run: "That's the best run I've ever seen. It looked like he was running for his freedom."

Lynch's two-sentence response to every question he was asked him about his night: "Thank you for asking. I really appreciate it."

Canadian tight end Luke Willson on his two-TD night, including an 80-yarder: "I had a pair of American socks on, stars and stripes. The guys said that's why I had a good game. Who knows? It could be it."

Rapid Reaction: Seattle Seahawks

December, 21, 2014
Dec 21
11:47
PM ET

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- A few thoughts on the Seattle Seahawks' 35-6 victory over the Arizona Cardinals:

What it means: The Seahawks (11-4) clinched a playoff spot and would clinch the NFC West title and home-field advantage in the NFC with a victory next week. Seattle set a franchise record with 596 total yards of offense. The Seahawks now have won at least 11 games in three consecutive seasons.

Game ball: Second-year tight end Luke Willson had one of the best games ever for a Canadian in the NFL. Willson had two TD catches and three receptions for 139 yards. The Russell Wilson-to-Luke Willson connection was unstoppable, including the game’s biggest pass play on an 80-yard catch-and-run TD in the second quarter, tying the longest play of Wilson’s career and easily the longest TD for Willson, a lanky former lacrosse player who showed a lot of speed.

Offensive line holds strong: The Seattle offensive line was a big concern entering the game. Arizona sacked Wilson seven times in the game Nov. 23 at Seattle. He was sacked only once Sunday, even though the offensive line was without starting center Max Unger and starting left tackle Russell Okung. Patrick Lewis, who started that game against the Cardinals, made his second start Sunday and played well. Alvin Bailey did a nice job replacing Okung. They had to be doing a lot of things right to set a team record for yardage against a strong Arizona defense.

Sublime in prime time: The Seahawks are 13-1 in night games since Pete Carroll became the head coach, including nine consecutive prime-time victories and four this season.

Dominant D: The Seahawks defense has given up only 33 points in the past five games. Arizona scored only nine points -- three field goals -- in two games against Seattle.

Wilson set career marks: Wilson passed for a career high 339 yards and completed 20 of 31 throws for two TDs. He also rushed for 88 yards, including a career-best, 55-yard run in the first quarter. He also had a 22-yard run and 5-yard TD run.

Delayed entry, but a Beastly finish: Marshawn Lynch did not play in the first quarter because of what was officially listed as an upset stomach. Interestingly, Lynch entered the game right at the start of the second quarter. He made up for lost time with his most impressive touchdown since the Beast Quake. On a 79-yard touchdown run, he broke half a dozen tackles and managed to tight-rope the sideline before leaping backward into the end zone. He also scored on a typical bulldozer-type run from 6 yards out in the second quarter.

Bad half of penalties: The Seahawks had 10 penalties for 92 yards in the first half but only one for five yards in the second half.

What’s next: The Seahawks play their final regular-season game next Sunday at home against the St. Louis Rams with the division title and home-field advantage at stake.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch did not start Sunday’s night’s game against the Arizona Cardinals because of an upset stomach. That was the official reason given. Robert Turbin started in the backfield for the Seahawks.

Lynch went through the pregame warmups and seemed OK. When the game started, Lynch was walking around behind the Seahawks bench wearing a stocking cap.

He did not practice Wednesday and Thursday. It is typical for the Seahawks to give Lynch time to rest his back, but he was a full participant in practice Friday.

Lynch has rushed for 1,133 yards this season, his fourth consecutive season with more than 1,000 yards rushing.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril said he’s starting to get an old feeling about what’s going on with the Seattle Seahawks.

Fresh off signing his new four-year $28.5 million contract extension Friday, one day after linebacker K.J. Wright signed a $27 million, four-year deal, Avril sees some continuity that he appreciates.

Avril
Avril and Wright are the latest defensive starters to receive long-term deals from the Seahawks. Since the end of last season, defensive end Michael Bennett, free safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman also received big-money contracts. The Seahawks did the same for strong safety Kam Chancellor after the 2012 season.

