Good morning. Here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, Dec. 15:
Jerry Brewer at the Seattle Times offers some advice as the suddenly surging Seahawks enter their final three games, starting with Sunday’s matchup against the Bears in Chicago: “You can still hear the noise if you listen closely. It’s a muffled protest now, not the passionate shout that it used to be. That’s because the outdated idea — tank games, draft high — isn’t just counterintuitive for Seahawks fans anymore. Now that the Seahawks have won four of five games and made something of this season, it’s also counterproductive. Why oppose winning now just to see if a lose-to-win experiment could spur success after prolonged heartache, disappointment and humiliation?”
Also at the Times, Danny O’Neil looks at how the Seahawks’ run-oriented offensive attack is bucking the trend in the pass-happy NFL: “The Seahawks aren’t swimming upstream against the NFL’s prevailing current. They’re running into it. Repeatedly. The Seahawks have spent the better part of the last six games handing the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch and running headlong against the trend that the NFL is becoming a passing league.”
Dave Boling at the News Tribune evokes the P-word – and it’s not Pete, as the Seahawks coach isn’t the one talking playoffs: “Pete Carroll is not about to discourage his team – or anybody else, for that matter – if they want to get excited about a long-shot possibility. Even if that includes a mid-December mention of slender postseason odds. ‘It’s natural to have the conversation as long as the focus is here to do the work every day,’ the coach of the Seahawks said Wednesday. ‘They can talk like that. If they get out of whack with it, I’ll (tell) them it isn’t what we can control. We can only do something this week. It’s a long ways away still.’ ”
Also at the New Tribune, Eric Williams looks at the Bears’ offense that is missing running back Matt Forte and QB Jay Cutler as it prepares for the Seahawks’ defense: “The NFL’s Mad Scientist, Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz, has had to reel in his aggressive nature of late with the absence of quarterback Jay Cutler, who’s out for at least the last three games of the regular season with a broken right thumb on his throwing hand. Instead, the Bears have leaned on an improved ground game with backup quarterback Caleb Hanie leading the offense. Still, that offense has failed to muster enough yardage to close out games, losing three straight. Playing behind a makeshift offensive line and without his top offensive weapon – running back Matt Forte, unavailable because of an MCL sprain – Hanie has predictably struggled.”
John Boyle at the Everett Herald looks at how the once “soft” Seahawks are making things hard on opposing defenses with their running game: “Through seven games, Seattle ranked second to last in the league in rushing, and with the run game struggling, had fluctuated back and forth between running a no-huddle offense. Prior to that game in Dallas, (Tom) Cable, Carroll and the rest of the offensive coaches got together and a made a decision — no matter how it turned out, the Seahawks were going to run the ball. They were going to have an identity as a physical, run-oriented offense.”
Tim Booth at the Associated Press, via PI.com, stays with that theme: “The stretch of success has thrust Marshawn Lynch into the spotlight. Lynch leads the league in rushing over the past six weeks with 706 yards and five games of at least 100 yards, including 115 in Monday night’s win over St. Louis.”
Mike Sando at ESPN.com has his weekly look at injury situations that matter in the NFC West, including this rundown on the Seahawks: “Linebacker Leroy Hill practiced fully Wednesday despite a neck injury, a good sign for Seattle given the team’s depth issues at the position. Linebacker David Hawthorne rested his injured knee, no surprise. He’s playing with an MCL injury that needs monitoring. Receiver Doug Baldwin (ankle), left guard Robert Gallery (hip) and defensive end Raheem Brock (calf) did not practice. They were expected to play Sunday against the Bears. Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson remained a full participant in practice despite his pectoral injury. Jackson seems to be getting stronger.”
Sando also looks at the latest totals from fan balloting for the Pro Bowl, with punter Jon Ryan and safety Kam Chancellor sitting third at their respective positions.
Here at Seahawks.com, we check in with the newest member of the 53-man roster, rookie wide receiver Ricardo Lockette: “As Ricardo Lockette sat in the dentist chair on Tuesday, he broke into tears. An exposed nerve during a root canal? No just a call from Seahawks general manager John Schneider informing the rookie wide receiver that he was being elevated from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. ‘He was like, ‘Congratulations, we’re moving you up,’ Lockette said Wednesday. ‘Tears immediately started to flow, because it’s been such a tough road for me. Once I got that news, man …’ Lockette paused before adding, ‘I can’t explain it. Best day of my life.’ ”
There’s also a look back at Monday night’s victory over the Rams in Ben Malcolmson’s “From the Sidelines,” as well as recaps of Wednesday in “Wednesday in Hawkville” and Tony Ventrella’s video review.
A recap of the activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center for Dec. 14:
A banner day. The indoor practice facility at VMAC got a touch of CenturyLink Field as banners from the Seahawks’ division and conference championship seasons are now hanging from the rafters on the north wall.
The players consider it a nice touch, as well as a motivational move – especially those who have been a part of more than last season’s NFC West title team. Linebacker Leroy Hill also was around for the division and conference champion in 2005, we well as the NFC West titles in 2006 and 2007.
“They’re cool, man,” Hill said. “I’ve been a part of three straight – ’05, ’06, ’07. I like the concept. It’s something you can look at while you’re practicing and it’s sort of like a motivation.”
