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Originally published September 6, 2013 at 3:17 PM | Page modified September 7, 2013 at 6:20 PM

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Seahawks are young but they say that won’t matter

The Seahawks, who open the season Sunday at Carolina, are the NFL’s fourth-youngest team, according to an ESPN analysis. But many of the team’s youngest players are experienced.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Seahawks are hoping to embark Sunday on a season for the ages.

They are also attempting to prove that seasoning and age don’t really matter much when it comes to achieving greatness in the NFL.

When national NFL analysts scramble to find something not to like about the Seahawks, they inevitably point to the team’s youth — an ESPN analysis of the opening-week 53-man rosters pegged Seattle as the fourth-youngest team in the league.

Seattle clocked in with an average age of 25.77 — division rival St. Louis was the youngest at 25.32; San Diego the oldest at 27.15.

Each of the past five Super Bowl winners has averaged 26.3 years or older, including last year’s champs, the Baltimore Ravens, who were one of the oldest teams in the league at 26.68.

The Seahawks, though, counter that what matters more is on-field experience, and while Seattle might be relatively young, it will likely start a lineup with just one player who does not have starting experience, fullback Derrick Coleman.

A season ago, Seattle had three rookies in its opening day lineup, quarterback Russell Wilson, middle linebacker Bobby Wagner and guard J.R. Sweezy.

“There’s so many guys that are still young but have had some experience, and that’s crucial for us,’’ Wilson said.

When analysts cite youth as a potential hiccup for the Seahawks, they usually mean it in reference to leadership, a quality that is inevitably hard to define.

The release of veteran fullback Michael Robinson was mourned as much for the leadership he brought to the locker room as for his play on the field.

It was Robinson who helped spearhead a talk by the veterans to the rest of the team in May when Seattle was hit with several off-field issues, including the four-game suspension for PED use of second-year linebacker/end Bruce Irvin.

The Seahawks, however, while acknowledging they’ll miss Robinson, say they are comfortable with the leadership they have.

“If you’re playing at a high level I don’t think it matters what age you are or where your leadership is coming from,’’ said cornerback Richard Sherman. “A lot of our leadership comes from guys’ actions. Guys like Earl Thomas, who doesn’t talk much, who doesn’t say much, but he leads by example. He goes out there and puts it on tape and makes plays. Kam Chancellor is the same way, Bobby Wagner; there are tons of guys on this team who lead by example. I think that’s where we get a good chunk of our leadership.”

It was telling, though, that players elected two of their most veteran teammates — Red Bryant and Heath Farwell — as captains this week, with Wilson being the other.

Bryant has the second-most seniority on the team, arriving in 2008 (only Brandon Mebane, drafted in 2007, has been a Seahawk longer). And special-teams captain Farwell, at 31, is the second-oldest position player after end Chris Clemons, who is two months older. Seattle has only two other position players 30 or older — backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and guard Paul McQuistan, each 30.

Bryant, named defensive captain for the second straight year, said he was honored to have the job, but also said leadership in the traditional sense matters only so much.

“At the end of the day it is about wins, and the way to win is to have talent,’’ he said. “We’ve got the talent and we’ve got the experience and we’ve got a great opportunity here, and we are just trying to seize it.’’

That’s also a message relayed to the team often by linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr., who as a player was part of a youth movement that led Dallas to Super Bowl titles in 1992 and ’93.

“Youth is going to be to our advantage because we don’t really know what’s out there,’’ Norton said. “I remember our early years in Dallas, our first Super Bowl our average years in the league was three, four, five years. Ignorance was bliss. We would just play so hard and loved the game so much, (age) didn’t really matter. We just outcompeted everybody and we knew we were better than everybody. Right now, everybody (on the Seahawks) is so young, they don’t really know how good they can be, and that’s a good thing.’’

Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or bcondotta@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @bcondotta

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