“It kind of gives you that college feel," Avril said. “You sign with a college and you know you’re going to be with those guys a few years. You grow together and get better. It’s cool to know the locker room won’t change too much. That’s rare in the NFL.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the two signings this week show their commitment to the players that have helped them become successful.

“We’ve been able to make a couple of really strong statements here with K.J. and Cliff,” Carroll said Friday. “We’ve found the core guys we really like and we’re trying to keep them together. We had the chance to do this financially right now at the end of the year and we jumped at the chance.”

They had the chance because the Percy Harvin trade earlier this season saved the Seahawks $12 million in salary-cap space over 2014 and 2015.

Avril, who came to Seattle last season as a free agent after five years in Detroit, said it was a relief to get the new deal done.

“I didn’t want to go back into free agency,” Avril said. “I didn’t like that whole process two years ago. I love what Coach Carroll is doing here and the guys make it so fun to play here with the environment we have. I want to keep the party going. I’m happy to know that I’ll be back in Seattle with such a great group of guys. The talent on this team is amazing and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Carroll said the signings this week are part of the plan he and general manager John Schneider had when they first arrived in Seattle almost five years ago. Next up for the Seahawks will be quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner after the season ends.

“What John and I have tried to create here is a real stable program," Carroll said. “We want to grow together and see how far we can take it.”

Avril, who had one season at Detroit when the Lions were 0-16, was asked how he has grown a player since arriving with the Seahawks.

“I’ve learned how to win," he said with a chuckle. “The way Coach Carroll runs things is a little different. It’s not an uptight environment. We have a great group of guys and it’s fun to come to work every day.”
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks center Max Unger and left tackle Russell Okung will not play Sunday at Arizona, but right guard J.R. Sweezy returned to practice Friday and will start against the Cardinals.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said receiver Paul Richardson also will play Sunday after missing practice Thursday with a hamstring injury.

Okung
Alvin Bailey will start at left tackle for Okung, who suffered a bruised lung last weekend against San Francisco. Carroll said Bailey struggled in the second half against the 49ers when he stepped in for Okung, but Carroll believes a full week of practice will help him in this game.

“It’s make a big difference because every snap he took was focused on playing left tackle,” Carroll said of Bailey. “He had a good, solid week.”

Carroll would not say who will start at center between Lemuel Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis, only that both players took first-team snaps this week. Jeanpierre started the last three games at center and Lewis started in the 19-3 win over Arizona on Nov. 23 when the Cardinals sacked Russell Wilson seven times.

Unger injured his knee and ankle in the Kansas City game on Nov. 16. Carroll said Unger’s knee is fine now, but not his ankle.

“It’s one of those high ankle [sprains] that takes a long time,” Carroll said. “But he ran today and hopefully we can get him back next week.”

The good news is Sweezy practiced Friday after missing the previous two days with an ankle injury.

Carroll said defensive end Demarcus Dobbs still is out with an ankle injury. Tight end Tony Moeaki is listed as questionable with a shoulder injury.

Receiver Chris Matthews suffered a hamstring injury in Thursday’s practice and also is listed as questionable for Sunday.
RENTON, Wash. – Thursday’s injury report was not encouraging for the Seattle Seahawks as receiver Paul Richardson was added with a hamstring injury and the six players who didn’t practice Wednesday did not return.

Richardson
Three starting offensive linemen – center Max Unger (knee and ankle), left tackle Russell Okung (bruised lung) and right guard J.R. Sweezy (ankle) -- missed practice again. It’s a concern going into a game Sunday at Arizona against a Cardinals defense that sacked Russell Wilson seven times in the game last month at Seattle.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll does not speak to the media on Thursdays, so an update on those players won’t be known until after practice Friday.

Running back Marshawn Lynch did not practice, but it’s not unusual for him to rest his back for two days during the week. Tight end Tony Moeaki (shoulder) and defensive end Demarcus Dobbs (ankle) also still were out.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor interrupted the media scrum Thursday to ask a question to the star of the moment -- linebacker K.J. Wright, the man who just signed a four-year, $27-million contract extension.

