KANSAS CITY — The third preseason game is when NFL coaches generally give their starters the most playing time, turning it into a de facto dress rehearsal for the regular season.
That probably won't be the case when the Seahawks visit the Chiefs on Friday night.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson will start for the Seahawks, a clear signal he's getting serious consideration from coach Pete Carroll for the permanent job.
The Chiefs might have to tweak their approach to the game, too, after top wide receiver Dwayne Bowe waited until last week to sign his franchise tender and report to camp, giving him a matter of days to start learning the playbook and get up to speed.
There's plenty for both teams to figure out at Arrowhead Stadium.
"It's definitely exciting to get in there with the ones and have some guys in there that I haven't played with in terms of the games yet," said Wilson, who's been competing with free agent acquisition Matt Flynn for the starting quarterback job in Seattle.
"It's a good situation for me," he said. "I don't prepare any different, though. I always prepare the right way, and I'm mentally into it all the time. That's the way I have to be."
Carroll hasn't said how Wilson and Flynn will split playing time, so Wilson getting on the field first may mean little. But the fact remains that he's played well enough through the first two weeks of the preseason to warrant a shot playing with the Seahawks' first-string offense.
Wilson has completed 22 of 33 passes for 279 yards with three touchdowns and one pick, and he's also run for 92 yards and another score. His quarterback rating of 110.5 is third among all qualifying QBs behind Philadelphia rookie Nick Foles and Atlanta starter Matt Ryan.
Flynn is 17 of 26 for 107 yards for no touchdowns and one interception.
"We're going to start Russell this week, and we're excited to see how he plays with the first unit," Carroll said. "It's a great competitive opportunity for these guys."
Few thought that would be the case a few months ago.
For one thing, the 5-foot-11 Wilson is considered undersized for an NFL quarterback, and that may be the biggest reason he slipped to the third round of the draft. Then there's the lucrative three-year deal that Seattle gave Flynn after he served as the backup in Green Bay.
It was supposed to be Flynn's job to lose, but Wilson has staked a claim for it.
"I definitely imagined myself always being successful," Wilson said. "I knew one thing, I was going to do everything I could to be successful. That's what I always do."
The last player to sign his franchise tender, Bowe finally reported to camp after skipping the Chiefs' entire offseason program and the first two games of the preseason.
He signed on Friday, just before the Chiefs departed for a game at St. Louis, which means he didn't get on the field until Monday. NFL rules prohibited Bowe from practicing in full pads until Tuesday, leaving the mercurial wide receiver with a matter of days to get up to speed.
"I'd say it's coming along very, very well, learning the offense, learning the terms and getting up to speed," Bowe said. "The toughest part is just getting acclimated, getting out here with the team, the new guys, new words and just learning them. It's coming along pretty smooth."
Smooth enough that Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said Tuesday that Bowe will be on the field against the Seahawks, even if it's only for a handful of plays.
"I will play him some, just give him a couple plays here and there, but I don't think that he's ready to play a full game or anything like that," Crennel said.
Bowe said he's been arriving at the Chiefs' practice facility by 6:30 a.m. to learn new coordinator Brian Daboll's offense, and he's routinely stayed late after practice to work with Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel on routes and timing.
When the Chiefs have broken off into situational drills in practice, Bowe and Cassel have retreated to an adjacent field and continued with the cram session.
Crennel said he'll make an assessment on how much Bowe will play in the Chiefs' preseason finale at Green Bay after Friday night's game — and the rest of the team, too.
"I tell them the same thing all the time, just to be ready to play and play until I take you out," Crennel said. "If I tell them, 'I'm going to take you out after the first quarter,' then in their mind they're coming out after the first quarter. If I need them in the second quarter, then they're not mentally ready to go, so, 'Hey guys, we're going to play. You're going to play until I take you out. When I take you out, that's going to be it.'"