Day 7 of Mini Camp
By Mike Kahn
Now at least we have a feel for the 2007 version of the Seattle Seahawks, a team that has become deeper, more experienced and focused on earning their fourth consecutive NFC West title.
With seven days of mini-camp in the books, it left coach Mike Holmgren pleased with what has happened to the defensive unit and wanting to test the depth on the offensive line – particularly the right side.
He singled out veteran free agent safeties Deon Grant and Brian Russell, and can’t wait for a full-blown competition with incumbents still recovering from surgery Michael Boulware, Mike Green and Jordan Babineaux. Holmgren said there is an outside shot that Green will participate in the June mini-camps, but not the others. Free agent defensive end Patrick Kerney is also recovering from surgery – to a pectoral muscle – and is questionable for June. But he will absolutely be at 100 percent for training camp at the end of July.
“Our free agents that we signed, I think it is going to work just fine,” Holmgren said. “Our safety position, we have a number of quality athletes there. These two (Grant and Russell) had a chance to play a lot. We signed them to come in and play. We know we needed improvement in that area. But at the same time, you got Boulware and (Mike) Green coming off injuries who are good football players. Babineaux is going to get some work at safety. It is a good group. Kerney is going to be a fine addition. The motor he has and how he plays the game is infectious. That will help us a lot. Our free agents, I am pleased so far.”
Holmgren said center Chris Spencer’s surgically repaired shoulder didn’t turn up with any issues, so they are hopeful a different strengthening approach will assure that he’ll be ready for training camp as well. Chris Gray stepped in and did well, but he will be 37 and hasn’t played center for seven years. Nonetheless, Holmgren is optimistic with Spencer and second-year left guard Rob Sims next to Walter Jones. But he made it clear he is leaving the book open on the right side of the line to create a lot of competition – encouraged by the unusual prospect of 6-6, 335-pound, third-year tackle Ray Willis competing at right guard.
And that surprisingly included Sean Locklear, although he insisted it wasn’t an indictment of the young right tackle who has started the past two seasons. So there is Willis at right guard or tackle, Gray at right guard, Floyd Womack at right guard and Tom Ashworth at right tackle. Holmgren added he was not inclined to try Locklear at right guard.
“I can honestly say Walter Jones will start at left tackle,” Holmgren said. “Then the rest of it we will wait and see. But I think (Rob) Sims and (Chris) Spencer are OK. I think Chris (Spencer) will be fine. We are getting good reports about Chris Spencer. Then the right side of our line, we will let them battle it out a little bit. We will let the whole right side battle it out a little bit.
“We are not changing the stripes on the ball here, we are just looking at some things on the right side.”
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw the ball fine, but did not get involved in drills that involved any contact or handoffs. They were too leery of him doing anything that could damage the left shoulder that underwent surgery as well. He’s hopeful to participate full go in June, and will be mainstreamed in the strength and conditioning program with the rest of the team for the first time on Monday.
“He did more than was expected maybe a couple months ago,” Holmgren said. “But as he has been going on his rehab he has really done well. The only thing we really didn’t want him to do is hand the ball off with his left hand and get hit. But we were even more conservative than that because he didn’t do any team at all. He is ahead of schedule. He is going to be fine.”
Meanwhile, it provided Seneca Wallace and David Green plenty of reps in the full team drills, as the receivers continued to bond in the offense.
“This was a great camp for me in terms of where I was coming in and where I am coming out,” Hasselbeck said. “I feel so much better throwing the ball. This is the first change of direction stuff that I have done this offseason. It is the first time really that I have done anything with my body other than my left arm. It was a good camp for me. I am looking forward to June 4 when we come back in June and hopefully I can be much better throwing the ball and also more involved.
“I am able to learn a lot just watching (the receivers) on film and also just from watching Seneca and David throw to those guys. But they are playing new positions, as we know Deion (Branch) is strong side and Nate (Burleson) and (DJ) Hackett are weak side. Bobby (Engram) is kind of unchanged. Bobby is Bobby. So that is comforting. I think those guys are going to have a good year.”
In fact, they are all anticipating having a much healthier fortuitous season than a year ago, despite prognosticators making such a big deal about the improvements made by the San Francisco 49ers and Arizona Cardinals.
“Every year you have to give it your best,” Hasselbeck said. “We don’t get overly concerned with other teams. We try to worry more about ourselves. It is going to be tougher than it was last year and we know that. We are going to play that much better.”
This and That
Holmgren bristled when asked about the condition of running back Shaun Alexander’s foot. The crack kept him out of six games last season, but when it was considered healed, he returned and played in the final seven regular season games and ran great in the playoffs. A misleading report came out of Monday’s practice when Alexander described what was going on.
“He is not going to have it looked at,” Holmgren said. “No one is going to have it looked at. I haven’t looked at it, he hasn’t looked at it … no one has looked at it. I don’t know why he said what he said. I don’t know why whoever wrote it, wrote it. I just don’t get it, but he is fine. We x-rayed it after the season was over, how long has it been? You saw him running out here, he is running all over the place. That is a non-story. Honest to goodness. There is nothing wrong with Shaun Alexander.”
Several ex-players were around this past week, including Brock Huard, Terry Wooden, Warren Moon and Robbie Tobeck. Tobeck, who retired in January, looks like he’s down 50 pounds from his playing wait of 295, is a partner in an insurance agency and will do some radio for the Seahawks as well. When asked if he had goaded Tobeck about coming back when the news broke that Spencer was getting his shoulder looked at again, Hasselbeck said: “We had a conversation … ‘Just keep your cell phone on just in case.’ But he is done. He is done. You can tell he has no interest. He doesn’t even like to talk about football anymore. He is not our insurance plan. He has checked out I am sure.” … Hasselbeck and his brother Tim will be on a billboard in Times Square holding a photo of their father Don, who played in the league for 11 years promoting a father and son contest for the NFL. … The next mini-camps are June 4-7 and 11-14. In the meantime, the off-season workout program will continue.