"Hey, I want to know what’s the first thing you’re gonna buy with all that money," Chancellor asked Wright.

"Nothing for me," Wright said. "It’ll be something for my momma. My momma comes first."

Wright
Wright has his priorities in the right place. So do the Seahawks.

Thursday was another example that general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll mean what they say. Since winning the Super Bowl last season, they have said all along they wanted to do everything they could to keep their core players together.

Wright’s new deal is the latest step in that plan.

"We’ve been talking about this since the spring," Wright said. "It’s only human that sometimes you wonder, 'Am I going to be here or am I not?' But they told me all along they would find a way to make it happen and they did. It’s a blessing. Pete called me [Tuesday night] to tell me how much I mean to them. I’m glad they chose for me to stick around.”

Every Super-Bowl winning team loses players to other teams. Eleven players from last season moved on for various reasons, but the Seahawks have re-signed cornerback Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas, defensive end Michael Bennett, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, kicker Steven Hauschka, and now Wright, since the end of last season.

"This is starting to turn into cement," said Thomas, who signed a 4-year, $40 million deal in the offseason. "We have a special group. If you ball out, you’re gonna get what you need. I’m happy for [Wright]."

Sherman, who signed a four-year, $57 million deal in the spring, said it means a lot to the players because it shows the commitment of team management.

"For the most part, if you play well, you will be retained," Sherman said. "They’ve kept their word with us. And obviously, it means a lot to the defense to know K.J. is going to be here."

One reason the Seahawks were able to complete the deal with Wright was the money they saved by trading receiver Percy Harvin, about $6.4 million this season.

Now two other players take priority for the Seahawks in terms of reaching long-term deals -- quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.

Wilson is likely to get a contract is excess of $100 million, with more than $40 million guaranteed. Wagner probably is looking for a multi-year contract that will pay him between $8 and $10 a year. Both Wilson and Wagner are in their third season.

In the salary-cap era, it’s impossible for a winning team to keep everyone, but the Seahawks have proven they will do all they can to keep the young players that made them winners.
RENTON, Wash. – Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell didn’t want to jinx it when asked about quarterback Russell Wilson’s durability.

Wilson
“It’s so remarkable, I probably don’t want to talk about it,” Bevell said. “Knock on wood.”

Wilson has taken more than his share of punishment the last two seasons with an offensive line that has suffered through injuries and struggled in pass blocking at times. But Wilson’s elusiveness, toughness and knowledge of when to slide has helped him stay healthy.

Bevell also coached a quarterback who managed to stay healthy enough to play 20 seasons. Brett Favre played for Minnesota 2009-10 when Bevell was the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.

“I’ve been so fortunate in my career,’’ Bevell said. “I was able to coach a guy that was able to play forever and ever, and you expected him to be at every game regardless. I think we have a similar guy in Russell. He’s taken some hits, but the best thing we talk about with him every time is the decisions that he makes.

“Most of the time, he keeps himself out of harm’s way and he’s able to escape some things. When he gets out and runs, he gets down or he gets out of bounds, so all those decisions really help him to stay in there.”

Now Wilson faces the Arizona Cardinals, a team that sacked him seven times in a 19-3 Seattle victory on Nov. 23 at CenturyLink Field. Wilson also was sacked five times last weekend against the San Francisco 49ers in the 17-7 Seahawks win.

“We’re practicing to improve the things we need to improve,” Bevell said. “We just have to block better. We have to get the ball out quicker. We’ve got to get open on time. We have the conversation all the time on how they all work together. We have to be on point all the time, particularly this opponent that we’re playing. They bring tons of pressure. They can bring it every single down if they so choose, so we have to be prepared for it.”
RENTON, Wash. – Three offensive line starters did not practice for the Seattle Seahawks on Wednesday, which could be a big concern heading into the NFC West game Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals with the division title on the line.

Starting center Max Unger, left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy all were out.

Sweezy was the surprise on the injury report with what was listed as ankle injury. Okung has a bruised lung from the game last Sunday against San Francisco.

