NFC West: Michael Robinson

Michael RobinsonAP Photo/Jeff RobersonThere were no tears when Michael Robinson met the media on Monday afternoon.
JERSEY CITY, N.J. – Seattle Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson might be the luckiest player here at Super Bowl XLVIII.

In mid-October he was a man without a team, facing retirement. Two months before that he was in the hospital, with a failing liver and kidneys.

But come Sunday he'll be on the MetLife Stadium turf, trying to lead his Seahawks to their first Super Bowl victory.

"[It's] very special to be here," Robinson said Monday. "It's what you've been dreaming about since you were 5 years old. You've gotta love it. But our goal was not just to get here, the goal was to win it."

The trouble started during training camp. Robinson missed the Seahawks' third preseason game with what the team called a virus at the time. He later revealed that he wound up in the hospital because of a bad reaction to prescription anti-inflammatory medicine.

"I didn't know that my kidneys were failing, my liver was failing," Robinson said. "I had no idea. I thought I was just getting a bug."

Robinson, who lost more than 30 pounds during his ordeal, returned for the Seahawks' final preseason game. But the team cut him before the start of the regular season, going with younger, cheaper options Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware at fullback.

[+] EnlargeMichael Robinson
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesThe emotional toll of the 2013 season caught up with Robinson after the NFC title game.
The Tennessee Titans brought Robinson in for a workout in early September. The New York Giants, who lost fullback Henry Hynoski to a season-ending shoulder injury, expressed interest but signed John Conner instead.

"I was gonna give myself a deadline probably of Week 10 or Week 11," Robinson said, "and then if I didn't get anybody biting, I was just gonna back out and call it a career."

Fortunately for him, the Seahawks' beat Robinson's deadline -- barely. Coleman and Ware both went down with injuries, and by that point Robinson had his weight back up and felt healthy again. Being cut by the team he had started for the previous three seasons had stung, but not enough to stop him from snapping up this second chance.

"I wrestled with it," Robinson said. "But it was easy when I looked at my relationship with the guys. That's why you play this game, and I feel like a big reason why we're here is because every man in that locker room thinks the same way. We all play because of the guy next to you."

Robinson re-signed with the Seahawks on Oct. 22, made his season debut six days later, in Week 8 against the St. Louis Rams, and picked up right where he left off -- as the lead blocker for Marshawn Lynch and a contributor on special teams.

Robinson, 30, was spotted crying after the Seahawks' victory over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and was asked about it on Monday.

"The tears coming down, man -- I've gotten a lot of questions about me crying," Robinson said. "I had a long year, man."

His head coach, Pete Carroll, was asked about it Monday.

"He is a big factor on our team, because we don't have that many older guys, and he kind of stands for the old guard a little bit," Carroll said. "You could see the emotion come out -- Mike, he's a guy that thought, 'Maybe I'll never get this chance again.' And then he comes back to play, and then he gets the chance to be in the Super Bowl. I totally get it, and respect it."

The Seahawks have just six players on their active roster age 30 or older. Robinson is one of them, and he takes his leadership role seriously, both on and off the field.

The ex-Penn State quarterback was willing to change positions to make it in the NFL and help his team. And he has made sure he's prepared for life after football, getting involved with a vending machine company and a debt consolidation business, in addition to a potential media career. (Check out "The Real Robinson Report," his online sports show.)

"As I talk to young guys in this league, [I say] I think you should treat every year at the end of the season like it's the end of your career," Robinson said. "Cause it could be."

Maybe the Seahawks are the lucky ones to have a player like Robinson in their huddle.

Five Seahawks under the radar

November, 24, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- The Seahawks have their share of limelight players who receive plenty of recognition nationally, like quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch, cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas.

Here are a few players who don't receive that type of praise but who have contributed to the 10-1 record:

Best rookie: Tight end Luke Willson was a steal as a late fifth-round pick. Few people had heard of the 6-5, 250-pound Canadian who played college ball at Rice -- another example of GM John Schneider's ability to find quality players other teams overlook.

Willson
Willson has 12 receptions for a 14.2-yard average per catch. The Seahawks knew he could catch and had good speed, but he has performed better as a blocker than most people expected.

He started two games when Zach Miller was out with a hamstring injury, but officially, Willson has started seven games because the Seahawks opened with a two-tight end set, showing their confidence in Willson.

He is an all-around athlete who played, hockey, soccer and baseball in high school, including a stint on the Canadian Junior National Team, along with football. But he also is a brainiac (typical of Rice grads) who had a 4.0 GPA.

Best new position: It's Bruce Irvin moving from defensive end to outside linebacker. After missing the first four games due to a PED suspension, Irvin stepped into his new spot and made an immediate impact with a sack in his first game back.