The other banners are from the AFC West division titles in 1988 and 1999 and the NFC West title in 2004.
“They just make it look better,” Hill said. “They fill up some of that empty space.”
ON THE FIELD
The players practiced outside in 40-degree weather to get ready for Sunday’s game against the Bears in Chicago, where the forecast is calling for a high of 45 degrees. They worked without pads or helmets for 85 minutes.
Center Max Unger and right tackle Breno Giacomini were the only ones in shorts as well as without long sleeves.
Doug Baldwin. Five minutes of firsts in Monday night’s victory over the Rams have earned the rookie his first NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor.
Baldwin returned the opening kickoff, his first in a regular season game, for 37 yards on a reverse. He then downed his first punt in the NFL by catching Jon Ryan’s 34-yarder at the Rams’ 6-yard line. Baldwin then blocked his first NFL punt, on the ensuing series, which Michael Robinson returned 17 yards for the Seahawks’ first TD.
All in the first five minutes of the game.
Baldwin took his big night on national TV the way he has everything else he’s accomplished this season, which includes leading the team in receptions (45) and receiving yards (718): In stride.
“The plays that were given to me, the opportunities I was given, I expect to take full advantage of,” Baldwin said.
Baldwin is the third Seahawk to be honored in the past four games. Middle linebacker David Hawthorne (last week) and defensive end Chris Clemons (Week 11) were selected Defensive Player of the Week. The last Seahawk to win the special teams category was Ryan in Week 17 last season – also against the Rams. Kickoff returner Leon Washington (Week 3) and former kicker Olindo Mare (Week 7) also were honored last season.
Brian Urlacher. The Bears’ middle linebacker is 33 and in his 12th NFL season, but the native of Pasco continues to play at the highest level.
“He’s unusual,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said today. “Most people don’t have the talent that Brian has. He’s just one of those guys – a gifted athlete that comes around every once in a while. So you start with that. He takes great care of himself in the offseason and during the season. He’s a student of the game.
“Around here, everyone has a history and everyone knows Brian’s history as a football player. He’s a special guy to have on the team. He’s done so much for us.”
Urlacher’s resume includes being selected NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2005), NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year (2000), as well as voted to seven Pro Bowls. He also is the Bears’ all-time leading tackler (1,556).
IN ’N OUT
Hawthorne and left guard Robert Gallery sat out practice. Rookie K.J. Wright moved inside to replace Hawthorne, with rookie Mike Morgan stepping in on the strong side for Wright. Allen Barbre and Jarriel King split time at left guard for Gallery.
Defensive end Raheem Brock and Baldwin also did not practice.
Here’s the official injury report:
Did not practice
WR Doug Baldwin (ankle)
DE Raheem Brock (calf)
OG Robert Gallery (hip)
MLB David Hawthorne (knee)
CB Kennard Cox (hamstring)
LB Leroy Hill (neck)
QB Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral)
OT Jarriel King (hamstring)
For the Bears:
Did not practice
LB Lance Briggs (not injury related)
QB Jay Cutler (right thumb)
RB Matt Forte (knee)
DT Henry Melton (shin)
CB Charles Tillman (knee)
OG Edwin Williams (calf)
S Major Wright (shoulder)
The Seahawks also filled the opening on their 53-man roster by signing rookie wide receiver Ricardo Lockette from the practice squad. Defensive back Coy Fancies was signed to the practice squad.
STAT DU JOUR
It’s not so much that Devin Hester returns punts for touchdowns, it’s how often the Bears’ return specialist has done it (12), how long they’ve been (eight of 70-plus yards) and how many teams he has done it against (nine). He started in 2006 as rookie and still is at it this season, his sixth in the league. Here’s a look at his NFL-record dozen scoring returns on punts:
Date (opponent) Length
Sept. 10, 2006 (Packers) 84
Oct. 16, 2006 (Cardinals) 83
Dec. 3, 2006 (Vikings) 45
Sept. 16, 2007 (Chiefs) 73
Oct. 17, 2007 (Vikings) 89
Nov. 25, 2007 (Broncos) 75
Dec. 30, 2007 (Saints) 64
Sept. 27, 2010 (Packers) 62
Oct. 17, 2010 (Seahawks) 89
Dec. 20, 2010 (Vikings) 64
Oct. 2, 2011 (Panthers) 73
Nov. 13, 2011 (Lions) 82
The touchdown Robinson scored on Baldwin’s blocked punt was not the first of his six-season NFL career, just the first of his two seasons with the Seahawks. Robinson scored two touchdowns in 2006, during his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers.
Both came on 1-yard runs, and in the same game – Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles. So Robinson went four full seasons and large parts of two others, not to mention 89 games, between trips to the end zone.
The players will practice an hour earlier on Thursday, and then hold a Friday morning workout before the team flies to Chicago for Sunday’s game.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I don’t know if there’s anything worse than a bear with a bad tooth.” – coach Pete Carroll on facing a Chicago team that has lost its past three games
Ricardo Lockette’s wait ended today when the rookie wide receiver was signed off the practice squad to the 53-man roster.
Lockette fills the spot that opened Tuesday when cornerback Ron Parker was placed on injured reserve.
Asked what Lockette’s role would be, coach Pete Carroll smiled and offered, “Fast guy.”
That’s because Lockette won the Division II National Championship in the 200 meters in 2008 while at Fort Valley State.
