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Originally published September 6, 2010 at 9:11 PM | Page modified September 7, 2010 at 5:53 PM

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Jerry Brewer

Seahawks' latest moves prove they are in full rebuilding mode

Seattle can spin the season how it wants, but late moves seem to guarantee a slow start

Seattle Times staff columnist

John Schneider said it best — and worst. The truth behind the Seahawks' dizzying, late-arriving roster upheaval rested on his tongue until he flicked the words away and opted for a more confusing explanation.

"This is not something we're trying to patch," the Seahawks general manager said. "We're trying to rebuild. Or we're trying to build. I'm sorry."

And then his words devolved into mush.

"It's not like a rebuilding thing or just a patching thing," he said. "It's just continuously building this thing as we go."

Luckily, I stopped listening at "rebuild."

The Seahawks don't want to put the dreaded "R" label on what they're doing, but that's their reality. They're not "going after our division right now," as coach Pete Carroll proclaimed upon his arrival eight months ago. The front office is using this season as one big evaluation period, and it will keep shuffling the roster, attempting to find long-term solutions to the huge problem it inherited. That's how the first season in every rebuilding process must work.

The problem is that the Seahawks took a sledgehammer to their roster just days before the season is set to begin. It means they're almost guaranteed to start the year slowly because so many new players must get comfortable.

"Well, I think it could challenge us if we focus on the wrong stuff," Carroll said. "But the whole idea is to make this team as competitive as possible, and we needed to do the things that we did."

Here's what necessity has done to this team: The Seahawks have one pure safety who has played an NFL down; no true fullback; and a competition for a temporary left tackle (until Russell Okung returns from an ankle injury) between a player who hasn't practiced much because he's recovering from microfracture knee surgery and a player who joined the team last week. They added defensive end Raheem Brock from the waiver wire, and his 3.5 sacks from a year ago immediately make him the most accomplished pass rusher on the team. Oh, and because offensive-line coach Alex Gibbs quit this past weekend, they just brought in Pat Ruel from the Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL to lead an O-line desperate for stability.

Over the past three weeks, the Seahawks have let go of three starter-caliber players — defensive end Lawrence Jackson, cornerback Josh Wilson and wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh — because they don't fit, and the franchise wants to give some younger players a chance.

This team doesn't want to win now. It wants to build now. Instead of having an awkward transition year, the Seahawks prefer to move on with players who have an upside. But they can't admit it because they have a season to play and an "Always Compete" mantra to fulfill.

"I think we're a more talented football team," Schneider said. "We're bigger. We're faster. We're absolutely a more talented football team."

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In terms of raw talent, maybe. In terms of talent that will translate to victories this season, no way.

You can trade a wilted dollar bill for four quarters and convince yourself you came out better. Or you can just admit that you like change that jingles rather than folds.

The Seahawks did everything they could to put together a training-camp roster of players who could legitimately compete with each other. But in the NFL, if your talent is bunched that closely together, you don't have much talent.

And during Saturday's cut day, it became obvious. The Seahawks didn't even have 53 players that they wanted.

So Seattle swapped out six players after the 53-man roster trim, making for one of the craziest flurries in franchise history. But ultimately, the Seahawks swapped that wilted dollar for another dollar they think looks better.

Carroll and Schneider, aka the Fantastic Collaborators, have a much different philosophy than former personnel chief Tim Ruskell. While Ruskell didn't mind undersized players, the new guys prefer prototypical size — and sometimes oversized — athletes at most positions. That pursuit fueled many of their late personnel decisions.

"Yeah, there are risks involved," Schneider said. "There's risk involved in everything. In order to be successful in this business, you have to be willing to take risks."

The reward could be a faster rebuilding, or patching, or continuously building, or whatever the heck they're calling it. The strategy can work. In fact, it worked in Green Bay, where Schneider learned the craft of team building.

But it won't make this season any easier to watch. With all the cuts the Seahawks made, they may have waived excitement without even knowing it.

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com. Twitter: @Jerry_Brewer

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Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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