Irvin
Irvin's speed has enabled to do things at linebacker that he didn't do at defensive end, like intercepting a pass 30 yards downfield in the game at St. Louis.

Irvin has 28 tackles (20 solo), two sacks, five quarterback hurries and one forced fumble. Irvin loves playing linebacker and believes he can do more things without constantly taking on huge offensive tackles.

Most underrated player: This one will surprise you. I'm going with punter Jon Ryan, the other Canadian on the Seahawks. Ryan doesn't rank among the league leaders in yards per punt, which is a misleading stat in regard to a punter's value.

Ryan's success comes from how high he kicks the ball. Returners appear to wait forever for the ball to come down, so they don't get many opportunities to gain any yards after the catch.

Only 11 of his 44 punts have been returned. But here's the eye-popping numbers. The 11 returns totaled a measly 15 yards. And one of those was 10 yards, so the other 10 totaled only 5 yards.

Eighteen punts were downed inside the 20. Ryan completely shut down the best punt returner in the league -- Marcus Sherels -- last week against Minnesota. All Sherels could muster was three fair catches. On the other two Ryan punts, one was downed at the 7 and the other went out of bounds at the 20.

Ryan is a major field-position asset for the Seahawks.

Best offseason acquisition: Now this is a tough one because Seattle has three new players -- Cliff Avril, Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett -- who have made a big difference on the defensive front line, but I'll go with Bennett at defensive end.

Bennett
Bennett is tied with Avril for the team lead with 6 1/2 sacks, but he also has 16 quarterback hurries and 20 tackles.

Avril missed the first game of the season with an injury and feels like he's just starting to find his rhythm. He has three forced fumbles, including one on a sack in the Minnesota game.

But McDaniel also is a good pick from his defensive tackle spot. He has 44 tackles, including tying his season-high with seven against Minnesota when coach Pete Carroll singled him out as having his best game.

Honestly, I'm good with picking any of these three guys. They have dramatically improved the defensive front for Seattle, which was one of the team's top priorities after last season.

And, of course, I haven't even mentioned receiver Percy Harvin, who could win this category by the end of the season.

Best return: Some would say defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, whom I listed earlier this week as the most pleasant surprise on defense this season since he came back in Week 2 after being released at the end of preseason.

But my pick here is fullback Michael Robinson. He has helped throw some key blocks for Marshawn Lynch in the last three games, but maybe just as important is his leadership in the locker room and the respect he has from all his teammates.

As this young team heads toward a possible Super Bowl run, having a veteran leader like Robinson is a big asset to keep everyone pointing in the right direction.

2013 NFL age rankings at reduction to 53

September, 1, 2013
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The mandatory reduction to 53-man active rosters Saturday provides an opportunity to pass along average age ranks for NFL active rosters overall as well as for offense, defense and specialists.

The chart shows the Detroit Lions as the oldest team and the St. Louis Rams as the youngest. Where the Rams rank comes as no surprise if you've been following their building process in the NFC West recently.

The Seattle Seahawks rank among the younger teams overall. They have the youngest offensive players after releasing fullback Michael Robinson.

The rankings exclude players placed on various reserve lists (physically unable to perform, non-football injury, injured and suspended). Note also that rankings are based on ages calculated to the day, not rounded backward to the nearest birthday. A player born in January will be older than a player born in October of the same year, for example. I've taken into account the difference in making these calculations. Rounding backward to the nearest birthday shaves about a half-year off the average ages.

I've shaded the NFC West teams in the chart for easier reference.

While the Arizona Cardinals did part with older players such as Adrian Wilson, they still have veteran flavor with Yeremiah Bell, John Abraham, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Daryn Colledge, Larry Fitzgerald and the NFL's oldest specialists.

Seattle got younger by releasing Robinson and 36-year-old cornerback Antoine Winfield. No player on the active roster has had his 32nd birthday. By comparison, six San Francisco 49ers are at least 32 years old.

The 49ers parted with 36-year-old long snapper Brian Jennings, 33-year-old Kassim Osgood and 33-year-old Seneca Wallace. They also added some veteran players this offseason, including Anquan Boldin, Phil Dawson, Nnamdi Asomugha and Adam Snyder. Asomugha and 32-year-old Carlos Rogers help give the 49ers the NFL's oldest defensive backs by average age. We should expect the team to get younger there over the next year, possibly by using an early draft choice for a cornerback.

Note: I have not visited courthouses to pull birth records for NFL players. Neither have teams. As someone who has tracked dates of birth for NFL players since 2007, I know there are times when listed birth dates change or conflict with records listed elsewhere. I make efforts to verify the dates. The team rankings at the extremes are more valuable than the ones in the middle because there is very little difference in average age for some teams.

