Here’s the full transcript from our conversation with Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. I’m back home now after a long day traveling, but I’ll be posting over the last few days of the combine interviews that I have saved up from last week.
I’ll also have a live chat Monday morning to discuss the combine and some of the players Seattle might be looking at.
Q: What’s going on with Walter Jones and his possible retirement?
Carroll: “We’re still waiting really for a final word on that. Walter is setting his ducks in a row to come to a conclusion. I would be wrong to tell you that I know right now specifically. I know that he’s thinking about considering the retirement thing and all of that. And until it’s really finalized, that’s where it is.”
Q: Is their a timeline for that that he’s indicated?
Carroll: “Not in particular, but I think we might see him next week sometime when we get back there. He’s going to be around the area. He’s still been working and rehabbing and trying to get everything in order and all of that stuff. I did run into his agent last night. And so we jut got t wait because it’s not all tallied in yet.”
Q: What your perspective on that? Would you like him to come back?
Carroll: “Yeah. If he’s of the right mind and he’s ready to go for it, then yeah we respect the heck out of that decision. But it kind of goes back to him now and how he’s feeling, and what the doctors are telling him and all of that kind of stuff. He’s been working at it a long time. He’s kind of the expert on this one, and we’re waiting to see how he feels.
“But if he was going to come back and he was mindfully ready to do it, of course we’d be excited about that.”
Q: But you have to move forward as if he’s not going to be here?
Carroll: “We have to prepare otherwise.
Schneider: “But he’s done enough, and he’s a talented enough man that you would wait for him if that’s what he decides. And if we don’t have the cap this year, we’d be able to do that.”
Q: Will there be roster moves in advance of free agency? That lack of a cap, if it goes uncapped, will change the dynamic of that.
Schneider: “There’s nothing specific, no.”
Q: If it goes uncapped, does it help or hurt you in this situation. How does it impact you?
Schneider: “We’re actually not supposed to talk how we budget ourselves. But every team has a specific budget that they need to work under. And we’re going to do that same thing, but not based on what we think other people are doing. Just on the way we would normally handle things.
“We’re going to proceed like it’s any other year. It’s not one of those things where you just automatically go hog wild. You have to be responsible and treat it like it’s your own money.”
Q: The pass rush from last year and upgrading it, how important is that?
Carroll: “It’s always a factor. The value of having a great pass rush is such a huge aspect of playing in the league that we always have to be in touch with that. The thing that has attracted me so much is working together with our fans and the crowd and our stadium. I want to utilize that as a great asset and make sure we can heat it up and give people problems, and work in conjunction of making it factor playing at Qwest Field.
“That’s why it’s been brought up a lot, and I’m of that mindset anyway. And then that added factor that’s over the top in relation to other teams we play and stuff, we need to take advantage of that. And allow our crowd, the 12th Man and that whole aspect of it to play into it.
“I’ve been to a lot of great places, but not having been there in anticipation of it I can hardly wait to get them excited. You know, we’ve got to do our part, too. We’ve got to play well, and give them reason to get on their feet and do what they do. And if we do really well and make it better than ever, is really what I’m enticed about.”
Q: How high a priority is it to upgrade the guys who are doing it?
Carroll: “I don’t know how high, but it’s always a priority. We’ll always look to improve our pass rush, always. I don’t think you ever get to the point where you think it’s good enough because here’s too much open ground there to continue to find elements and aspects of it to enhance your play.”
Q: You’ve talked about looking at Darryl Tapp and doing different things with Aaron Curry.
Carroll: “Yep, those are all the things that we’re trying to do with that mindfulness. We’re trying to get as fast as we can and aggressive as we can to take advantage of not only the necessary aspect of that, but also in conjunction with the stadium and the fans.”
Q: Is that a mindset where you want guys to play downhill and attacking instead of reacting?
Carroll: “We want to play as fast as we can on defense always. Speed has always been a premium for us. So that means the edge speed and athletisism is more important to us than the size and the girth in general. So it’s hand and hand with that thought. That’s edge pass rushers. That’s outside linebackers and defensive backs that come off the edge and do things as well, and to play to that mentality is how we always structure our defense.”
Q: So that’s all the way though the defense, even in the back end as well?
Carroll: “We want athleticism and quickness – all of that, yes. Speed.”
Q: Where are things at with Nate Burleson, who’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. You guys will have options if it goes uncapped, correct? You can apply a transition tag to him?
Carroll: “We’d love to have him back.”
Schneider: “We’ve talked to him. We totally understand he’s going to explore free agency. We’re just going to stay in touch. Nobody really knows where this market is going to go in free agency. We sure don’t. He needs to do what’s best for himself and for his family. We like Nate and we’re going to stay in touch with him the whole way. And that was expressed to him.”