As for the pecking order at wide receiver, where the team already has Doug Baldwin, Mike Williams, Golden Tate, Ben Obomanu and Deon Butler, Carroll added, “Right now, Ricardo is the next guy up.”
Good morning. Here’s what’s “out there” about the Seahawks for today, Sept. 2:
Danny O’Neil of the Seattle Times takes a look at the bubble players as the Seahawks prepare to play their preseason finale tonight against the Raiders at CenturyLink Field and then cut their 80-man roster to 53 players on Saturday. Offers O’Neil: “Safety Jeron Johnson packed for an entire season. Receiver Doug Baldwin brought enough clothes for about three days. Johnson has at least 20 pairs of sneakers in his hotel room. Baldwin has all of one jacket. While they packed differently, the two undrafted rookies share an objective: earning one of the 53 roster spots available when the Seahawks’ season opens. Friday’s exhibition game against Oakland at 7:30 p.m. is their chance to make a closing statement.”
Eric Williams at the New Tribune checks in with second-year wide receiver Golden Tate, who has been outplayed by Baldwin in the preseason. Says Williams: “Tate, a second-year receiver out of Notre Dame, certainly has had his share of struggles during exhibition play, including a pair of costly drops – one that turned into an interception return for a touchdown against Minnesota. But coach Pete Carroll lauded Tate before training camp started as one of the players he had high expectations for this season, and he doesn’t appear ready to give up on the team’s second-round pick from last year. Carroll expects Tate to play a lot in the league’s final exhibition game tonight against Oakland.”
Dave Boling at the News Tribune has a blog item asking about the Seahawks’ best catch ever, and prompted by the one rookie free agent Ricardo Lockette made in practice on Wednesday. Says Boling: “Ricardo Lockette may not even make this team or ever play in an NFL game. He has some amazing physical talents, though. But for one afternoon, the guy made some jaws drop with the best catch I’ve ever seen.”
Christian Caple at PI.com offers five things to watch in tonight’s game, including right tackle – where first-round draft choice James Carpenter and Breno Giacomini have been splitting time practice this week and likely will share the duties tonight. Says Caple: “James Carpenter has nothing to worry about when it comes to making the team. That’s obvious. But what the rookie right tackle still must prove is that he belongs in the starting lineup, as well. Carpenter, the team’s first-round draft pick this year, was dubbed the starting right tackle the day he was selected. But poor play against Denver last week and some struggles in practice have led to some questions about whether he’s ready to battle first-team defenses in the NFL just yet. That’s why Breno Giacomini has been splitting reps with the first-team offense at right tackle.”
Mike Sando at ESPN.com has five things to know about the Seahawks, including this one: “4. Leroy Hill lives: A year or two ago, it would have been unthinkable to hold up Hill as the Seattle linebacker whose future with the team appeared brighter than the futures of (Lofa) Tatupu or Aaron Curry. Tatupu had been to three Pro Bowls. Curry was the fourth player chosen in the 2009 draft. Hill was coming off a serious injury and multiple off-field incidents. Tatupu is gone. A restructuring for Curry chopped off two years from his rookie deal and made 2011 quite possibly his final one with the team. Hill, meanwhile, has recaptured the aggressive, borderline violent form that made him a potential rising star a few years ago.”
Pat Kirwan at NFL.com takes a look at the NFC West, including the tough schedule awaiting each of the four teams: “All four teams have to face the NFC East and the AFC North. Of the eight teams in those two stacked divisions, the only one that had a losing record in non-conference games last season was the Bengals. Every NFC West team will now face the Steelers, Ravens, Eagles and Giants, who had a combined record of 44-20 last year.”
Here at Seahawks.com, we look at the rookie free agent class that had GM John Schneider excited from the day the team signed them and those left who continue to impress coach Pete Carroll. Says Carroll: “It has been a really good group of guys. We’ve been excited about the quarterback, for sure, in Josh; and Baldwin’s had a great camp; Ricardo Lockette’s done stuff consistently for us; Mike Morgan has played well for us on the defensive side. There have been a number of guys. It’s really added to the draft class and made it a very competitive group. And it’s been exciting from the beginning.”
John Carlson. Tuesday, it was announced that the team’s incumbent starter at tight end would need season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum. Today, Carlson talked about the injury and the decision to have surgery.
“The decision was kind of made by my shoulder,” Carlson said.
Talk about body language. But that was the case. Initially, Carlson was going to rehab the shoulder and try to play with it.
“It kind of resolved itself by not coming along as far as we wanted it to,” he said. “That’s where my shoulder is. I need to get it fixed and start the rehab process.”
Carlson injured the shoulder diving for a pass in practice on Aug. 13. He then aggravated it later in practice while blocking.
“I’m disappointed, obviously,” Carlson said. “I felt like I had a great offseason of training. Our offseasons are normally devoted to OTAs and minicamps, and those things are great for developing offenses. But the individual training sometimes is lacking and I felt like I had a great offseason in that respect.
“So it’s really disappointing to have to miss this year.”
Kris Durham. The wide receiver, and fourth-round draft choice, has had back-to-back impressive practices. And right on cue, with the preseason finale on Friday night and the roster cut to 53 players on Saturday.