Robinson tweets goodbye to Seahawks

August, 30, 2013
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It appears Michael Robinson’s tenure as the starting fullback for the Seattle Seahawks has ended.

The Seahawks didn’t made any roster cut announcements Friday, but Robinson sent a tweet at around 5:30 p.m. PT:

 

Robinson is in his eighth NFL season, having spent four years in San Francisco before coming to Seattle in 2010. He is viewed as an excellent blocker who helped Marshawn Lynch to back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, including a career-best 1,590 yards in 2012.

But the Seahawks have two young fullbacks they like: rookie Spencer Ware and second-year player Derrick Coleman. Robinson was scheduled to make $2.5 million this season.

Robinson did not play in the final two preseason games because he was suffering from a virus. He was extremely popular with the Seahawks players and grew to become one of the leaders for a young and blossoming group of players that includes quarterback Russell Wilson and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who reacted on Twitter:

 

 

Robinson likely would be picked up by another organization, which could also be true of several cuts the Seahawks make.

What to watch for: Seahawks-Raiders

August, 29, 2013
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SEATTLE -- With one last warm-up before the regular season, here are four things to watch -- and one you won’t get to watch -- Thursday night in the Seattle Seahawks game against Oakland.

The Seahawks pass rush: Hopefully, there is one to watch. Oakland has one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. If Seattle can’t get to the quarterback in this game, it’s time to worry. And they’ll have to do with backups. Defensive ends Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril won’t play. Neither will defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Michael Bennett.

Clemons and Avril probably won’t play next weekend in the season opener at Carolina. So it is increasingly important to watch Benson Mayowa and O'Brien Schofield to see if they can continue to shine as pass-rushers. Ty Powell, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end, also will see some time as a down rusher.

Penalty flags: Just keeping the yellow flags under double figures and less than 100 yards would look decent at this point. The Seahawks haf 14 penalties for 182 yards last week in the 17-10 victory at Green Bay. Seattle has 354 yards on 34 penalties in the three preseason games.

“We just want to be really disciplined with our offense and make sure we’re not getting any penalties,’’ quarterback Russell Wilson said Tuesday. “That’s our No. 1 focus.”

Coach Pete Carroll has harped on this for the past two weeks.

“We have to show progress before we head into the opener in terms of getting out of our own way,” Carroll said. “We have to comply and we’re a little out of compliance. The guys know. They don’t want to play like that. They just have to make better decisions.”

Pass blocking: The Seahawks offensive line struggled to stop the blitzing Packers last week. That has to improve, along with cutting down on holding calls and false starts. James Carpenter finally will get back on the field at guard, which could help. This is a good line overall, especially in run blocking. But a better showing on pass plays needs to happen tonight.

Bubble boys: No team in the NFL has tougher roster cuts to make than the Seahawks. The depth on this team is extraordinary and the coaches have difficult decisions to make after this game.

Some players need to shine to earn a spot. Receiver Stephen Williams probably already has done so, but one more good game wouldn’t hurt. Rookie receiver Chris Harper needs to step up. Will the Seahawks keep three fullbacks -- Michael Robinson (who won’t play tonight) rookie Spencer Ware and Derrick Coleman?

The toughest cuts will come in the secondary, where some of the backups could start for many NFL teams. Cornerback Ron Parker needs a good game. So does Winston Guy and DeShawn Shead. The coaches really like rookie linebacker John Lotulelei, but is there room for him?

No Matt Flynn: Some Seattle fans probably were looking forward to seeing quarterback Matt Flynn play against his former Seahawks teammates, but Flynn will watch from the sideline because of a sore arm.

He's probably got a few other sore places considering he’s been sacked seven times in the preseason. Flynn hasn’t played well, so it’s possible he could lose out on the starting-job competition for the second consecutive year. Terrelle Pryor will start against Seattle. He’s much better at running and avoiding the rush than Flynn, which is important with the Raiders porous offensive line.
Eleven days before the season opener, injuries are starting to become a concern for the Seattle Seahawks.

Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril, the projected starters at the defensive end spots, probably won’t be ready for the opener at Carolina on Sept. 8. Starting fullback Michael Robinson, recovering from a virus, also may not play in the opener.

The Seahawks already know defensive end/linebacker Bruce Irvin won’t play the first four games because of a suspension, reportedly for PEDs.

Two other starters -- defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and receiver Sidney Rice -- won’t play Thursday night against Oakland in the final preseason game. Defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a possible starter at the 3-technique spot, also won’t play Thursday because of a groin pull.

Mebane suffered a groin injury in practice Monday. Coach Pete Carroll hopes Mebane and McDaniel will be ready for the opener.

