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Originally published Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 6:05 PM

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Preseason games primers for Carroll's transition

Pete Carroll has veterans he needs to spot for cameos. He has prospects who need long looks.

AP Sports Writer

RENTON, Wash. —

Pete Carroll has veterans he needs to spot for cameos. He has prospects who need long looks.

And, hey, what's that red flag he has hanging out of his pocket?

Saturday night, the leader of Southern California's dynasty for the last decade will be coaching his first NFL game since Jan. 2, 2000, when he was leading New England against Baltimore. His Seahawks start the 2010 preseason at home against Tennessee.

That's the Titans. Not the Volunteers.

And it's just a preseason game, something Carroll never had at USC - unless you count those September mismatches against San Jose State and Idaho.

But to hear Carroll tell it, it may as well be the Rose Bowl.

"No, I don't know if there's 'just any game' to me," he said after Thursday's practice. "This is huge. It is what it is, the first game of preseason. But to us, this is the first major test and it's our first opportunity to make major assessments.

"Really, this is blocking and tackling time. Finally."

But it is different, this NFL game.

There's the coach's replay-challenge, and that red flag he would have loved to have had in the Pac-10. Now, the other side has as many or more blue-chip players as he does, every week. There's the 2-minute warning that college ball didn't have. That alone has had Carroll and his staff working overtime and drilling constantly in camp this month, seemingly more than any other special situation.

"There's so much of the (pro) game that's played in the fourth quarter, right down until the end," said Carroll, who was 97-19 at USC from 2001-09, winning seven consecutive Pac-10 titles and two national championships. "There's a lot of situations that come up. We've been drilling a lot of those as a staff, and the players for whom those will come up.

"You know, in the college game, we might have had three or four really critical 2-minute situations in the nine years. So that's different. I look forward to that. ... Otherwise, no, I look forward to being down there on the sidelines with our team and see these guys play. We've worked really hard."

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Starters won't play much, as Carroll's competition carousel for roster spots accelerates into the assessment phase. The coach won't say how long veterans such as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck will face the Titans, teasing that "we'll find out on game night."

For Seattle, it's the first gauge of the progress being made on a franchise revitalization that began in January.

That's when Seahawks chief executive Tod Leiweke flew to Los Angeles to court Carroll, even with former coach Jim Mora still on the job. Carroll got more than $30 million to leave USC and gain executive vice president powers, besides being the third coach in three seasons for a team that has fallen to 9-23 over the last two years.

Carroll also brought north his loose, open and loud practices - plus his constant search for competition. He's turned over half the roster since he arrived, often cutting players weeks or days after signing or trading for them. He just signed another one on Thursday, former Chicago Bears running back Adrian Peterson. Gone is wide receiver Matt Simon, whom Seattle signed on Tuesday.

"This is test time for our guys. It's time to see where we are and how far we've come," he said of Saturday night.

Even Hasselbeck isn't certain what to expect from Carroll and his staff this first time out.

"I'm not exactly sure because I don't know how we're going to call a game," the three-time Pro Bowl passer said, referring to his relative lack of familiarity with Jeremy Bates, his third coordinator since 2008. "I'm not sure what coach Bates is going to call. I'm kind of wondering that exact same thing myself."

Carroll was more excited to talk about his first experience with the Seahawks' roaring crowd at Qwest Field. The loud stadium with cantilever roofs and a capacity of 67,000 has the reputation for being one of the best home-field advantages in the league, though it will likely be less than full; even a sellout doesn't mean every seat will be filled in the preseason.

Yet Carroll is bracing for thrills, as if it will be the Los Angeles Coliseum full of more than 90,000 for the UCLA game.

"I can't wait to see the fans and see the crowd. I've heard so much about it," Carroll said. "There's no way I imagine anything close to what it's going to be like going in there for the first time when we're really cranking it up and it's gametime.

"We'll get to see how far we've come."

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