Tuesday, the 6-foot-6 Durham went up and over cornerback Kennard Cox along the sideline to catch a pass from Tarvaris Jackson; made a nice catch of a pass from Charlie Whitehurst despite being held by the defensive back; and adjusted his route on a roll out by Whitehurst to get open, and get a hand slap from coach Pete Carroll for the effort.
Today, Durham caught a half dozen balls, including one where he went over Cox to grab a TD pass from Whitehurst on the final play of the two-hour practice.
“I’m working back into it,” said Durham, who missed the preseason opener because of a sore hamstring but has six receptions in the past two games. “It’s a grind. Some of the guys got banged up, unfortunately, so we were a little shorthanded. But a lot of guys came in and stepped up – (Ricardo) Lockette, Doug (Baldwin), Golden (Tate).
“Everybody was just out there making plays.”
Including the one he didn’t mention: Durham.
“I’m just trying to compete and get better,” he said.
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Both involved Lockette, the ridiculously fast rookie free agent. On the first – the offensive play of the day – Lockette somehow made a reaching, one-handed grab of a pass from rookie QB Josh Portis in the end zone despite free safety Earl Thomas being all over him.
“Actually, I didn’t even see him coming,” Thomas said. “I’m looking at the ball and all of sudden he was just there. Boom. It was a great catch.”
When Portis went to Lockette again a few plays later, it produced the defensive play of the day as rookie cornerback Richard Sherman matched the speedy receiver step for step as he locked in on the ball. Sherman then went up in front of Lockette to intercept the pass.
IN AND OUT
Wide receivers Patrick Williams and Chris Carter, who were released Monday, were re-signed today. The club needed their hands because Sidney Rice (shoulder), Ben Obomanu (head) and Isaiah Stanback (hamstring) did not practice, Mike Williams (foot) was limited to individual drills and Deon Butler (leg) remains on the physically unable to perform list.
Each receiver celebrated his return with a nice catch. Williams turned and jumped in one smooth motion to catch a Portis pass along the sideline against cornerback Brandon Browner. Carter ran a nice route and made an even better catch of a pass from Jackson while running toward the opposite sideline, an effort that earned a hand slap from Carroll as Carter returned to the huddle.
Defensive ends Chris Clemons and Dexter Davis and Leroy Hill returned after sitting out Tuesday, while strong safety Kam Chancellor was limited.
But eight others sat out, including running back Marshawn Lynch (ankle) and middle linebacker David Hawthorne (knee). Leon Washington got the first reps with the No. 1 offense for Lynch, while rookie K.J. Wright continued to fill in for Hawthorne. Atari Bigby worked for Chancellor with the No. 1 defense.
Also out: safety Josh Pinkard (knee), defensive end Pierre Allen (hamstring) and Carlson, in addition to the other three players who are PUP – tight end Cameron Morrah (foot), defensive tackle Colin Cole (ankle) and cornerback Roy Lewis (knee).
Just how good was Baldwin’s 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in Saturday night’s game against the Broncos in Denver? We decided to ask Washington, who had scoring returns of 101, 99 and 92 last year in his first season with the Seahawks.
“Doug does a good job of practicing it, he hits it hard in practice,” Washington said. “So I wasn’t surprised in the game for him to finish the way he did. That was impressive.”
Washington saw the same thing that Baldwin mentioned after the game: Great blocking that allowed Baldwin to run untouched until he eluded one would-be tackle at the 20-yard line.
“We had a bounce set up, where he’s going to sell it to the middle of the field and then bounce it to the left,” Washington said. “The wedge did a good job, and Doug did a good job of selling it. Once he broke it to the left, there was nobody over there. So he did a good job.”
The players have a morning practice on Thursday, their final full session before Friday night’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders at CenturyLink Field. They will then have Saturday and Sunday off.
The 80-man roster must be trimmed to 53 players on Saturday.
YOU DON’T SAY
“It’ll be fun to see those guys, I know them so well. So it will definitely be fun to go out there and play against my old team.” – tight end Zach Miller, who played the last four seasons for the Raiders
A recap of the day’s activities at Virginia Mason Athletic Center:
The offensive line, and especially rookie right tackle James Carpenter. This is no surprise after the Seahawks allowed QB Tarvaris Jackson to be sacked five times in Saturday night’s loss to the Broncos in Denver, and Carpenter yielded two of them.
During today’s full-pads practice, Breno Giacomini was rotating with Carpenter – with the first unit as well as the second.
“It’s a competition that we’re just continuing,” coach Pete Carroll said when asked about the situation. “ ‘Giac’ has done a nice job. He’s put together a really good preseason. He’s very solid. He hasn’t played against the same (level of competition as Carpenter) all the time, but he has had a very solid preseason.
“He’s a been around a little bit more. So we want to make sure that he has the opportunity to show and see if he can help. So we’ve decided to give him some opportunities with the first group.”
Carpenter has only been around since July 29, when the team’s first-round draft choice signed his contract. He would have benefited greatly from the offseason minicamps and OTA sessions that were erased by the 136-day lockout.
“Our guy has done a marvelous job in a bunch of areas now at right tackle,” Carroll said of Carpenter. “I’m fired up about him. But there’s still a lot to learn, and there’s a short time to learn it.
“His feet are in the fire, right from the first game in San Diego.”
Carpenter wasn’t the Seahawks’ only problem against the Broncos.
