Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll applauds from the sidelines...

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll applauds from the sidelines against the New England Patriots in the first half of an NFL football game. (Oct. 14, 2012) Credit: AP

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll makes no secret of where his allegiances will lie next week when the Jets visit Seattle, even though Carroll will always have a soft spot for Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

"We'll try to knock the heck out of him on game day, and neither of us would ever want it any other way," Carroll said of Sanchez, his starting quarterback when the two were at Southern California. "We're going to battle."

But Carroll empathizes with Sanchez as he struggles through a season with celebrated backup Tim Tebow always lurking. Carroll once advised Sanchez to remain in school for another year rather than enter the draft early in 2009, but the coach hopes Sanchez can overcome the growing pains at what Carroll believes still is the early stage of his NFL career.

"Mark's story is huge with the media with Tebow going [to the Jets] and all that, and I feel for him," Carroll said. "It's been a hard thing to deal with because the media has been so overwhelming on the subject."

Despite Sanchez's on-field problems, Carroll admires the way he has handled himself with all the attention Tebow's presence has created.

"I think he's doing a great job hanging in there, playing great football," Carroll said. "I think he's handled it fine."

Carroll has his own challenges at quarterback but believes rookie Russell Wilson is doing a terrific job. Seattle is 4-4 and hosts the Vikings Sunday.

"Russell's really been impressive," Carroll said. "He's improving each week, even as the games get harder . . . Every single game we've been in has been extremely close."

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