Q: How has this event evolved with you kind of stepping back into it?
Carroll: “It’s very similar. It’s better. I think it’s more efficient than ever before. It’s seems like to me in coming back to it that it’s more efficiently run. Every aspect of it is just upscale, but in general it’s very, very similar because you have to do the same things. All of the same things occur. The same weigh-in, the interview process, the same workouts, and you walk out of here with the same results. But I think it’s streamlined.
Q: Is it a drag at all, or are there some things you really like about it? And what do you like about it?
Carroll: “I love every aspect of it because this is where we figure it out. This is where we add to the whole equation of figuring out who are team is. Every aspect of this, every step of this has something to do with how we put our team together. I think this is great. I like what we’re doing.
“You didn’t ask the question, but in contrast to what I’ve done in recruiting, this is so much more hands-on. It’s so much more realistic. It’s so much more the way you like to see it done. You get to talk to the guys and watch them workout and have them tested and all of those things. You have really more concrete evidence to go on. It’s a more complete process. It’s much more subjective in recruiting in college. You don’t get anywhere near the access that you get here.
“Evaluation is everything, so this is a much better process for evaluation. And I like it a lot more in that regard.
Q: You feel like you know what you’re getting a lot more?
Carroll: “Much more, yeah, although it’s still not pure science. It’s still hard as heck to figure it out, but you have much more access, and it makes more sense to me. It’s more logical that we should get to do the things we do, then how you had to do it in college?
Q: Jimmy Clausen talked about how it down to you guys and Notre Dame when he came out, was it that close?
Carroll: “Sure, it really was. It was either/or. I’ve told these guys, I watched Jimmy throw since he was a ninth grader. That’s how far back I go, he was 13 when I watching that guy play, and I watched all of his film every year and know the family and all of that and recruited him all the way through the process. And it came down to – he won’t say it – but Mark Sanchez or Notre Dame. And so he made a great choice for himself and did the best he could with it.”
Q: Do you feel compared to when you were in the NFL before that you know the personnel you’re looking at better coming into this because you’ve recruited some of these guys?
Carroll: “There’s no question for the next, couple years I’ll have more information on way more guys than I used to. Those tight ends today, there might have been seven of those guys that we recruited at some time or another, and so I’m just familiar with those guys.
“Those guys were on our campus. There was a guy we talked to last night, I asked him about the town he lived in and he said, ‘This town. You were in my living room.’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, I just couldn’t remember where the town was.’ So they remember me, too.
Q: What the process in dealing with the quarterback situation and preparing for life after Matt Hasselbeck?
Carroll: “As In all the positions we have to make in-depth evaluations in where we are and where we’re going, and try to project the best route in taking care of that spot. And quarterback is certainly one of them. We’re lucky to have Matt coming back with us and playing for us. We hope to help him get back to the best playing, that level that he’s been at in the past. And the position group in general, we have to look at it.
“We have to also project what’s going to happen next. And that’s what this draft is going to deal with, and what the next draft is going to deal with, and every year we’ll be talking quarterbacks forever. You can’t afford not to. And so that conversation is a big one for us, as many of the positions are.”
Q: With offensive line and with offensive line coach Alex Gibbs, does that narrow the group of offensive tackles that you are looking at, because he’s got pretty established ideas of what he wants?
Carroll: “Yeah, he’s very specific in the needs of playing his style. And that’s helped us. It’s helped our scouting. It’s helped the direction of what we’re doing. He knows exactly what he’s had in the past and what it takes, and all of that kind of stuff. And so we’ve tailored our approach as much as we can. Alex and I see eye to eye. I’ve been with Alex approach going on my ninth year, so I comply with what he’s seeing, and so it’s a very comfortable fit for us. And to have his daily accounting of keeping in touch with it just makes us that much stronger. And so our mindset has shifted in the kinds of guy to tailor to that.”
Q: Has your evaluation scale changed under you (Schneider), the actual mechanics of it.
Schneider: “We’ve stuck with the guys’ grades. You don’t change for one person. We’ve built our board the way we would have liked, say in Green Bay. But they still have the same grades, the same point system. We’re just building our board the way (we would in Green Bay)
Q: So it’s that same model when you were here in 2000?
Schneider: “It’s that same model, sure.”
Q: Having those two, first-round draft picks. How much flexibility does that give you in terms of addressing team needs?
Schneider: “From the outside you think, yeah you have a ton of flexibility. But quite frankly when it gets down to when it’s time to move back or move around, you never truly know until the 15 minutes leading up to it, or the 15 minutes you’re on the clock. I mean you can have things set up, in terms of moving up or moving back, but then some people can back out on you at the end. Or you may decide to back out in the end.
