Though they have only been competing in the same division for a little over a decade, the rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks has heated up in recent seasons as both teams are now legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
Seattle's hiring of Pete Carroll in 2010, and the 49ers hiring Jim Harbaugh the following season, certainly helped to ratchet up the rivalry as those two coaches had an awkward conversation at midfield after Harbaugh coached Stanford to a 55-21 thumping of Carroll's USC squad in 2009. This offseason, the two NFC West superpowers engaged in an arms race with the Seahawks trading for wide receiver and versatile offensive weapon Percy Harvin. The 49ers responded a few hours later by acquiring wide receiver Anquan Boldin.
The bitterness escalated during the OTAs when Harbaugh took a subtle jab at the Seahawks, who have had multiple players suspended for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy since Carroll's arrival in 2010.
"I’ve definitely noticed it," Harbaugh said of the suspensions in Seattle, via Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times. "You don’t know what it [the banned substance that triggered the test] is. Even when people say what it is, you don’t know that that’s what it is. I’ve heard this thrown out or that, but that’s usually the agent or the players themselves saying it’s, for example, Adderall. But the NFL doesn’t release what it actually is, so you have no idea. You’re taking somebody at their word that I don’t know if you can take them at their word, understanding the circumstances."
Harbaugh would add that he wants his team "to be a above reproach in everything and do everything by the rules", before quoting Bo Schembechler, who said "if you cheat to win then you’ve already lost". Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner, who served a four-game PED suspension at the end of the 2012 regular season, weighed in on Harbaugh's comments during an appearance with Dave "Softy" Mahler on Sports Radio KJR in Seattle.
"He’s never gonna be out there lined up against me," Browner said of Harbaugh. "I wish he would. I’d put my hands around his neck."
The bitterness of this rivalry has now extended to radar gun readings when their quarterbacks throw out ceremonial first pitches.
Earlier this month, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw out the first pitch prior to a Seattle Mariners game. Wilson played second base and served as the closer at North Carolina State and was so skilled on the diamond that he was a fourth-round pick by the Colorado Rockies in 2010. The big screen at Safeco Field clocked Wilson's pitch at 98mph, though the Mariners' broadcast team later said the pitch crossed the plate at 75 mph.
Last night, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick threw out the first pitch prior to a San Francisco Giants game and, according to the 49ers' official Twitter account, his pitch hit 87 mph on the radar gun. Like Wilson, Kaepernick also has a baseball background and was drafted as a right-handed pitcher by the Chicago Cubs in the 43rd round of the 2009 MLB draft.
The Seahawks and 49ers have got to be running out of ways to compete with one another. Fortunately, they won't have to wait too long to renew acquaintances on the field. The Seahawks host the 49ers in prime time on Sept. 15.
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