KIRKLAND — If you've been to Qwest Field for a Seahawks game since the stadium opened, you probably have noticed a significant presence of the visiting team's fans in the stands.
That won't be the case this season. More than ever, Qwest Field will be awash in Seahawks blue.
That's because the Seahawks have cut off season-ticket sales after reaching more than 61,000, the highest total in franchise history. Capacity at Qwest Field is 67,000.
All remaining tickets for home games in 2006 will be set aside for returning groups and individual game buyers. Individual tickets go on sale July 29 and are expected to be snapped up that day "in their entirety, or soon thereafter," CEO Tod Leiweke said.
The Seahawks said they have sold more than 19,000 new season-ticket packages, and a waiting list with about 2,000 season-ticket deposits has been created for the first time since the early 1990s.
The team renewed 97 percent of its season-ticket sales, the highest percentage since the 1980s, and the club level at Qwest Field is sold out for the first time.
In a statement from the team, Leiweke credited the 12th Man, calling Seahawks fans the greatest fans in sports.
Leiweke recalled a home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2003 and seeing "Terrible Towels" and fans clad in black and gold, and the disappointment he felt.
"I felt that our owner deserved better, I felt that our team deserved better and I felt that our fans deserved better," Leiweke said. "We really worked hard at building the season-ticket base, and obviously our team performed so well."
Coach Mike Holmgren called the season-ticket news a tremendous accomplishment.
"I'm very excited about that," he said. "One of my goals is always to create a football team that the fans can be proud of, and I think back to last year and the enthusiasm we had all season long, culminating with the win over Carolina [for the NFC title]. I talked to opposing coaches and some players that came in there [to Qwest], and they said it's a very difficult place to play. And the players respond to a crowd like that."
Another offseason, another competition at punter.
And the candidates are:
• Tom Rouen, a 14-year veteran who had the job for most of last season
• Ryan Plackemeier, a seventh-round draft pick this year.
• Gabe Lindstrom, the punter the Seahawks allocated to NFL Europe this spring.
Rouen, who turns 38 today, has never known anything but competition for his job, no matter where he has played.
"Everybody's got competition," Rouen said. "I think it forces you to just be at your best when you come into camp."
Plackemeier, an imposing 6 feet 3 and 250 pounds, already has shown a penchant for booming kicks at the team's passing camp.
Lindstrom, 6-4 and 220, was the leading net-yardage punter in NFL Europe.
Special-teams coach Bob Casullo likes what he has seen in the younger punters.
"These guys here, not only are they good athletes and good punters, but they also hold [for field goals], which is a key thing," Casullo said. "You put the talent with the holding with the physical stature together, and I kind of like what we've got here a little bit better."
Rouen is a pro, Casullo said.
"Everybody here with the Seahawks will always love Tom Rouen, no matter what happens," he said. "He may be our punter again. He may not. He understands the business. He knows that Father Time catches up with all of us. He's still punting the ball real good, and he's making it tough."
• At size 18, LT Walter Jones has the largest NFC championship ring among all the Seahawks. The average is a size 10.
• Shaun Alexander is ranked No. 3 among running backs in NFL.com's Fantasy Football Preview, which hits newsstands on June 12. Matt Hasselbeck is the second-ranked quarterback, and Darrell Jackson is No. 8 among receivers.
• Linebacker Evan Benjamin finished classes at the University of Washington and rejoined the Seahawks for practice Thursday.
Josť Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com