As line coach Tom Cable put it, pointing out that miscommunication was the culprit on three of the five sacks, “We don’t feel good about Saturday at all. Very disappointed. But we also can see what it is and have a chance to now go fix it and improve from here. And it will be like that for a little while, but not too much longer.”
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Offense: Rookie wide receiver Ricardo Lockette reaching out to snag a Josh Portis pass with one hand and then spinning around cornerback Brandon Browner in almost the same motion to head up the sideline.
Defense: Linebacker David Vobora starting to his right but then diving back to his left to tip a Portis pass incomplete.
Andre Gurode, the five-time Pro Bowl center released by the Dallas Cowboys this week, visited the Seahawks today. But it was just that, Carroll said.
“He’s kind of taking a tour right now and looking at some places,” Carroll said. “We were fortunate to get in on it and visit with him. He’s had a great career and it ended kind of abruptly for him. So he’s going to take a look around and see what’s out there.”
IN AND OUT
The big news, of course, was Carroll’s announcement that tight end John Carlson will need season-ending shoulder surgery to repair the labrum he tore while diving for a pass in practice 2½ weeks ago.
Thirteen other players also did not practice, including five starters – running back Marshawn Lynch (ankle), defensive end Chris Clemons (ankle), middle linebacker David Hawthorne (knee), outside linebacker Aaron Curry (knee) and strong safety Kam Chancellor (foot). Lynch and Hawthorne will not play against the Oakland Raiders in Friday night’s preseason finale at CenturyLink Field, Carroll said.
Justin Forsett and Leon Washington filled in for Lynch, while Raheem Brock worked at Clemons’ spot, K.J. Wright and David Vobora stepped in for Hawthorne and Curry and Atari Bigby replaced Chancellor.
Also out: wide receiver Isaiah Stanback (hamstring), defensive end Dexter Davis (hip), defensive lineman Pierre Allen (hamstring) and safety Josh Pinkard (knee), as well as the four players who remain on the physically unable to perform list – wide receiver Deon Butler (leg), tight end Cameron Morrah (toe), defensive tackle Colin Cole (ankle) and cornerback Roy Lewis (knee).
Wide receivers Sidney Rice (shoulder) and Ben Obomanu (head) started practice but did not finish.
Left tackle Russell Okung was limited to individual drills because of the ankle he sprained in the opener against the Chargers.
The club also completed the league-mandated roster trim to 80 players by releasing defensive Jay Alvord and safety Rickey Thenarse.
STAT DU JOUR
After making an unprecedented 284 transactions in their first year together, Carroll and general manager John Schneider have been making up for lost time following the lockout. From July 26 through today, they have made 95 roster moves – or an average of 2.6 per day.
The players will practice Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning before playing their preseason finale on Friday night.
The 80-man roster must be reduced to 53 players on Saturday.
YOU DON’T SAY
“Obviously you never want to look like that. It was an embarrassment to all of us, especially as a group. But that’s life. And you’ve got to learn, and how everybody responds will be the key.” – left guard Robert Gallery, looking back at the performance against the Broncos with an eye to Friday night’s game against the Raiders
With the conclusion of training camp on Thusday, it’s time to pass out some honors — with input on the selections from coaches, scouts and players:
Best player: Sidney Rice. He got a late start, because free-agent additions were not allowed to begin practicing until Aug. 4. He also sat out last week’s preseason opener to rest a sore shoulder. But when the Pro Bowl wide receiver from the Vikings was on the field, the 6-foot-4 Rice displayed the traits that attracted the Seahawks – an off-the-charts catch radius; sure, soft hands; the kind of competitive work ethic that is the foundation for Pete Carroll’s program; an instant rapport with also just-acquired QB Tarvaris Jackson. As former Seahawks linebacker Dave Wyman said on 710 ESPN today, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone have a better camp.”
Best offensive player: Marshawn Lynch. A year ago, Lynch was summering – and shimmering – in Buffalo with the Bills team that made him the 12th pick overall in the 2007 NFL Draft. After being acquired in trade during the Seahawks’ bye week, Lynch admits to “learning on the fly” last season. But in this camp, he’s simply been flying – in his own “Beast Mode” fashion – and leading by example. He did not miss a practice. He ran out every rep he got. He looks ready – and sounds determined – to help re-launch a running game that ranked 31st in the league last season.
Best defensive player: Earl Thomas. The second-year free safety has been even better than during his first season – which already was pretty good, as he intercepted five passes to tie the franchise record by a rookie. Thomas picked off a half dozen passes in practice in this camp and got his hands on even more balls. He appears poised to make another giant step toward becoming the consistent playmaking centerfielder that Carroll needs to play his style of defense.
Best special teams player: Jon Ryan. The veteran punter wins this one almost by default, but there’s also plenty of merit behind the pick. Ryan’s consistency has been his calling card since signing with the Seahawks a game into the 2008 season, and that remains the key to his 2011 season.
Best rookies: Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin. We’ve split this into defensive (Sherman) and offensive (Baldwin) categories – and colored both Cardinal – because there are so many rookies on the 90-man roster, and so many who deserve recognition as they scramble to play catchup after the 136-day lockout erased the spring minicamps and OTA sessions. Sherman’s size (6-3) and playmaking ability have been apparent from his first practice, but then the cornerback from Stanford was a fifth-round draft choice. Baldwin, on the other hand, was part of the undrafted free-agent class. But you would never know it by how well – and consistently – the wide-out from Stanford has played. In the preseason opener, he not only caught a team-high four passes, Baldwin returned a kickoff for 41 yards and a punt for 20 yards.