“So we have the picks. It’s two picks. And for Pete and I starting together it’s a great opportunity with two, higher picks like that. And it does provide us with some flexibility, hopefully.”
Q: Does that put even more importance on being more proactive on the front end preparing for all of the scenarios you might face in the draft?
Schneider: “We’re proactive like non-stop.”
Carroll: “There’s more variables going into it, and the scenarios are numerous obviously. And we’re just going to keep working it from every angle to make sure we cover every scenario and option, and try to be as tuned into it as possible so that we can maximize it.
“It’s an exciting setting for us. We’ll be cranking in that first round. We’ll be rolling.”
Schneider: “Teams that have multiple picks in other rounds, too. So everybody really concentrates on that first round, but the important of three, four, five, six and seven – some teams have like three picks in the third round, and that’s a lot of flexibility, too.”
Q: What’s your impression of the crop of players in general?
Schneider: “I would say just in general terms, it’s a good draft. I think it’s a solid draft. Is it one of the best drafts? I don’t know. But I think it’s a real solid draft all the way through. In any draft you’re going to have different gaps on your board based on the quantity of players at the position. In that way this draft is not different that any other.
“But yeah, there are positions that are stronger than recent years. And others that are not as strong.”
Q: What do you think you still need to learn about the team?
Carroll: “Tons of stuff. We’ve got to see how our mentality about practicing. We’ve got to determine the level of athleticism we have at certain positions to see what if there’s things that we like, that we can do. We’ve got to find out when we put it all together if we we’re going to be able to protect the quarterback the way we want to. We’ve got to determine the level of pass rush, and the level of speed that we have on defense to do the things we’d like to do.
“There’s some clear-cut things that we’re excited about. But we’ll find out when we get on the practice field what we can do, so OTAs are going to be important for us. And we’ll have a lot more hands-on information at that time.
“Sitting back and looking at kind of the board game of it and figuring out the spots we’d like to fill, we can only go on what we know right now. Once we get to our workout, we’ll have a minicamp before the draft with our guys, and that will give us a better sense of where they are. And that will help us finalize some thoughts. So there’s tons of stuff that we have yet to accumulate.”
Q: What are your thoughts on Taylor Mays as an NFL prospect?
Carroll: “He’s an incredible kid, an amazing kid. He’s really an all-around great person. He’s a terrific competitor. Everything that you would want, you get. He studies the game to improve his craft. He’s really very mature in that regard. He got good mentoring from Kevin Ellison, a kid that came out in the draft last year. … An amazingly dedicated guy that his ability, his speed, his strength and agility, he is really deep in all of that stuff. He’s got a great family background in the sport. He’s a very, high-class kid. He has all of the positives that you’re looking for, and all of the intangibles that guys want to ensure the risk of taking a guy.”
Q: The position of safety seems to have changed in terms of the way that it’s valued and the number of guys that go in the first round. Is that an accurate assessment?
Carroll: “No, I think for years it’s been pretty consistent that very few safeties get drafted in the first round. I think the average is one. And that’s an average that has stood pretty strong for a long time.
“So the problem for safeties in that regard is that there’s been a lot of great players that have been lower-round picks that have emerged to become great players. And so the history has proven itself out that you don’t have to go get guys in that round. The rest of the league has proven that out; we didn’t.”
Q: In the evaluation of all the players in the draft, how tough has it been to kind of separate yourself from your personal relationship with the USC kids in making sure you’re getting an accurate evaluation?
Carroll: “I’m working on that. I have so much more information on our guys than I have on other guys. You might think that this means I automatically favor them, but I don’t necessarily. I just have a lot of stuff. And I’ve tried to hold back and let our coaches make the evaluations of those guys as much as possible. And it’s hard at times because I have so much scoop on them, just to allow the process to do it’s work, and then add to it where it fits.
“The last thing I want to do is paint the process; I want to enhance the process. It’s interesting with other kids, too. Like you mention, there’s a lot of guys in this draft that I have this information on at more levels than you normally have. And so I have to use that information to our benefit and not let it screw us up.”
Q: How do you feel about the running back situation with Justin Forsett and Julius Jones?
Carroll: “We like those guys. I think we’re fortunate to have two guys. And we’re anxious to find out more. Julius was consistent, and Forsett had his moments. He had some big moments; he averaged over five yards a carry. That’s significant in this league. So I think they’re different. They have different roles to fill. But they both have the ability to be effective
“But again, those are they guys you really need to get on the field with, and get a sense for the scope and the breadth of what they offer as well – pass catching and pass pro and really get a feel for it.”
