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Litchfield native John Carlson is in his third season as a tight end with the Seattle Seahawks, but this is the first season the team reached the playoffs. (Associated Press)
Litchfield native John Carlson is in his third season as a tight end with the Seattle Seahawks, but this is the first season the team reached the playoffs. (Associated Press)
Numbers down, but Carlson's not
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Passes aren't coming his way as they were in his two previous seasons in the National Football League, but don't expect to hear any discouraging words coming out of John Carlson's mouth.

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Carlson caught 55 passes for 627 yards and five touchdowns in his rookie season as a tight end with the Seattle Seahawks. Those receptions broke a franchise record for tight ends. And he followed that up with another strong season last year with 51 receptions for 574 yards and seven touchdowns. In fact, one Seattle writer called Carlson the Most Valuable Player on the team after last season.

But the personable third-year player from Litchfield has been seldom used as a receiver this season. He is tied for third on the team with 31 receptions, but has only 318 receiving yards and only one touchdown.

"We're asked to do many things. Sometimes we're asked to catch passes and sometimes we're asked to run block or pass block," said Carlson. "I'm just happy to be a part of this team and I'm excited to have won our division and to get an opportunity to be in the playoffs."

The Seahawks won the NFC West Division with a sub-.500 record, beating the St. Louis Rams last Sunday to take the title.

"The ultimate goal at the beginning of the season was to win our division and get into the playoffs," said Carlson. "And now that we did that, anything can happen. There are only 12 teams left and we're one of them. We're going against the Saints, the defending world champions. We know it won't be easy. But we're confident as a team."

Carlson will be asked to block Saints defensive ends Alex Brown and Will Smith, a pair of linemen he called the "among the toughest players I've had to block."

The Seahawks have been the subject of ridicule by some members of the media, who insist that the NFL should change the rules so a team below .500 can't be in the playoffs. Seattle is 7-9 and earned the right to host the Saints (10-6) because it won a division title.

"Rules are rules," insisted Carlson. "This was a crazy year in the NFC West. There probably won't be a team under .500 that will make the playoffs again for many years. We're the beneficiaries of the rule and we realize we're fortunate. But we're taking it a game at a time and anything can happen."

Jim Mora Jr. was Carlson's coach the last two seasons. But he was fired after last season and Pete Carroll left the college ranks where he was the head coach of Southern California to take the job with the Seahawks. Carroll's system isn't designed to throw to the tight ends as much as Mora's was. And Seattle also brought in Chris Baker, an excellent blocking tight end, to help with the running game. But Baker has been put on injured reserve so Carlson and fellow tight end Cameron Morrah will have added duties in today's game.

In last weekend's victory over the Rams, Carlson saw extensive playing time although he caught just one pass for three yards. And the week before against Tampa Bay, Carlson led the Seahawks' struggling passing game with three receptions for 27 yards.

"I'm here to do whatever they want me to do," said Carlson. "If that's blocking or running pass patterns or catching passes, I don't care. I'm here to do whatever I can to help this team win."

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