Best free-agent addition: Brandon Browner. There’s a lot of competition here, since the club signed Rice, Jackson, left guard Robert Gallery, tight end Zach Miller and defensive tackles Alan Branch and Jimmy Wilkerson once the unrestricted free-agent period finally began. But the 6-4 Browner was added long before the lockout and free agency began – in January, and to a future contract. The Seahawks have been looking for a bigger cornerback, while Browner has been looking to get back into the league after playing the past four seasons in the CFL. This need-meets-desire matchup is working out very well. Honorable mention to Gallery, who has been just what the young O-line needs at the left guard spot.
Best unit: Tight ends. The Seahawks were solid here even before adding Miller, the Pro Bowler from the Raiders. Now, with the ability to use Miller and John Carlson in tandem, well, it provides versatility, productivity and even a dash of deception in the passing game and the running game. Anthony McCoy and Dominique Byrd, who played for Carroll at USC, provide depth and big-play capability. Then there’s Cameron Morrah, an incumbent backup who has yet to practice while recovering from offseason toe surgery.
Biggest surprises: Ricardo Lockette and Neal Howey. Again, there’s one on offense (Lockette) and one on defense (Howey). Lockette’s speed sets the rookie free agent apart from the other wide receivers – as well as the rest of the players in camp. He won the NCAA Division II 200-meter championship in 2008 and has run 40 yards in 4.27 seconds. Howey, a rookie linebacker from Eastern Michigan, has stood out because of all the “I see you, Neal” salutes he’s gotten from the older ’backers while making plays with the No. 3 defense. It will be surprising if Lockette and Howey don’t stick around, at least on the practice squad.
Most improved player: Leon Washington. Say what? The guy returned three kickoffs for touchdowns last year in his first season with the Seahawks. But we’re talking about Leon Washington the running back. Another year removed from the severely broken leg that ended his 2009 season while with the New York Jets, Washington is displaying his old explosive first step and sudden quickness while running the ball out of the backfield. As Carroll put it when asked about Washington the back, “It’s not even the same guy. Last year at this time, he was limping around we were cringing as he was running with the football. He is in full flow, full speed.” Now, the coaches just have to figure out how to best use Washington, while still getting Lynch and Justin Forsett the touches they need.
Best quote: “Somebody from the back of the room yelled, ‘That’s not separation; that’s a divorce.’ He was so wide open.” – quarterback Charlie Whitehurst on Baldwin
Pat Williams. When you’re a wide receiver on a team that already had Mike Williams, Golden Tate and Ben Obomanu and then added Sidney Rice, Kris Durham, Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette, you know your reps in practice will be limited – and that you need to make the most of them.
That’s what Williams did today.
“Reps are limited,” he said after practice. “So when guys go down, you’ve got to be paying attention and know your assignments and step in and not miss a beat.”
Williams’ cache of catches included a nice grab of pass that cornerback Brandon Browner came oh-so-close to tipping incomplete; gathering in a long pass that QB Tarvaris Jackson dropped nicely over Browner; and a TD reception.
Williams, a 6-foot-1, 204-pounder from Colorado, was on the practice squad last season. Now there are other young receivers to challenge for that spot as well as the berths on the 53-man roster.
“That’s the business of it all,” Williams said. “You can’t really pay attention to that. You put your head down and you grind every day. That’s what I’ve been taught ever since I was little. Whatever happens happens.”
Today, good things happened when Williams got his reps.
Slot receiver. Watching how new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is using Tate conjures visions of how Bevell used Percy Harvin as a slot receiver with the Minnesota Vikings last season.
Same position. Similar responsibilities. But dissimilar receivers.
“They’re two different type of athletes,” said Rice, who also was with the Vikings the past four seasons. “Percy is a bigger guy. Strong. Real fast. Golden is a quick guy. He likes to move around in there and he gets open.
“So it’s going to be some similar things that we’re going to see that we had with Percy as well.”
Richard Sherman. The fifth-round draft choice continues to stand out, and not just because he’s 6-3.
On back-to-back plays, Sherman broke up Charlie Whitehurst passes that were intended for Tate. On the second, Sherman reached in to slap away the ball and then bumped and barked at Tate.
“He’s a big corner. Long arms. And he’s got one of the better quick jams that I’ve seen I’ve been in this league,” Rice said. “So if he gets an opportunity to get out there and get his hands on somebody it’s going to be exciting for our team.”
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Offense: Lockette using his sprinter speed to blow past cornerback Marcus Brown. The slightly underthrown pass then hit Brown in the helmet as he caught up, but Lockette controlled the carom for a TD.
Defense: Junior Siavii exploding through a gap and into the end zone for what would have been a sack of Jackson on the final play of practice. Defensive players are not allowed to touch the red-clad QBs, but coach Pete Carroll stepped in to signal the safety.
Special teams: Brandon Coutu drilling a 53-yard field goal.
IN AND OUT
The club signed two players today: running back Vai Taua and linebacker Michael Johnson, who was with the team earlier in camp.
