The Seattle Seahawks players got the day off on Wednesday, four days into training camp.
That is, well, unusual in the NFL. There are going to be plenty of other adjectives that people will apply because I haven’t been able to find anyone who remembers an NFL team being given a full day off four practices into training camp.
One of the very easiest criticisms of any football team is that practices and/or preparations are not sufficiently intense or demanding.
It is a knee-jerk reaction, one that is not necessarily indicative of the real impact because I can’t help but think back to a year ago when the coverage of Jim Mora’s first training camp focused on the pace of the practices, the length and the demanding physical nature. This was unilaterally heralded as a good thing. He was challenging players, making sure they would be in the best shape when the season began.
Now think back to how Seattle concluded the season, losing its final four games by a combined margin of 123-37. Now, there was a lot going on at the end of the season. Tim Ruskell resigned as president with five games to go. Lofa Tatupu was out with a season-ending injury, Aaron Curry missed a couple of games, too, and the offense was hopelessly inept.
But it’s also worth asking if Seattle fell off the cliff because of tired legs. “Camp grind-it-out,” receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh called it after one training-camp practice in 2009.
Now, consider Mora’s regular-season record. In four seasons as an NFL head coach, his teams were 25-19 before Dec. 1 (.568). His record after Dec. 1? 6-14 (.300).
This isn’t to say that Mora’s training camp resulted in those late-season fades any more than it is to say that Carroll’s approach will prevent a repeat. It’s simply a factor that’s worth considering because the natural reaction at hearing about a day off this early in training camp is to wonder if things are too lax. I’ll say that was my first-blush reaction. But we don’t have any way to do anything but guess at what effect it might have.
And also, let’s not forget the Seahawks were in pads from that very first practice, showing Carroll felt players should be ready for that after the offseason of training.
What is clear after four days is that Carroll’s roster is not rigidly structured in terms of depth-chart repetitions. Veterans like Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Matt Hasselbeck will get periodic days off, the result being not only rest for veteran players but opportunities for the younger ones. Being a backup usually means secondary work in terms of practice repetitions, but that’s not necessarily the case with Carroll.
He said when he arrived that one thing he instilled in his program at USC was giving younger players a role — even a minor one — to get them on the field and involved in the play. He gave younger players an opportunity to play, a chance and so far in training cap it looks like he’s applying that M.O. to the practice field as well.