T.J. Duckett competently fulfilled his assigned role last season

tj-duckettBy all accounts, Seattle Seahawks running back T.J. Duckett competently fulfilled his assigned role last season as the team’s short-yardage and goal line runner.

He finished with only 172 yards, but totaled eight touchdowns. And Duckett was at his best when duty called on third- and fourth-and-short.

After struggling to convert first downs in short yardage situations a year before Duckett’s arrival, the Seahawks were much better in those situations in 2008. The Seahawks converted on all four of its fourth-down running plays last season of 2 yards or fewer, and 75 percent of the team’s rushing plays on third down when needing 2 yards or fewer.

While satisfied with how he performed in a limited role last year, Duckett, talking with reporters at the end of the team’s organized activities on Thursday, said that he’s pleased with his expanded role in the new Seattle offense, thanks to being reunited with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.

Duckett had his best success since arriving in the NFL playing for Knapp-led offenses. In Knapp’s first year in charge of the offense in Atlanta, Duckett averaged a career-high 4.9 yards a carry.

“I’m just rejuvenated being able to play another year of football,” said the 28-year-old Duckett. “That’s all that matters. And every year you have to get better than the year before. It definitely helps knowing the offense better, and knowing some of the personnel. But this is a whole new year for everybody. So we’ve put the past away, and started building for a new season this year.

“I love the scheme. I love the style. They’ve used me in the past in certain situations, so they know how to use me and where I can be best at, so that’s nothing but positive.”

While Duckett hopes for similar success to his experience in Atlanta, a few things have changed since last season.

For one, Duckett has let his beard grow. It’s gotten so long and gnarly that teammates have started to pay homage to Duckett by labeling him with a name shared by an infamous mixed marshal arts fighter.

“They call him Kimbo Slice in there, so I’ll leave it at that, I guess,” said quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, when asked what he thought of Duckett’s beard.

“I might cut it pretty soon, but I got attached to it,” Duckett said, noting that it cushions the area around his chin strap.

Duckett also changed his number from 42 to 44. Duckett said No. 44 was the number he wanted when he came out of Michigan State and joined the Falcons, but veteran Bob Christian already had it.

At 6-foot, 254 pounds, Duckett will be the bruiser in Seattle’s backfield combo, along with the more elusive Julius Jones.

Offensive lineman Ray Willis talked about blocking for Duckett: “He’s definitely a hard runner. He’s somebody who gets downhill and is a one-cut guy. But he also has a little bit of a wiggle and a little bit of speed. He brings a lot to this scheme.”

Duckett said things are going well, as the team transitions to a zone blocking system, and that the new system fits his style of running as a one-cut runner.

“We have a great chemistry, not only on the field but off the field as well,” Duckett said. “And you put all of that together with the skill and talent they have, I mean those guys bust their hump every day, and they work hard every day. That motivates us. And they’re the driving force behind all of this.”

Extra points

The Seahawks practice Thursday included working on the two-minute drill. The team will continue offseason workouts through May, with rookies returning May 17. A mandatory minicamp is scheduled June 10-12, and the first day of training camp is tentatively set for July 31. … Team sources disputed a report that recently released Cincinnati offensive tackle Levi Jones was scheduled for a visit this week. Jones was the starting left tackle for the Bengals.