To clear roster spots, running back Chase Reynolds and defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye were waived. Ajiboye was on the roster when camp opened, waived and then re-signed Thursday. He played in the preseason opener against the Chargers and registered a tackle.
Taua, who played at Nevada, had been the Buffalo Bills camp before being released Aug. 5. He was a three-time All-WAC selection, rushing for more than 1,300 yards in each of his final three seasons – including 1,534 yards and 19 TDs last season.
Also, tight end Ryan Travis has been moved to fullback and practiced at that position for the first time this afternoon.
Wide receiver Chris Carter returned practice after sitting out on Saturday, but five new players joined the ranks of those not practicing: tight end John Carlson, defensive Jameson Konz, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, defensive end Pierre Allen and kicker Jeff Reed.
The players will have a walk-thru on Monday morning and then practice at 1:45. The session is the next-to-last that will be open to the public. Fans also can register to attend the Wednesday afternoon practice.
Today’s practice drew the largest turnout of camp – 2,319; five more than on Saturday.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I haven’t even thought about it. It’s football. No matter who’s on the other side I’m a Seahawk now. I’m going to war with those guys and the 12th Man this week. So that’s all that matters.” – Rice, when asked about the twist that is him playing his first home game at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night against his former team
A recap of the only session at Seahawks’ training camp on Sunday:
Leon Washington. A year ago, he was coming off surgery to repair a severely broken leg and “just surviving,” as coach Pete Carroll put it.
This afternoon, Washington was thriving while making plays by flashing his quickness and speed during the first padded practice of camp. His best effort came on a run where Washington made a nice read to get through the line and then exploded up the left sideline for a long gain. As Washington returned to the huddle, he gave a fist-bump to each of the offensive linemen – tackles Will Robinson and Breno Giacomini, guards Lemuel Jeanpierre and Paul Fanaika and center Mike Gibson – and Carroll then came over to slap hands with Washington.
“It’s not even the same guy,” Carroll said. “Last year at this time, he was limping around and we were cringing as he was running with the football. He is in full flow, full speed. He really is excited about it, as we are.”
But this wasn’t a one-run-and-done day for Washington. He also got behind linebacker Aaron Curry to catch a pass along the sideline from Charlie Whitehurst, showed quickness into and speed coming out of the hole on a couple more running plays and also added two more receptions.
“I’m a gifted athlete. I’m a blessed athlete,” Washington said. “So I just try to use my talents, and whatever I can do to help this team I’m trying to take advantage of it.
“I worked my tail off this offseason to get in better shape. Obviously, coming off the injury last year, I as a little slow at the start. So just having the opportunity to play football, I’m enjoying every bit of it.”
Malcolm Smith. The seventh-round draft choice from USC is getting an opportunity to work at weak-side linebacker with the No. 1 defense because David Hawthorne has moved into the middle to replace Lofa Tatupu, who was released today.
Carroll said the first option for replacing Hawthorne on the weak-side will be veteran Leroy Hill, but he just re-signed with the club Friday and won’t be able to start practicing until Thursday. And Smith isn’t letting his chance slip away.
“Malcolm is making the most of this,” Carroll said. “Malcolm has the benefit – as does (linebacker) Mike Morgan, who’s come with us, too – of knowing our system and the principles and terminology and knowing (LB coach) Ken Norton. All of that has shown up, in that it’s expedited their ability to look good out here.
“Both those guys are really fast kids, and athletic. So initially they’ve made very good impressions in taking advantage of the connections that they have from the past with us at SC.”
Offensive line. John Moffitt, this year’s third-round draft choice, has moved into the starting unit at right guard, where he is expected to start.
The leaves the No. 1 line with – from left tackle to right – Russell Okung, Paul McQuistan, Max Unger, Moffitt and James Carpenter, this year’s first-round draft pick.
McQuistan has stepped in for Gibson, who is now working at center with the No. 2 line. But the left guard spot will be filled by free-agent addition Robert Gallery, the ex-Raider, when he is allowed to start practicing on Thursday.
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Offense: Rookie free-agent wide receiver Ricardo Lockette getting behind the defense to make an over-the-shoulder grab of a deep pass from rookie QB Josh Portis. The play drew the largest ovation from the 1,270 fans who attended practice.
Defense: This a full-unit honor for the No. 1 defense, and especially cornerbacks Marcus Trufant and Brandon Browner and safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, as QB Charlie Whitehurst was forced to scramble from the pocket on three of the first five plays during a team period because none of his receivers were open.
Special teams: Wes Byrum hitting a 47-yard field goal. The rookie free agent made four of his five attempts, missing wide left from 43 yards.
ON THE MEND
Wide receiver Mike Williams (muscle strain) and cornerback Walter Thurmond (sprained ankle) did not practice, but Carroll said the injuries are not serious and their inactivity was more a precautionary move.
With Williams out, Golden Tate worked opposite Ben Obomanu with the No. 1 offense. Browner and Kennard Cox have been subbing for Thurmond, who also sat out the walk-thru Saturday afternoon.
Still sidelined while recovering from surgical procedures: wide receiver Deon Butler (leg), tight end Cameron Morrah (toe), defensive tackle Colin Cole (ankle) and cornerback Roy Lewis (knee).