“But he’s still in the mix,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Okung’s status for Sunday. “He’s going to have some stuff done [Thursday] that will let us know where he sits and all that. He’s not out of the plan yet.”

Unger has missed the last four games with knee and ankle injuries. He practiced last Friday, which was believed to be an encouraging sign about his chances of playing this week.

“Max had a tough recovery from last Friday’s practice, so we’ll see how he is [Thursday],” Carroll said. “We’re taking it one day at a time now. It’s close enough where we have a chance.”

The game Sunday comes against an Arizona team that sacked Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson seven times in Seattle’s 19-3 victory over the Cardinals on Nov. 23 at CenturyLink Field. Unger is the only one of the three who did not play that day, but starting left guard James Carpenter was out with an ankle injury.

Also not practicing Friday were defensive end Demarcus Dobbs, who missed last Sunday's game with ankle sprain, tight end Tony Moeaki, who injured his shoulder against San Francisco, and running back Marshawn Lynch, who always takes Wednesdays off to rest his back.

Tight end Cooper Helfet, who missed the last three games with an ankle injury, was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice.
RENTON, Wash. -- Every week is championship week to the Seattle Seahawks, but Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said his team is embracing Sunday's big NFC West matchup (8:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

"Yeah man, you don't get to play for these damn things very often," Arians said Wednesday on a conference call with Seahawks media. "And it isn't like Seattle has been doing it for 100 damn years. You fight your ass off all year to get into this game, so sure you embrace it. But the way you prepare for it is still the same process."

A victory by the Cardinals (11-3) would clinch the division title, but they enter the game as 8-point underdogs to the 10-4 Seahawks. Arians isn't surprised to see his team an underdog at home.

"That's been the sentiment for about a month," he said. "I haven't heard anybody pick us in a long time, so there's no difference. You know, they have to play these games for somebody to win 'em. You just don't hand it to 'em. I think our guys will be more than ready."

One reason the Seahawks are big favorites is the fact Arizona is starting third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley, who was cut by the Cardinals at the end of the preseason before returning on Nov. 11 after spending 10 weeks on the San Diego Chargers practice squad.

"We're not going to change what we do," Arians said. "I really like Ryan. I love how he prepares. I'm very comfortable with him."

Arians also is confident the Cardinals will play better than they did in a 19-3 loss at Seattle on Nov. 23 when second-string QB Drew Stanton was on the field. Arians pointed to two plays that hurt Arizona that day.

"Hopefully, we'll have 11 guys out there for a punt this time," he said. "And catch balls that are thrown to us [Jaron Brown] in the end zone for a [would-be] touchdown."

Arians pointed out the Cardinals made other key mistakes that day.

"We let Russell [Wilson] get out of the pocket and make plays that led to field goals," Arians said. "We had seven sacks and it should have been 11. He makes plays out of the pocket as good as anybody in the National Football League. But we had some good plays in that game and it isn't like they thrashed us."
When Sunday’s game ended at CenturyLink Field, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh met a midfield, shook hands and seemed to have a cordial conversation.

Carroll
Carroll
Harbaugh
There was no, “What’s your deal, man?” as Carroll once asked Harbaugh back in their Pac-10 days, and no dead fish, phony handshake (at least not visually) as has taken place between the two men in the past.

Both men knew they probably were meeting for the last time as rival coaches in the NFC West, with Harbaugh likely moving on after this season. One close observer said Harbaugh told Carroll, “Thanks for the rivalry. It’s been fun.”

But neither man confirmed what was said between them. During his Monday news conference, Carroll was asked if the longtime foes had a brief, warm moment.

"I don’t know if I would refer to it as a warm moment,” Carroll said. “We had a moment. You’ll have to ask Jim if he felt it as a warm moment. It was a nice exchange, just two coaches talking.”

OK, maybe a warm moment is stretching it, but I’d like to think two men who had often been at odds, realized they had made each other better. And they knew the fierce competition between them was ending, at least for now.

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