KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -Patrick Kerney is conspicuous in a crowd. Guys who are 6-feet-5, 272 pounds with muscles to spare usually are.
Yet when the Seahawks' plow-horse defensive end emerged from a sushi restaurant and began walking down a sidewalk with friends in Seattle's trendy Belltown district on a buzzing Friday night, no one noticed him. Unlike at his previous NFL city, his was just another chiseled face in the crowd.
``It was fantastic,'' Kerney said later of the anonymity.
It's also ending.
The former Atlanta Falcons end is having a star season. He has 10 1/2 sacks, second-most in the NFL, as Seattle (7-4) prepares to take its two-game lead in the NFC West into Sunday's matchup with Philadelphia (5-6), the team Kerney grew up idolizing in Newton, Penn.
A year ago, Kerney could barely lift his right arm above his head. He missed the last seven games for the Falcons with a torn pectoral muscle. Now, Kerney is lifting the Seahawks into position for another playoff run.
He has seven sacks in his last three games - all Seattle wins. It's his most menacing streak since September of 2004, when he was named NFC defensive player of the month en route to a career-high 13 sacks and the only invitation to the Pro Bowl of his nine-year career.
He won't say he's on the path to another Pro Bowl, though.
``I don't like to evaluate until it's all said and done,'' Kerney said. ``There's so much importance to these last games that will really tell what this season is for this team, which is a big factor in how it is for me.''
``And vice versa, I think,'' he added, laughing. ``My thing is, never be satisfied, no matter you're standing or your stats.''
This former prep school pretty boy - Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's designation - has a gash across the bridge of his nose. It's a souvenir of his three-sack day last weekend in St. Louis that also included his first interception in three years.
``Kerney is one of those guys, I think over the course of the season, he just has a motor and he goes and he goes,'' said Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, who pushed to sign Kerney to a free-agent contract containing $19.5 million in guarantees last offseason. ``Some guys are slowing down and he's going. He's a high-effort guy and he's feeling good.''
Way better than he did last season. Not being able to use his arm for much more than a cup holder, Kerney watched the end of a second consecutive non-winning season in Atlanta - where his foundation to benefit Lt. Thomas L. Kerney, his brother who was a police officer killed in the line of duty, remains based.
He did yoga to improve his flexibility. Then, just before the Falcons heard of Bad Newz Kennels and Michael Vick's dogfighting crimes, Kerney signed with the three-time defending NFC West champion Seahawks. He left behind a team with turmoil, a rookie head coach, injuries and a 3-8 record, worst in the NFC South.
But mention how great it must be to have escaped all that to renew his career in Seattle, and Kerney's smile flips like the Falcons' fortunes.
``Those guys have had to deal with a lot - from the instances this summer with Michael and right on to both of their defensive tackles going on IR last week,'' Kerney said. ``I've got so much respect for so many guys on that roster. You know, lifelong I'm invested in that organization. Spent eight years there.''
Last week, Atlanta defensive tackle Rod Coleman had his season ended by injury. One of the first people with whom he exchanged text messages was Kerney. Kerney also keeps up with Falcons John Abraham and Keith Brooking.
``I feel for those guys. ... I know a lot guys don't want pity for it but at the same time,'' Kerney said, chuckling darkly, ``I've got to say I feel for them.''
As for how he's feeling entering December, Kerney supports Holmgren's theory that his motor runs longer and harder than most.
``One thing I've always thought of since college (at Virginia) is making sure you do every last rep in the weight room, every last run on the field, chase the ball in practice, to stay in great shape,'' Kerney said. ``Because there are a lot of people in this league, and I know not every body does that. It was the same way in college.
``Slowly you start building space between you and your competition. You may come across a guy the very next Sunday who does walk the line and pays attention to detail like that and you're going to have a tough match up. Certainly you may come across a match up or two where the guy hasn't been doing what he's supposed to. And I think that does make a difference.''
It is right now.

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