Nate Burleson is running pass patterns again, effortlessly, like a gazelle

nate_burlesonNate Burleson is running pass patterns again, effortlessly, like a gazelle. He’s catching almost every ball thrown near him, like he’s a touchdown leader again.

Heck, he’s even lining up as a scout-team defensive back, giving fellow Seahawks wide receivers someone to run against during offseason practices.

Hey, did this guy really have reconstructive knee surgery eight months ago?

“I feel like I always have, like I’m the same player,” Seattle’s forgotten game-breaker said with a big grin this week.

He had just finished three days of organized drills on the field with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, the new coaching staff and every other Seahawk relieved Burleson is back.

A month ago, Burleson hesitated when asked if he’d be ready for training camp in late July.


“If they are pushing me out there right now, I guarantee I will be out there for training camp,” he said, chuckling.

Burleson, a seven-year veteran from Seattle’s O’Dea High School by way of the University of Nevada and, until 2006, the Minnesota Vikings, said this week of practices has eased his mind. But he still wasn’t full-go. The Seahawks kept him restricted to position drills. He watched from behind the huddle during team scrimmages.

Then again, they don’t need him joining newly signed T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch, another wide receiver recovering from two knee surgeries in the last 15 months, until the opener against St. Louis. That’s four months away.

“Of course, I’m not going to be 100 percent yet,” Burleson said, wearing a black brace over the knee. “The last couple of days, I’ve got to be honest, there was some doubt in my mind, but right now I don’t feel my knee hurting. This week has proved to me the rehab is working.”

Working as well as Dr. James Andrews has ever seen.

Andrews is the Birmingham, Ala.-based guru of major reconstructive surgeries on professional athletes who recently told Burleson he’s amazed at his recovery. He operated on Burleson’s knee last September, after the 27-year-old tore his anterior cruciate ligament while trying to cut sharply on a rain-slicked, synthetic field in Buffalo during the Seahawks’ season-opening loss.

The injury ruined Burleson’s answer to the 2007 season, when he led Seattle with nine touchdown receptions and added another two scores on kick returns. The injury occurred when Burleson appeared to trip over his own feet, or the 20-yard line.

It was an omen. Seattle ended up with six more injuries at wide receiver last season, one of many reasons Hasselbeck was one of the league’s worst passers – until he, too, got hurt – and the Seahawks face-planted to a 4-12 finish. It was their worst season since 1992.

It’s all ancient history to Hasselbeck.

“I don’t know timelines, but he is definitely getting better each and every practice,” Hasselbeck said of Burleson. “He is really a guy who is explosive once you get the ball in his hands. I think that will be a priority again for me again this year, to just try to get the ball into his hands.

“I don’t know what you guys think, but to me he looks really good. I’m excited with how he looks.”

The arrival of a new coaching staff that only knows what Burleson can do from two-year-old game films – plus the arrival of rookie third-round draft choice Deon Butler, who has 4.3-second speed in the 40-yard dash and was Penn State’s career leader in catches – have Burleson eager for a return to full duty.

“I want to go out there and prove I can be the guy I was,” he said. “I can’t really take too much time off. There’s only so many days they are going to wait for me.”

Notes: A team spokesman said the Seahawks have zero interest in LT Levi Jones, a first-round pick by Cincinnati in 2002 whom the Bengals cut this week. An Internet report this week said Seattle was interested in Levi Jones to perhaps replace 35-year-old Pro Bowler Walter Jones. Walter Jones is recovering from microfracture surgery in his knee but vows to be ready for training camp and says he has not thought of retiring. Seahawks president Tim Ruskell and coach Jim Mora both say the plan remains for current RT Sean Locklear to eventually replace Jones, with Ray Willis moving in for Locklear.