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What we learned: Carroll empathizes with Belichick

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PHOENIX -- Upon landing in Arizona for Super Bowl XLIX, the Seattle Seahawks immediately attempted to diffuse the New England Patriots' deflated football scandal that tied the national media in knots last week.

Coach Pete Carroll said he "empathizes" with Bill Belichick, who has distanced himself from the entire process of preparing footballs for game action.

Carroll is much better versed on air pressure and ball handling now than he was a week ago. Until then, Carroll added, he had never checked on the pre-game process involving the equipment staff and the quarterback.

"Awareness is up," Carroll acknowledged.

Although there is natural speculation that Belichick's team will be distracted all week, Carroll expects the Patriots to "rally" around the issue.

Here's what else we learned from the Seahawks' media availability on Sunday:

1. Defensive end Michael Bennett went a step further in downplaying the controversy, chalking it up to "propaganda" designed to keep as many eyes and ears as possible on football in the lead-up to the Super Bowl.

2. Carroll waxed philosophical on taciturn running back Marshawn Lynch when asked if the two had a talk about dealing with the media this week.

"He's a very unique individual and he has a way that we have embraced, that we understand Marshawn and we support him every way that we can. ... He's also a very private person, too. So that's why the media thing is at it is. ... There is a great deal spoken in his silence, as well.

"I expect him to have a great Super Bowl week. I think he's going to have a great time doing this and playing in this game come game day is something that he really cherishes, and he cherishes playing for his teammates, and we love him. But he is unique, and we have always celebrated the uniqueness of our players in a way that allows them to play at their best. It's what it's designed to do."

3. Carroll expounded upon Richard Sherman's observation after the miraculous NFC Championship Game that Russell Wilson is a "mental giant" at quarterback. Carroll praised Wilson as "very, very special" with a "tremendous mind" and "tremendous competitive mindset."

4. Just days after acknowledging that this Super Bowl is "a little bit personal" because he was fired by Robert Kraft nearly two decades ago, Carroll spoke of his respect for the Patriots owner. Carroll insists he has an "ongoing" relationship with Kraft, who has been "very gracious" in recent years.

5. Sherman castigated a reporter for asking if the first-team All-Pro is the best cornerback in the league, deriding the question as "preschool" in nature. This outburst came almost a year to the day in which Sherman declared himself "the best corner in the game" in a post-game diatribe.

6. Carroll updated the health of his key defensive backs. Sherman (elbow) practiced "well," while All-Pro safety Earl Thomas (shoulder) looked "fine" in his return to limited participation on Friday. Carroll did concede that both players will have to work through their injury issues during the game, as they are not 100 percent.

7. Whereas the reigning Super Bowl champions' mantra last season was "Why not us?" Wilson revealed that this year's guiding mindset is "One mission." The one mission week-to-week was to go 1-0 en route to defending the NFL's crown. Mission accomplished.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast reacts to the Patriots' deflated footballs controversy and tells you whom to trust in Super Bowl XLIX. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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