Carroll said Rice will play in the opener, but had an unusual comment: “He’ll be ready unless there is a setback next week at practice again.”

A setback again? When was the first practice setback? Rice flew to Switzerland four weeks ago for a 20-minute platelet-enriched plasma treatment on his knee. But he later returned to practice and didn’t show any problems. He has not played in the preseason.

The biggest concern for the Seahawks is the defensive line. Defensive tackle Michael Bennett also won’t play Thursday because he having a procedure done on an injured toe. Carroll expects Bennett to play in the opener.

Rookie defensive tackle Jordan Hill is out with a shoulder injury and fellow rookie defensive tackle Jesse Williams is on injured reserve with a knee injury.

The Seahawks hoped to shore up their pass rush this season, but two key cogs are iffy in Clemons and Avril. Clemons, who led Seattle with 11.5 sacks last year, still is recovering from off-season ACL surgery.

“He’s making great progress,” Carroll said of Clemons. “We have a big decision to make there.”

The decision is whether to place Clemons on the reserve/ physically unable to perform (PUP) list or to place him on the 53-man roster. If Clemons goes to the PUP list, he can’t play until Week 6. Either way, it’s doubtful he plays in the opener.

Avril, Seattle’s top free-agent acquisition in the offseason for the defense, has a hamstring injury and hasn’t played in the preseason. His status for the opener is tentative at best.

“As of this morning he’s feeling better and we’re hoping he will be able to go next week,” Carroll said. “But we won’t know until we get there.”

Even if Avril does play, how effective will he be after missing so much time?

On the bright side, starting tight end Zach Miller will play Thursday and guard James Carpenter also will see action in the Oakland game.

“It’s necessary for him to get out there and play again,'’ Carroll said of Carpenter. “He was really making some progress and missed a couple of weeks here, so it will be great to get him out.”

But the injury problems, especially on the defensive line, are worrisome. The Seahawks may have to rely on two players who weren’t part of the picture a month ago -- free agent defensive ends Benson Mayowa and O'Brien Schofield.

Both have looked good in the preseason, especially Mayowa, an undrafted rookie from Idaho. He has 2.5 sacks and 10 total tackles in three preseason games. Schofield, who played for the Arizona Cardinals the previous three seasons, has a sack, force fumble and fumble recovery in the preseason.

If needed, starting defensive end Red Bryant can move inside and play tackle. Bryant has seen quite a bit of action inside during the preseason.
RENTON, Wash. -- Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said defensive end Cliff Avril will not play Thursday against Oakland in the final preseason game, and Carroll doesn’t know if Avril will be ready for the season opener against Carolina.

Avril
Avril was one of Seattle's top off-season acquisitions and a free agent from Detroit who was viewed as a player that could help improve the Seahawks' pass rush. But he aggravated a hamstring injury last week and has not played in the preseason.

“That was a whole week ago, way back when,” Carroll said after practice Monday. “That’s why he isn’t practicing. We don’t know if he’s going to be ready [for the opener].”

Starting defensive tackle Brandon Mebane suffered a groin injury in practice Monday, but Carroll didn’t know if Mebane will miss any practice time.

Tight end Zach Miller was back practicing full speed and said he wants to play Thursday, but Carroll is being cautious.

“Zach is ready to go and could play this weekend,’’ Carroll said. “He wants to play, but we’ve been shooting for the opener all along.”

Starting fullback Michael Robinson continues to miss practice with an unspecified illness.

“He’s better, but he was really sick,” Carroll said of Robinson. “There still are some concerns with whatever he’s got. I don’t know a lot about it.”

Defensive end Chris Clemons, who had ACL surgery in the off-season, continues to rehab his knee, but when he’ll return to the field isn’t known.

“Chris had a terrific workout for 40 straight minutes [Sunday],” Carroll said. “He’s making great progress. He feels really good and he’s not favoring the knee, but I don’t know how many games or how many weeks away he is.”

Guard James Carpenter returned to practice Monday after being out with a foot injury. If Carpenter is healthy, he could get in the mix for one of the starting spots at guard.

Camp Confidential: Seattle Seahawks

July, 30, 2013
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RENTON, Wash. -- This training camp marks the Seattle Seahawks' first since 2009 without some form of a starting quarterback competition. So comfortable, mature and in command is Russell Wilson this summer that you'd swear he's been the starter for a decade.

It's sometimes as though Wilson is 24 years old going on 42.

Wilson naturally took the driver's seat in the van Seattle players used when shuttling to the offseason practices Wilson organized in Los Angeles. While teammates joked around in the back like kids on a field trip, Wilson was their chaperone.

