Countdown to kickoff

Greetings from CenturyLink Field, where some of the Seahawks and Raiders already are on the field preparing to play not only their preseason finale but the final game of the 2011 preseason.

This won’t be like most finales, because coach Pete Carroll and his staff will play their starters longer than normal in what has been anything but a normal preseason after the 136-day lockout that condensed free agency and the work usually done in the spring minicamps and OTA sessions into what has been five very hectic weeks.

Carroll isn’t tipping his hand on just how much “longer” will be, but the events of this evening will help dictate how long he goes with the starters and also how long a look he gets at those players battling for spots on the 53-man roster – with those cuts coming Saturday.

“Hopefully, we’ll get the information that we need,” Carroll said Thursday after practice. “Some guys won’t play very much and some guys will play a lot that might surprise you.

“There’s a number of guys it’s really crucial for. There’s guys that are fighting for the roster spots, there’s guys that are fighting for practice squad spots as well. It’s deep. The competition has been stepped up in practice this week. Guys realize their window of opportunity is closing, so we’ve had a very god week of preparation.”

That fighting-until-the-final-whistle group includes the remaining members of this year’s rookie free agent class.

“Hopefully there will be some exciting stories for some of the new kids and they’ll make their opportunities happen by the way they perform,” Carroll said of a group that includes QB Josh Portis, wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette, linebacker Mike Morgan and safety Jeron Johnson.

The Seahawks always have been very good to undrafted rookies, and vice versa. The exploits of Baldwin, Portis, Johnson and the others got us thinking just how much these overlooked players have shown up for the Seahawks.

The most obvious on the current roster is David Hawthorne, who made the team in 2008 because of the way the rookie middle linebacker brought the heat in training-camp practices and the preseason games – which prompted Lofa Tatupu to give him the nickname “Heater.” All Hawthorne has done is lead the team in tackles the past two seasons, while playing outside (last season) and in the middle (in 2009).

But there have been others:

Dave Krieg – A career-ending injury to backup QB Steve Myer in the then-annual training camp intra-squad scrimmage got Krieg onto the roster in 1980. What the “Man from Milton” did kept him there through the 1991 season. He still holds the franchise records for career TD passes (195) and victories (70) and was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 2004.

Joe Nash – The durable nose tackle arrived in 1982 and didn’t leave until after the 1996 season. Nash played in a franchise-record 218 games and holds the club career record for blocked kicks (10), is third in career tackles (779) and sixth in sacks (47½). He was voted to the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team last year.

Norm Johnson – The productive kicker was in the same rookie free agent class as Nash. By the time he left after the 1990 season, Johnson was the career leader in points scored (810), field goals (159) and PATs (333) – and still is. He also was voted to the 35th Anniversary team.

Eugene Robinson – He showed up in 1985 as a cornerback from Colgate and left after the 1995 season as the best free safety in franchise history – not to mention the club’s all-time leading tackler (984) who also ranks No. 2 in interceptions (42). Robinson also was voted the 35th Anniversary team.

Rufus Porter – He’s also on the 35th Anniversary team – twice, as an outside linebacker and the special teams player. Not bad for a kid from Southern University who was the 108th player signed by the Seahawks in 1988. Porter went to two Pro Bowls for his special teams efforts and also ranks No. 7 in career sacks (37½).

Mack Strong – He arrived in 1993, but spent his first season on the practice squad. But from 1994 through 2007, the aptly named Strong played in 201 games – second only to Nash – and blocked for a trio of 1,000-yard rushers (Chris Warren, Ricky Watters and Shaun Alexander). He also was voted to the 35th Anniversary team.

Jon Kitna – The kid from Tacoma and Central Washington University caught Dennis Erickson’s eye in 1996 when the Seahawks coach went to see his nephew, Jamie Christian, play for the Wildcats. One look led to another and then another, and before he left after the 2000 season Kitna ranked No. 4 in career TD passes (49) and No. 5 in completions (658) and passing yards (7,552).

Jordan Babineaux – The do-it-all defensive back started at cornerback and safety after joining the team in 2004. He had a career-high 105 tackles in 2009, when he started all 16 games at free safety. But he’ll always be most remembered for the play readers of Seahawks.com voted the best of the decade – his stop of Tony Romo just short of the goal line, and a first down, to ice the wild-card playoff win over the Cowboys in 2006.

Who will get the chance to join this illustrious list this summer? Tonight’s game definitely will have an impact in determining that.

The other game within this game is the trio of former Raiders who are now with the Seahawks – assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable, left guard Robert Gallery and tight end Zach Miller. We’ve got that covered in this feature that is available in the tonight’s GameDay program as well as at Seahawks.com.

 


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