MIAMI — The Seattle Seahawks have spent so much time talking about their backs being against the wall that one would think this season was a nine-week firing squad.
That click you hear is the lighting of cigarettes.
As the Seahawks prepared for another long road trip to start the second half of a disappointing 2008 campaign, safety Deon Grant spelled out the season as bluntly as he could last Wednesday afternoon.
“We have to go on an 8-0 run right now,” Grant said last week as the 2-6 Seahawks prepared for today’s game against Miami (4-4). “If that’s not on our mind right now, you might as well go out and get all new players. That has to be our mentality. Every individual on this team, and the coaches and the guys working in the equipment room and the guys upstairs, that has to be the mentality.
“We have to go 8-0. And that starts this week with Miami.”
An improbable run to 10-6 seems about as likely as the NBA Finals being played at Key Arena next summer, so for now the Seahawks will have to take any win they can get.
“We are taking the right steps, and we have to remind ourselves it’s a marathon,” said quarterback Seneca Wallace, who is likely to make his fourth consecutive start while Matt Hasselbeck continues to be sidelined by a bulging disk in his back.
If there is any reason for optimism, it’s that the Seahawks are starting to get healthy. Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu and fullback Leonard Weaver are expected back on the field today after missing last Sunday’s game with injuries. Wide receiver Deion Branch could return to the lineup today. Hasselbeck could return to the lineup next week. And defensive end Patrick Kerney, who recently underwent shoulder surgery that could have sidelined him for the rest of the year, is expected back sometime in the coming weeks.
“I hope before all this is all said and done, we can have some fun again,” coach Mike Holmgren said, referring to the rest of the Seahawks’ season. “And some of that is getting some of those guys back. We’ve been waiting, and optimistically talking about it.
“We’ll see. I hope we can get it going again.”
Six days ago, Holmgren was asked whether there was enough time for the Seahawks to get back into contention.
“I don’t know,” said Holmgren, whose team trails first-place Arizona by three games in the NFC West. “We’ll see. I need to get some guys back. But right now, we’ll take it a week at a time. I’ve got to keep them going.”
The team’s spirits didn’t seem to be down last week, when one post-practice activity included a playful wrestling match between the defensive backs and the defensive linemen inside the Seahawks’ locker room. Despite the team’s record, players continue to stay loose.
“We can still make a change,” offensive lineman Walter Jones said last Thursday, while several defensive players were playfully piling on top of each other in one corner of the locker room. “We’ve got eight games left, so let’s see what we can do.
“These guys have been here for awhile, so we know you can make a run. It’s the NFL, and teams make a run. Guys are still out there working hard and getting ready for the game.”
Since the NFL went to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the Seahawks have had a 2-6 record just four other times. The only season when Seattle had a worse start over the past 30 years came in 1992, when they started 1-7 on the way to a 2-14 record.
The most successful recovery came in 1995, when Dennis Erickson’s Seahawks put together a pair of three-game winning streaks over the final eight weeks to finish 8-8.
That would be good enough for some, but not for Grant.
He’s hoping the second half of the season is different.
“It has to be,” Grant said. “Not that it’s going to be different; it has to be. For us to get to where we need to go, it has to be different.”