Asked during this camp what he knew of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick from their time together shooting a commercial and appearing at the ESPYS, Wilson, nearly 13 months Kaepernick's junior, described his rival as someone who loves football and is a good person to be around.

"Great kid," Wilson added.

Reporters can forget about prying a colorful quote from the player teammates have nicknamed "the robot" for his methodical approach to the job. Wilson has been known to favor coachspeak even inside Seattle's quarterback meeting room.

"We joke around all the time," backup Brady Quinn said. "There are some times when he'll state the obvious. We try to make sure he realizes that is a given. Like, for example, 'Hey man, guys gotta stay healthy this year.' Well, yeah. They always need to stay healthy. That's a big part of a team doing well, people not getting hurt. Times like that, you've gotta keep him on his toes, make him laugh a little bit, give him a hard time."

One year after Wilson won a three-way competition against Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson, the player receiver Sidney Rice sometimes calls "the president" is running unopposed at this Seahawks camp.

"He's a champion when he steps out there on that field, even in practice," Rice said. "I’ve seen him run, I believe, 80 yards on one play on a scramble to try to get away and get us a first down. He is going to do whatever it takes. You have seen him running down the sideline blocking for Marshawn [Lynch] numerous times. That is the kind of guy you want leading your team."

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargePercy Harvin
AP Photo/Ted S. WarrenThe Vikings aren't sure what to expect from their former receiver, Percy Harvin, who is expected to be in Seattle's lineup on Sunday.
1. Percy Harvin's health. The Seahawks were already a good team before they acquired Harvin. They became a popular pick for the Super Bowl once the versatile receiver and return specialist joined their roster in March. Now, with Harvin seeking a second opinion that could lead to season-altering surgery on his sore hip, those projections seem a little more tenuous.

How Harvin will proceed from here is not clear. His sometimes rocky past in Minnesota invites questions and fuels his critics. Is he smartly erring on the side of caution, as coach Pete Carroll seemed to suggest in initial remarks about the injury? Or, is this another one of those tough-to-explain Harvin plot twists like the ones that seemed to pop up regularly during his Minnesota tenure? With Harvin set to seek that second opinion Tuesday, Carroll noted that safety Kam Chancellor played through a similar injury last season. Was he saying Harvin should do the same?

"Guys around here trust [Harvin] and believe in him," Rice said. "It's nothing like coming out here and taking days off and doing his own thing. I don’t think he’s that type of person. You get that perception from people that don’t really know what's going on, and they just hear stuff and they just create their own [impression]."

Harvin is, by all accounts, plenty tough and competitive. If this is an injury Harvin can manage, it appears he'll do so on his terms, not on the Seahawks' terms. That surely wouldn't surprise the Vikings, even though Rice, himself an ex-Viking, said his teammate is misunderstood.

2. Bruce Irvin's position. There has been some confusion, at least on my end, regarding the role Seattle envisions for 2012 first-round draft choice Irvin. The team drafted Irvin with plans to use him initially as a situational pass-rusher, and later as the successor to Chris Clemons in the "Leo" position as a stand-up rusher in Carroll's defense.

Irvin collected eight sacks as a rookie in the situational role, as planned. He'll continue to play that role within the nickel defense while adding responsibilities as an outside linebacker in base packages. It's not so much that Irvin will be playing the strong side or weak side. Rather, he'll be one of two outside linebackers positioned on the line of scrimmage in what will look like a 3-4 scheme. He'll be asked to set the edge in the running game, rush the passer, match up man-to-man or cover the flat.

First, though, Irvin will have to serve a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

3. Depth on the offensive line. The Seahawks drafted offensive lineman James Carpenter 25th overall in 2011 when they could have taken a quarterback such as Andy Dalton or Kaepernick. Finding Wilson a year later absolved the team from second-guessing on the quarterback front, but the Carpenter selection was still looking like a regrettable one heading into this camp. Injuries were threatening Carpenter's career, and he wasn't exactly dominant even when healthy in his rookie season.

Perceptions are beginning to change after Carpenter reported to camp in good enough shape to participate fully from the beginning. I noticed Carpenter running from one drill to the next when he could have jogged. It seemed like evidence Carpenter was feeling good and was eager to salvage his career. He's been working with the starting unit at left guard between Pro Bowlers Russell Okung and Max Unger. Adding a healthy Carpenter to the mix would upgrade the line's longer-term prospects.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

Seattle has one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, best running backs and best defenses. That's a winning combination just about every time. Last season, Wilson struggled through his first few games while hamstrung by remedial game plans. He did not start to hit his stride until Week 8 at Detroit. Wilson did not break out all the way until leading 97- and 80-yard touchdown drives to win at Chicago in Week 13. That's the quarterback Seattle will have behind center from the beginning this season. That is why the Seahawks like their chances.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

Potential depth issues at tight end, offensive tackle, weakside linebacker and defensive end (for now, while Clemons rehabs and Irvin faces a suspension) probably aren't serious enough to send the Seahawks plummeting into mediocrity. However, the margin for error within the NFC West figures to be small. Harvin, at his best, was supposed to put Seattle over the top. Now, the Seahawks can't be sure they'll have him for the regular season.

