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Saturday, September 11, 2004 - Page updated at 12:01 A.M.
By Greg Bishop and José M. Romero
KIRKLAND Jay Bellamy isn't the vindictive type.
Sure, the former Seahawks and current Saints strong safety appeared destined to only warm the bench behind Mel Mitchell last season. But then Mitchell got hurt and Bellamy stepped into the starting lineup against his former team on opening day. He finished the season with a team-leading 94 tackles.
"I always felt I was a starter in this league," Bellamy said by phone this week. "The step back didn't bother me at all. It's just part of the business. I always knew I could still start."
Looking toward tomorrow's season opener, he said he doesn't recognize much of the Seahawks' roster; he last played with Seattle in 2000. But Bellamy won't be the only Saint with connections to the Seahawks or the Northwest when the teams play tomorrow in New Orleans.
There's also Ernie Conwell (Kentwood High School, University of Washington), Jerome Pathon (UW), Mickey Loomis (former Seahawks executive vice president), Rick Mueller (University of Puget Sound and a former Seahawks employee), and Winston Moss (former Seahawks linebacker and coach), among others.
"They're pretty overhauled over there," Bellamy said. "But there are connections all around."
Coach Mike Holmgren relayed the players' captains vote yesterday, with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, linebacker Anthony Simmons and special-teams ace Alex Bannister receiving nods. Holmgren added offensive linemen Robbie Tobeck and Steve Hutchinson, cornerback Ken Lucas and fullback Mack Strong to his players committee, along with the captains.
"It's cool," Simmons said of receiving captaincy for the first time. "I'm honored that people look up to me as a leader."
"You can never tell what Matt is going to say," he said. "I'm just there to roll with it."
With so much hype and expectation surrounding the 2004 Seahawks, it's easy to forget a few things. Like the way the Seahawks defense opened the 2003 season, with defensive end Chike Okeafor having a sack, a forced fumble and an interception against New Orleans.
Okeafor notched another sack, forcing a fumble on the play, the next week against Arizona. His efforts helped the defense create an impressive plus-12 turnover differential in the season's first three weeks. Holmgren and defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes brought up the subject of creating turnovers with the team this week.
"It helps the offense and it helps the team," Holmgren said. "As young as we are in the secondary and at some positions on defense, it gives them the confidence that they need."
Okeafor is realistic enough to know such a hot start is hard to duplicate.
"It's not going to be like that every opener," he said. "Turnovers come in bunches. We'd like to have them more regularly. We just have to take what comes to us."
New Orleans coach Jim Haslett was asked if he would rather open up against a different opponent, in light of the Seahawks' 27-10 thrashing of the Saints last season, coupled with expectation that the Seahawks are even better this year.
"What's the difference?" Haslett said. "This is a heck of a way to open up. It's two good football teams."
Haslett is glad to be at home this time after traveling to Seattle last September. He said it seems like the Saints have been to the Northwest every year, but the Saints actually have been to Seattle just twice in Haslett's four full seasons. The Saints lost to the Seahawks both times.
We're going streaking
Don't expect any easy interceptions from Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks. He has the longest current streak for consecutive passes thrown without an interception, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
He has thrown 232 consecutive passes without a pick, and tossed just eight in 2003. The last one came on his first pass of the second quarter in a 23-20 overtime victory against Atlanta on Nov. 16.
The Seahawks' injury list didn't change yesterday: Chris Gray (back) and Koren Robinson (migraine) are probable; Bannister (shoulder), Marcus Tubbs (hamstring), Jerry Wunsch (ankle) and Ken Hamlin (foot) are questionable; Chad Brown (fibula) is out. For the Saints, Darren Howard (neck) and Jason Craft (ankle) are questionable. Every Seahawk on the injured list except Wunsch practiced, including Hamlin, whom Holmgren said will be a game-time decision.
WR Jerheme Urban, cut Thursday so the Seahawks could activate OT Walter Jones, was at the team's training facility yesterday and is believed to have cleared waivers. He will likely be on the practice squad next week.
The Sea Gals will unveil their 2005 calendar from 5-6 p.m. Monday at the Fox Sports Grill in downtown Seattle. They will greet fans and sign autographs, and the calendars will be on sale for $12. Also, Fox Sports Northwest will debut its "Seahawks Live" weekly program, which will be taped, then aired at 10:30 p.m. Hasselbeck will join hosts Angie Mentink and Warren Moon on the show.
Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company
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