The players will practice at 9 a.m. Monday and then have a walk-thru at 4 p.m. The morning practice is open to the public and you can register to attend here.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I’ve known Lofa since he was a young kid, when Mosi (Tatupu, his father) brought him to SC years and years ago. And I’ve loved him ever since. He’s a great kid and a great guy and an unbelievable competitor.” – Carroll on Tatupu
A recap of the only practice at Seahawks training camp on Friday:
James Carpenter. The team’s first-round draft choice signed his contract this morning in time to participate in the 100-minute practice.
After loosening up and being stretched out, the offensive tackle from Alabama jogged over to join the other linemen in their individual drills. When the No. 1 offense lined up for the first full-team drills, Carpenter was at right tackle – where he is expected to start.
There were a few moments where Carpenter looked like a late arrival to camp, but even more where he displayed the talents that prompted the Seahawks to select him with the 25th pick in the first round of the April NFL Draft: “A really tough, nasty, aggressive, solid guy,” as general manager John Schneider put it on draft day.
Line coach Tom Cable offered this assessment of Carpenter after he was drafted: “James was a guy I though from day one gave us the most in terms of his ability to play all four spots. He was a left tackle at Alabama, obviously, but he’s a guy we’ll start the process with a right tackle knowing he has the ability to move around if we need to. But I like a lot of things about this guy: A big, massive guy – 321 pounds – a lot of length and a lot of power. I think we upgraded ourselves in terms of toughness and getting some mass on the offensive line, which I think we needed to do.”
With Carpenter in camp, third-round pick John Moffitt is the only one of the team’s nine draft choices who remains unsigned. Moffitt is expected to start next to Carpenter at right guard.
Ricardo Lockette. The rookie free-agent wide receiver from Fort Valley State has been in town – and on the roster – only a few days, but he’s already got a nickname, complements of fellow wide-out Isaiah Stanback.
“It was Isaiah who called him ‘Lockette the Rocket,’ ” rookie wide receiver Kris Durham said after practice. “He’s amazing. That guy’s got a lot of speed.”
And that comes from a guy has run the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds.
That’s fast, but not as fast as Lockette. Check this resume: 10.0 seconds in the 100-meter dash; 20.23 in the 200-meter dash; 4.27 in the 40 at his Pro Day workout and 4.35 at the scouting combine in February. He was the NCAA Division II national champion in the 200 meters in 2008.
So the obvious question: Is Lockett a really fast guy who’s trying to play football? Or a football player who is really fast?
“I’ve been playing football since I was 6, and I only ran track three years out of my life,” he said. “I’ve just been blessed.”
Lockette is hoping to parlay that speed, and his versatility, into a roster spot at the position where the Seahawks are “stacked,” as he put it. He’s also getting a look as a punt and kickoff returner.
There’s Mike Williams, the split end who led the team in receptions last season. There’s Sidney Rice, the former Pro Bowl receiver for the Minnesota Vikings who reportedly will sign with the Seahawks this afternoon. There’s Ben Obomanu, a valuable special teams player in addition to a receiver who started six of the final eight games last season. There’s Golden Tate, last year’s second-round draft choice. There’s Deon Butler, who is recovering from the severely broken leg that ended his 2010 season. There’s Stanback, who missed last season after tearing an Achilles in training camp. There’s Durham, a fourth-round draft pick this year.
So coach Pete Carroll doesn’t have to preach his “always compete” mantra to Lockette.
“It’s all about who can do more,” Lockette said. “So I just try to broaden my horizons and be diverse – be a special teams guru, and be a help to the offense when I can.”
PLAYS OF THE DAY
Offense: Lockette’s one-handed grab against rookie cornerback Jesse Hoffman in the end zone.
Defense: Veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant intercepting a Charlie Whitehurst pass on the first play of the first team period.
Second-year cornerback Walter Thurmond is sporting a new hairstyle that’s actually an old hairstyle: A fade, a la Christopher Reid of Kid ’n Play – but not as high.
“I wore the flattop a couple of years ago back at Oregon my junior year,” said Thurmond, who is working at right corner with the No. 1 defense. “So I’m just stuck in the 80s, I guess.”
The big signing, of course, was Carpenter. But there were other move, as well.
The club also reportedly re-signed two of its own free agents – fullback Michael Robinson and defensive lineman Junior Savaii – and former Arizona Cardinals defensive lineman Alan Branch agreed to sign, according to reports.
The contracts of offensive linemen Stacy Andrews and Chris White were terminated, and three other players were waived: linebacker Joe Pawelek, defensive back James Brindley and defensive lineman Barrett Moen.
ON THE MEND
Middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu did not practice after participating in both walk-thrus on Thursday. He had arthroscopic surgery on both knees during the offseason.
Still sidelined while recovering from injuries: defensive tackle Colin Cole (ankle), cornerback Roy Lewis (knee), tight end Cameron Morrah (toe) and Butler.
The Seahawks will practice twice on Saturday – at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. – and also once on Sunday afternoon – at 1:30. Each practice is open to the public and you can register to attend here.
YOU DON’T SAY
“Yeah, I was. But it’s still an honor to be here. You can’t really cry over spilt milk. I’m here now and the past doesn’t really matter. I’ve got to handle what I’ve got to do now.” – Lockette, when asked if he was surprised he didn’t get drafted