OBSERVATION DECK
    [+] EnlargeRed Bryant
    Steven Bisig/USA TODAY SportsRed Bryant, who had treatment for sleep apnea this offseason, says he has better stamina in practices.
  • Defensive end Red Bryant appears more comfortable, for good reason. Bryant had treatment for sleep apnea this offseason after former trainer Sam Ramsden, now the Seahawks' director of player health and performance, recommended testing for larger players. Bryant, who wears a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask when he sleeps, says he's feeling refreshed and has better stamina later in practices. This is a pivotal season for Bryant, who struggled with a foot injury last season after signing a $35 million extension. At Carroll's suggestion, Bryant has recommitted to his identity as a dominant run-stuffer after feeling pressure to improve as a pass-rusher upon signing his new contract.
  • Rookie fourth-round receiver Chris Harper didn't seem to be a factor in the first couple days of camp. The first time I really noticed him was when he caught a touchdown pass on the third day of practice. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was also the first day this summer that the Seahawks practiced in pads. Harper, oddly proportioned for a receiver at 6-foot-1 and 234 pounds, relishes the physical part of the game. Some young receivers flourish in shorts and struggle in pads. Harper might have it the other way around.
  • The Seahawks claimed off waivers former Arizona Cardinals outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield despite a $1.3 million salary and a history of injuries. Seattle had a middle-rounds grade on Schofield entering the 2010 draft even though Schofield was rehabbing from a torn ACL suffered in Senior Bowl practices. The Cardinals used a fourth-round pick on Schofield just ahead of the range where Seattle was considering taking him. The Seahawks are continually looking for "Leo" defensive ends in the 6-3 and 245-pound mold. Schofield, 26, fits the profile and has a chance to earn playing time in a rotational capacity while Clemons recovers from knee surgery and Irvin serves a suspension.
  • Irvin's speed showed up in practice when he chased down rookie running back Christine Michael to force a fumble some 40 yards past the line of scrimmage. Michael ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds at the combine. He has appeared to be one of the more explosive players in camp. Irvin caught him despite outweighing Michael by about 25 pounds, 245 to 220. Raw speed isn't the question for Irvin. He has plenty. The question is whether he can handle some of the coverage and run-stopping responsibilities associated with his evolving role.
  • Remember those offseason stories about Lynch skipping chunks of the voluntary offseason conditioning program? They're pretty much irrelevant now, as anticipated.
  • Nothing has changed the perception that Jackson will beat out Quinn for the No. 2 job behind Wilson. Trading Jackson a year ago was tough in some respects because Jackson was so popular among teammates. I see no reason for the Seahawks to make the same decision again unless Quinn vastly outplays Jackson.
  • Between the practice field and the locker room sits a cart with a laptop connected to a sensor atop a stand. The setup from GPSports allows teams to monitor player performance in real time. Team owner Paul Allen's other professional Seattle sports team, Sounders FC, has used the technology. The GPSports website says systems include a GPS, accelerometer, magnetometer, heart rate sensor and a wireless transmitter. The company says its product can "accurately measure distance, speed, acceleration, heart rate, bodyload and impacts all in real time."
  • Former Cardinals receiver Stephen Williams is doing what he sometimes did while with Arizona: impressing during camp by making spectacular leaping catches. Williams has the talent, but he has been unable to make it transfer to the regular season. Working with a top NFL quarterback cannot hurt. Williams arrived in Arizona the year after Kurt Warner retired.
  • Linebacker K.J. Wright has stood out in past camps, but not so much in this one, except for the big hit he delivered on rookie fullback Spencer Ware.
  • Speaking of Ware, he has some work to do before making veteran fullback Michael Robinson expendable, at least from early indications. The offense didn't look the same or as good with Robinson and tight end Zach Miller sitting out. Robinson and Lynch have a special feel for one another. Ware, more of a halfback type for most of his college career, has dropped a few passes and is still adjusting to the physical nature of the position.
  • The offseason buzz about rookie Jesse Williams possibly starting at defensive tackle seems to have subsided for the time being. Veteran Tony McDaniel and 2012 fourth-rounder Jaye Howard have stood out more.
  • Is that really assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable? He has dropped a significant amount of weight since having back surgery, and he said after one practice, "You can’t imagine how nothing hurts on me. It’s awesome."
  • Richard Sherman, although sometimes combative when facing receivers, projects unfiltered joy other times. He is the player most likely to groove along to the music Carroll plays at practice. Sherman thrilled the crowd during one practice when he picked off a pass and lateraled to Earl Thomas during the return. Football is fun to Sherman, and it shows.
  • There aren't many open passing lanes in practice against the Seattle defense. This team is stacked at cornerback. If this keeps up in preseason, and there's enough depth that it should, Seattle could be in position to trade one of its backups.
Much thanks to @groomoo for delicately suggesting we take a more detailed look at the recently published average ages for projected NFL starters.

