Saturday, July 31, 2010
First impressions from Seahawks camp
By Mike Sando
RENTON, Wash. -- News and notes following the first training camp practice of the Pete Carroll era in Seattle:
- Receiver Mike Williams checked in at 233 pounds and passed a conditioning test requiring receivers to run 20 sprints of 60 yards in 8 seconds apiece. Williams' body fat is also down. This is a big deal for Seattle because Williams is so obviously talented -- if only he could stay in shape. He's stayed in shape to this point and made an impact in practice. Seattle fans used to seeing undersized corner Kelly Jennings bounce off Larry Fitzgerald of the division-rival Arizona Cardinals instead saw Jennings bounce off the 6-foot-5 Williams, who snatched the ball cleanly and didn't seem to notice Jennings.
- Williams appeared to be in an affable mood. After spotting rookie receiver Golden Tate speaking with reporters, Williams broke into the conversation and jokingly asked Tate to carry his shoulder pads. Everyone got a laugh out of it.
- One-on-one pass-rush drills are a staple of NFL training camps and one of the more entertaining and instructive drills. I did not see the Seahawks hold any Saturday and it's looking like line coach Alex Gibbs prefers to have the line work together -- exactly as they'll need to do when running his zone scheme. The scheme depends on all five players working together, so there's less emphasis on individual matchups.
- Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates has no reservations about Matt Hasselbeck's ability to run bootlegs, which are a staple of the new offense. I'll develop this angle later in camp, but it's important for Hasselbeck to move well -- and Bates thinks it's a non-issue based on what he's seen.
- Deion Branch made a few impact plays, including when he stayed with a deflected ball, made the grab and turned upfield. It's good news for Seattle that the oft-injured Branch is practicing to open camp, but we'll want to see how his surgically repaired knee holds up over multiple practices.
- Players wore shoulder pads and shorts with helmets. Some wore full-sized pads, not the lighter "shells" players often wear with shorts. There was a fair amount of hitting, particularly with running backs. Quinton Ganther ran over one defensive back whose jersey number was tough to see.
- Leon Washington participated in individual drills and was limited the rest of the time. He did not run with the ball during team drills. Washington said the plan is to ease back into a full workload. Coaches are monitoring his participation.
- Rookie Walter Thurmond participated wearing a brace on his right knee. I didn't see him do much, but he was out there and in pads. Thurmond is coming off serious knee surgery. Fullback Owen Schmitt, cornerback Josh Pinkard (knee) and newly signed offensive lineman Chester Pitts (knee) opened camp on the physically unable to perform list. They count against the 80-man limit but cannot practice without first passing a physical examination. Schmitt had his left elbow wrapped.
- Linebacker David Hawthorne, the NFL's last unsigned exclusive-rights free agent, signed in time to practice.
- Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck described the atmosphere under Carroll as "fun, fresh" and invigorating. At one point this offseason, Carroll asked Hasselbeck and No. 2 quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to find a receiver so they could work on various throws. The receivers had just finished running, however, so Hasselbeck didn't ask one of them to participate. The 58-year-old Carroll wound up running routes for both quarterbacks despite a bad knee. Hasselbeck said he sensed Carroll was trying to throw the balls back to the quarterbacks with more velocity than Hasselbeck or Whitehurst had shown -- an example of the coach's competitiveness.
- Hasselbeck also described an "old-school, new-school" feel. On the old-school side, linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. told the team Friday night that curfew was at 11 p.m. and the hotel where the team was staying would be turning off the in-room phones at that time. The 34-year-old Hasselbeck said he took the information in stride, but some younger players weren't sure what Norton was talking about. They had grown up with cell phones and had no use for hotel phones, anyway.
- Temperatures were in the 50s at practice and breezes off nearby Lake Washington added a chill to the air. Players said they were hoping for warmer weather this afternoon.
- Thomas and fellow first-round choice Russell Okung remained unsigned. Okung's absence made it tough to evaluate combinations on the offensive line. Ray Willis worked at left tackle with the starters. Mansfield Wrotto worked at left tackle with the second unit. They need Okung, in other words. They might also need Pitts, who is recovering from microfracture knee surgery.
- About 1,500 fans watched practice from a hill adjacent to the practice field.
- The Seahawks' roster lists Hill at 238 pounds and Lofa Tatupu at 250 pounds. Those are not official. Tatupu appeared trimmer to me. Hill appeared heavier.
- Cornerback Kennard Cox put a big hit on receiver Ben Obomanu.
- Defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, acquired from the Tennessee Titans, certainly looks the part. Seattle lists him at 6-5 and 320 pounds. Note: He left practice with a wrap on his left knee at one point. Not sure of the severity.
Carroll did not address reporters following the morning practice. The team practices again at 7 p.m. ET. I'll be heading to Arizona for a few days at Cardinals training camp beginning Sunday. The plan is to check back at Seahawks camp next week.