The Seahawks cranked up the intensity in Mora’s first voluntary minicamp for veterans. Even though the team was not suited up and was dressed only in helmets, jerseys and shorts, practice was physical, with the defense flying around the pile, slapping at the ball and occasionally delivering a blow at the end of some plays.
“I love it,” said wide receiver Logan Payne, himself spun around on a catch down the middle by linebacker Will Herring. “I live for it. And this is only the first day. It’s good. I think this is the way you have to play football. It’s high energy.”
The usually energetic Mora was surprisingly subdued during the hour-and-a-half session, taking a big-picture approach while new coaches such as defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, defensive line coach Dan Quinn and receivers coach Robert Prince got after the players, using a hands-on approach.
“I try to get around and get to every drill, make my presence felt with every player,” said Mora, who had his first veteran camp with Atlanta, his first NFL head-coaching job, five years ago to the day. “As I get more comfortable, though, I’ll probably get more loud.”
Mora started his 2009 campaign without the services of linebacker Leroy Hill. As the designated franchise player, he was tendered an $8.3 million offer. Meanwhile, Hill and agent Todd France are in negotiations with Seattle on a long-term deal. The 26-year-old would have to sign the franchise tender or a waiver to attend the voluntary camp. He chose not to attend.
Mora said there’s no animosity between Hill and the Seahawks.
“I did not expect him to be (here),” Mora said. “We would like him to be here. We would like him to be getting this work. It’s hard to ever duplicate the things we’re doing here, the first steps of the process. But that’s a business decision he made, and I respect that.”
Mora said he’s been in contact with Hill and the linebacker has shown his face around the practice facility.
France, Hill’s agent, did not return calls seeking comment.
Along with Hill, 11 other players did not participate, including Walter Jones (knee), Mike Wahle (shoulder) and Patrick Kerney (shoulder), who all finished last season on the injured list. Mora said he’s bringing those veterans along slowly, with no need to risk further injury this early in the offseason.
New defensive lineman Cory Redding and wide receiver Deion Branch also did not participate in practice. Mora said Branch had cleanup surgery on his surgically repaired right knee; he likely will not participate in the three-day camp.
The anticipated return of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck came off without a hiccup. The 33-year-old signal-caller moved well in his drops and footwork, and said he’s 100 percent healthy after missing nine games last season because of a bulging disk in his back.
Hasselbeck reiterated his earlier thoughts about Seattle selecting a quarterback with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft.
“It’s always been a joke for me,” Hasselbeck said. “I don’t feel good about first-rounders, not meaning guys on my own team, but when (Trent) Dilfer was here, when I played with Rick Mirer … because I was a sixth-round pick I d
on’t watch the draft on Saturday. I watch the draft on Sunday.
“It’s never been that big of a deal to me, but my advice to myself, I guess, would be what I would tell – what I have told – teammates: don’t worry about that. Just worry about you, and worry about how you can help the team get better, and everything takes care of itself. Mel Kiper, when I was picked with pick 187, I think his exact words were something like, ‘That’s a waste of a pick,’ at 187! So, whatever.”
Hasselbeck’s newest target, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle’s $40 million free-agent pickup looked comfortable with his new team, wearing his traditional No. 84 after Bobby Engram signed with Kansas City.
“It’s been a little different,” Houshmandzadeh said about playing with a new team after spending his first eight years in the NFL with the Bengals. “I catch myself always bringing up things we did in Cincinnati, and I got to kind of slap myself, so to speak, because I know people are tired of hearing that. It’s a little different, but over time it will go away.”