He wanted to see actual average ages, not just rankings. The information can be difficult to absorb across multiple columns, so we'll break out offenses and defenses separately. The chart shows average ages for projected offensive starters, subject to change during training camps and the preseason.

A few thoughts on the numbers for NFC West teams:
  • Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals are the only team in the division with an older starting quarterback. Carson Palmer is the fourth-oldest projected starting quarterback behind Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees. Top quarterbacks endure. One question with Palmer is to what degree serious injuries have affected him. Arizona's projected starting offensive line comes in just under the league average for age, with guard Daryn Colledge the only starter in his 30s. Jonathan Cooper and Bobby Massie are not yet 24. At receiver, Larry Fitzgerald will be turning 30, but that's OK. He's in his prime. And with Michael Floyd in the lineup with him, Arizona comes in just under the NFL average for age at the position.
  • San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers had the NFL's youngest starting offense in Week 1 of the 2010 season at 25.27 years old on average. Six of the starters from that 2010 opener remain starters for the team. The list includes Michael Crabtree, Frank Gore, Joe Staley, Mike Iupati, Vernon Davis and Anthony Davis. The 49ers' offensive starters now rank ninth at 27.95 years old, with much of the increase attributed simply to the passage of time. The average will fall once the 49ers move on from Gore, Anquan Boldin and Jonathan Goodwin.
  • St. Louis Rams: Only the 49ers' 2010 offensive starters were younger than their Rams counterparts. Sam Bradford and Rodger Saffold are the only starters from that 2010 opener still in the lineup for St. Louis. The current Rams would have the NFL's youngest projected offensive starters by far if they didn't have the third-oldest starting offensive line. We should expect the Rams to draft and/or sign a younger starting offensive linemen next offseason. Most of the other young pieces are in place.
  • Seattle Seahawks: Michael Robinson's presence in the lineup at fullback gives Seattle the fourth-oldest starting running backs on average. It's a young man's game, especially at running back. But with quite a few teams going without fullbacks at all, the Seahawks' average at the position is inflated some. Still, the Seahawks drafted two running backs this year, one of them a potential fullback, with an eye toward the future. Robinson and potential starting guard Paul McQuistan, both 30, are the only projected starters older than 27. Top receiver Percy Harvin turns 25 this month. Quarterback Russell Wilson won't be 25 until Nov. 29.
The rookie wage scale and overall salary structure should increasingly make the NFL a young man's game, all else equal.

Youth will be served during rookie minicamps beginning Friday, for sure.

With that in mind, I've gone through NFC West rosters singling out for special recognition players age 30 and older (or turning 30 before regular-season openers). There are 29 such players in the division by my count, including longtime NFC West stars Frank Gore (turns 30 next week) and Larry Fitzgerald (turns 30 in August). Twenty of them play for the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers.

A team-by-team look at NFC West elders, with ages rounded to the tenth of a year:
The chart provides a team and positional look at these players. I'm expecting the Rams to have the youngest roster in the NFL this season.

Update: Add Karlos Dansby to the list for the Cardinals. The 31-year-old linebacker has agreed to terms with Arizona, the team announced.

Sometimes it takes a few years to fully assess an NFL draft class' impact. Imperiled veterans can't afford to wait that long.

Among the NFC West veterans on alert as 2013 rookies arrive for minicamps Friday:
Quarterback Russell Wilson waited until the third round before the NFL called his name during the 2012 draft.

Wilson will make an appearance much earlier in the 2013 version. The Seattle Seahawks' Pro Bowl passer will appear in and voice the draft's on-air opening tease when ESPN's coverage begins Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.

This will give Seahawks fans reason to pay closer attention during a first round in which their team holds zero picks.

Seattle fans also might want to check out Wilson and several teammates during their recent practice sessions in the Los Angeles area. Fullback Michael Robinson shot the video for his "Real Rob Report" show. I thought the highlight was watching Wilson drive what amounted to the team bus while teammates cut up in the back.
Anthony Sherman has played 28 games with 11 starts in two seasons as the Arizona Cardinals' fullback.

