Renton – T.J. Houshmandzadeh can now emerge from the shadow of his more talkative sidekick in Cincinnati, Chad Johnson.
Although if you ask the Seattle Seahawks’ newest weapon – introduced to Seattle-area reporters for the first time Tuesday – that happened way before his arrival in Seattle.
“Tell the video people here to get you the tape of our last couple years and you’ll see who was getting the majority of the double teams,” said Houshman-dzadeh, when asked about playing with his former teammate, which dates back to their time at Oregon State. “You’ll see who was really the focal point.
“I’m not going to discredit his ability to play football because, to me, Chad is one of the best receivers in the league. But I think I can play, too. So he got his fair share of double teams, and so did I. And I know I’m going to be successful, and I know he will be, too.”
Said like the true No. 1 receiver Seattle hopes Houshmandzadeh will be. It’s why team president Tim Ruskell and coach Jim Mora put on a full-court press to secure the services of the 31-year-old Southern California native.
Then they nervously waited when Houshmandzadeh took his trip to Minnesota, where the Vikings worked overtime to convince the top receiver in free agency that Minnesota was a better fit.
Ultimately, Houshmandzadeh believed all along Seattle was the best place to continue his career.
“It was just a comfort level, to be honest with you,” Houshmandzadeh said. “It’s hard to say what put it over the top or why. But if you look at the team, they’ve got a good team. If you look at the quarterback, who’s going to affect me a lot, they’ve got a good quarterback. And my kids and my wife, they liked Coach Mora from the onset.”
The contract, reportedly the most offered by any team at five years, $40 million – including $15 million guaranteed – didn’t hurt.
Then there was the matter of Houshmandzadeh getting his watch back.
Mora said that just before Housh-mandzadeh left for his trip to Minnesota, Mora made an unusual request.
“He had this beautiful watch on, and we were talking to him about making a trip to Minnesota,” said Mora, pointing to Houshmandzadeh’s sparkling watch. “And I said, ‘You know what, I respect you as a man and I think you should honor your commitment to going to Minnesota, but before you go you need to take that watch off and leave it as collateral.’ ”
Laughter followed from the crowd, but Mora was serious.
And Houshmandzadeh didn’t hesitate.
“I didn’t think about it,” he said. “I just took it off.”
Houshmandzadeh said he got the watch back about 20 minutes before the press conference.
Said Mora: “Had he chose to go to Minnesota, I certainly would have gladly mailed it to him. But I’m glad he was able to come back and pick it up in person.”
At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, the Seahawks expect Houshmandzadeh to wreak havoc on defenses, similar to the way big receivers such as Anquan Boldin and Terrell Owens created trouble for Seattle’s defense.
“We know that he’s been a highly productive player who’s reliable and outstanding (producing first downs),” Mora said. “Like I said, a physical presence on the field who’s a willing blocker, and we’ll ask our receivers to do some of that.
“But we’ll use him each week in a way we feel is best to win that game. And we won’t put any parameters on it. We’ll just be as creative as we can.”
Houshmandzadeh held up a jersey with the No. 18, the same number he wore at Oregon State, and not the No. 84 he wore while with Cincinnati. The Seahawks’ current No. 84, Bobby Engram, is an unrestricted free agent, and took a trip to visit the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday. But Ruskell did not rule out bringing Engram back. Seattle’s former No. 18, Koren Robinson, is an unrestricted free agent and unsure where he will land next season.
With Houshmandzadeh in the fold, Seattle boasts a talented possession receiver along with Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and tight end John Carslon – a group Houshmandzadeh called the best in the league if they stay healthy because of their versatility.
So which of the two receivers will start come September?
“The best two,” Houshmandzadeh quickly answered.
No doubt, Seattle’s newest receiver will be on the field when the opening whistle blows for Seattle.