Q: Did you recruit Forsett out of college? Because he doesn’t look like he should be able to do what he does.
Carroll: “No, but you’re right. He’s very competitive. And he has a real, competitive streak in him, and it really brings out his best. He’s tough. And he really cares, and bring everything he’s got. He’s special in that way.”
Q: Do you feel like you could use a third guy to complement those two guys?
Carroll: “Always. Sure. We’d like one more guy that could really add something to us. And that comes in different packages, too. We’d always like to have a physical presence at the running back position, and I don’t know that about the guys right now. I know we’ve talked it, that we’d always like to find that. You’re always looking for guys that can do things, and playmaking ability. There’s some wonderful speed guys in this draft, extraordinary speed guys. And guys with catching ability that can more dimension to the running back spot. And I’ve had enough experience with our running backs over the years that, I know they come in different shapes and sizes, and it’s what they bring that is unique, and that makes them special. And we’ll fit it together when we see what we come up with.”
Q: How did you always keep those guys happy? Or did you?
Carroll: “I was always asked that, and I never wanted them to be happy. I wanted them to be chomping at the bit for another opportunity and more carries and stuff. And if they were happy, then they weren’t the right guys, you know.”
Q: Your running game at SC always seemed to be physical. Is that a characteristic that you want to have here as well?
Carroll: “Without question, and I talked about it at the first day. I think it’s a huge factor for us, in fact for our entire football team, when you can run the football with authority and with attitude. It helps your throwing game. It helps the pass protection. It helps your quarterback play better. It accentuates the style of our defense that we like to play. That’s why Alex (Gibbs) is such a big deal to me to get him on our staff, with his great background and productivity in the running game. And that fits together quite well in the overall plan.
Q: Did that take much selling on your part? And also he was ready to walk away at one point, wasn’t he?
Carroll: “Yeah. He’s a valuable guy. A lot of people still want him. At the end of the year, he puts so much and pours so much into it, that there was a time when he needed a break to kind of get away from it and get rejuvenated and all. And he’s had time to do that. And now he’s pumped up.”
Q: How does the possibility of an uncapped year affect the expectations you have going into free agency – not for what you’re spend but just the uncertainty of the market place? Has that made it more difficult to prepare?
Schneider: “Yeah. It’s been a lot more difficult just because of your, two possible scenarios. And nobody really has a true feel for where the market is going to go on both sides – what players are going to be looking for and what team expenses are going to be. I think it’s like this big, feeling out process.”
Carroll: “We’re all in the same boat. Nobody has an advantage over anything else. But there’s a lot of unknowns. We just have to wait and see it through and have contingency plans in order, because it could go both ways. You talk like it’s only going one way. Well what if in a couple days something changes? So we have to be ready for both of those scenarios, and hopefully take advantage and maximize the opportunities that are there for us. We feel like we’re in a strong position, but we’re still going to see it through and execute it.”
Q: In terms of the logistics, the three guys who would become restricted free agents, do you have to then tender them – Rob Sims, Chris Spencer and Darryl Tapp?
Q: And what’s the deadline involved there?
Schneider: “Next week. March 4.”
Q: With Olindo Mare, was that just a no-brainer?
Schneider: “Yeah, basically a no-brainer. Janikowski signed a big deal. John (Idzik) is working it through and we’ll continue to talk with him. It was just a perfect situation.
Q: Yeah, because he was talking about doing an extension last year I think.
Schneider: “I had a good talk with him like two weeks ago, so he knew where it could be headed. So he’s fine.
Carroll: “He realizes that we want him, and we want him to be here. And we’ll make that effort, and it worked out just fine. And in the future we’ll continue to do stuff and see what the right thing is to do. Right now he’s secure and in a good set up.”
Q: Deion Branch is under contract. Does he fit what you guys want to do?
Carroll: “He’s a good football player. We both talked to him and evaluated him. We like him. We like the way he plays. He finished very well at the end of the season. It took him awhile to get healthy and get right, but once he did, we saw the good side of him in the last four games. And he played well, so we’re looking forward to having him come back.
Q: Would you guys entertain offers for Branch?
Carroll: “At this time were talking about everything in the world and under the sun, in all areas so we can figure out what is going on with the league and the value of our players and all of that kind of stuff.”
Schneider: “The exploration part is like 24/7”
Carroll: “We haven’t stopped since the moment we got together.”
Q: If that like a high school reunion for you, coming back and running into some old guys?
Carroll: “Yeah, it absolutely has been that. And it continues to be. I haven’t had enough time to get around to everybody.