The 2011 fifth-round choice should be on notice following Bruce Arians' recent hiring as head coach.

"I have not been a fullback guy, never have been," Arians said during the NFL owners meeting last week.



Arians prefers tight ends to fullbacks for the versatility they can provide.

"If you're a defensive coordinator and I send in a fullback and take out a tight end, I'm going to get your best call for that," Arians explained. "If I've got two tight ends, you don't know if one of them is going to play the fullback or one of them is going to be split out wide. You are going to be in that down-and-distance call. You don’t have a specific call."

The Cardinals' former leadership valued Sherman as a lead blocker and for his contributions on special teams. Arians was addressing fullbacks in general, not Sherman in particular. But if he views Sherman as an old-school blocking back with little else to offer, that would be bad for Sherman's prospects.

"If here comes the fullback, let’s get eight in the box," Arians said of a defensive coordinator's mentality. "The more flexible tight ends can be, one of them playing fullback, one of them being a threat as a receiver, the other being the dual in-line backfield blocker, the more pressure you can put on the defense."

That doesn't necessarily mean Sherman is doomed in Arizona. The Indianapolis Colts' offense made at least some room for a fullback with Arians as its coordinator last season. Robert Hughes, signed in October, played 28 snaps. But it wasn't an ability to play fullback that appealed to Arians.

"I see him more as a running back who can play fullback and gives us good quality depth," Arians said last season. "Big, power back and I didn’t really know he could do this job. He’s found a nice niche for himself. He’s got great hands. Again, he brings another receiver with some speed on the field. He's not a traditional thud fullback."

Sherman has one carry and eight receptions while playing about 22 percent of the offensive snaps over the past two seasons.
A few notes on the changing landscape at tight end for NFC West teams on this second day of NFL free agency in 2013:
  • Jared Cook's addition to the St. Louis Rams gives the team two tight ends drafted in the first three rounds. Lance Kendricks is the other. Both are 25 years old. The NFL has 11 other tight ends drafted that early and younger than 26. The list includes Arizona's Rob Housler. The group averaged 50 receptions for 573 yards and five touchdowns in 2012. Kendricks and Cook were just under those averages.
  • Delanie Walker's departure from the San Francisco 49ers did not happen in a vacuum. When the 49ers decided against naming Walker their franchise player, Walker became available to the Tennessee Titans. The Titans had an opening after Cook left Tennessee for the Rams.
  • Walker was one of five NFC West tight ends to play at least half of his team's offensive snaps last season. Vernon Davis (91.3 percent), Zach Miller (83.7), Kendricks (80.7) and Housler (61.7) were the others.
  • Housler led NFC West tight ends in receptions with 45 last season. However, the Cardinals were the only team in the NFL with no touchdowns from tight ends. The Rams and Seahawks got 11 touchdowns from tight ends in 2012 after getting zero from the position in 2010. The 49ers got eight touchdowns from tight ends in 2012.
  • Thanks to video producer Fran Duffy for passing along a link to Greg Cosell's breakdown on Cook and other free-agent tight ends this offseason. Cook has outstanding speed for the position. Walker's departure from the NFC West and Cook's addition to the Rams combine to give St. Louis the most dynamic set of receiving tight ends in the division, a major shift from the recent past.
  • Cosell's breakdown also differentiates Cook and other fleet tight ends from the less dynamic Brandon Myers, who caught 79 passes for Oakland last season. Myers caught my attention for his ties to Seattle Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable. The two were together on the Raiders. Seattle could use a second tight end, in my view, but with Percy Harvin joining the offense, might the Seahawks be more apt to use three wideouts than two tight ends? Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate would seemingly need to play extensively along with Marshawn Lynch and Miller. Oh, and let's not forget about fullback Michael Robinson, who has had a good thing going with Lynch over the past couple seasons.
Seattle Seahawks fans might be interested in hearing fullback Michael Robinson's thoughts on newly-acquired wide receiver Percy Harvin.

Robinson spoke with Linda Cohn, who noted Seahawks coach Pete Carroll's attachment to Harvin dating to college recruiting attempts at USC. Robinson used the term "street cred" to describe the respect Harvin commands from other players in the NFL.

Here is that audio .

By the way, Robinson paid his respects to the San Francisco 49ers when asked whether Seattle is the division favorite after adding Harvin.

"Being that the Niners have won it the previous two years, I think the favorite would still probably be the Niners," Robinson said. "But I think the whole NFC and the entire league understands that the NFC teams, you have to go through the NFC West if you want to go to the Super Bowl.

"Our goal as an organization is to own the NFC West. That way we can host playoff games. We are still working toward that goal. Again, San Francisco has dominated the last two years and we look forward to challenging them."

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