RENTON — Wounds still felt fresh 24 hours after the Seahawks’ season-ending playoff loss Sunday in Atlanta.
Tight end Zach Miller and receiver Sidney Rice were on crutches, nursing a foot and knee injury, respectively. Elsewhere, muscles were sore and joints ached as players cleaned out their lockers and held year-end meetings at the team’s practice facility.
The biggest pain, however, wasn’t physical in nature.
“You sort of just hate to waste a team this good,” said linebacker Leroy Hill. “That’s sort of how I feel, man. We had a special team that could do a lot of special things. To fall short is just the most disappointing thing.”
“The windows of opportunity in this league are small … and we just didn’t get it done,” added fullback Michael Robinson.
For Seattle, feeling like a championship-caliber team was little consolation in defeat. The Seahawks held a one-point lead Sunday after a historic comeback but couldn’t hold it in the final 25 seconds, ultimately losing, 30-28.
Instead of preparation for an NFC Championship Game against division rival San Francisco, all that was left was reflection.
“The thing that I said to the guys afterward is, ‘twenty-five seconds isn’t going to define this team,’ ” coach Pete Carroll said.
“This has been a great year for us in growth and accomplishment. Coming to grips to what we’re capable of doing … has placed us, as we go into this offseason, with a good feeling about this year.”
There are good feelings going into next year, too, particularly due to a young core that could be back nearly intact. Hill, defensive tackle Alan Branch and kicker Steven Hauschka are the only Seahawks starters who will be unrestricted free agents going into the offseason.
And while both offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley remain popular options for vacant head-coaching jobs leaguewide, there’s another can’t-miss reason for optimism: quarterback Russell Wilson, who brings stability to the position for the first time in a few years.
“He’s just getting started,” Robinson said. “That’s the thing, man. He can will you to a victory. That’s what you want in your leader. That’s what you want in your quarterback. He can only get better, and I look forward to seeing it.”
Wilson, who wore a hooded sweatshirt Monday reading “No Time 2 Sleep,” already has a head start on that improvement.
The morning after the season ended, he was already reviewing game tape.
“There are so many areas where I could get better, and that’s the thing that I’ll have to do this offseason is continue to watch the film, continue to look at all the cut-ups of this past season and what I’ve done well and what I could have done better.”
“The goal for me is … ‘How can I get 10 times better?’ “
A shared motivation, it seems, for a team that has the look of a perennial contender.
“If you didn’t know who the Seahawks were before the season, I’ll guarantee you know who they are now,” said defensive end Bruce Irvin. “There are a lot of positive things coming for the organization, and I can’t wait to get it started again in a couple months.”