Lofa Tatupu. The team’s three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker and defensive co-captain the past four seasons will make his preseason debut Saturday night when the Seahawks play the Minnesota Vikings at the Metrodome – or Mall of American Field at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, as the place is officially known.
It can only help as the defense will be facing Brett Favre. And Adrian Peterson. And Vinsanthe Shiancoe. And a line that features Steve Hutchinson.
“I really am eager to see him,” coach Pete Carroll said after an almost-two hour practice. “He’s a very special player. We see it during the course of the week in practice. His instincts about finding routes in coverage and play-action passes, it’s just way, way above the other guys. He’s just that much better.
“Not only will he play that position better, but he adds to everybody’s play because of his alerts and his awareness. He’s going to give our guys a heads-up on what’s coming. He just has a special savvy for the game that helps everybody play better.”
Tatupu didn’t play in the preseason opener because he was sidelined with a sore hamstring. He could have played last week against the Tennessee Titans, but the coaches decided to hold him out.
Cornerback. Much has been made of the competition between Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson for the starting spot on the right side opposite Marcus Trufant.
But what about the other roster spots? Rookie Walter Thurmond is not only a keeper, he’s looking like a steal of a fourth-round draft choice. That’s four at a position where the Seahawks traditionally have carried four, or maybe five.
Don’t forget about Roy Lewis, the former University of Washington Husky who played on special teams in nine games last season. Carroll certainly hasn’t.
“He brings a lot of energy,” Carroll said. “He’s a very active kid. He’s really tough. He’s one of those guys that you love to have on the team because he brings so much and you don’t know where it’s going to pop up. He’s done well on defense as well as on special teams.”
But wait, there’s more.
“I really like this kid. I like the way he plays,” Carroll said. “I think he adds something to this team. He’s got a big heart and he plays hard, and he’s fast and tough and all that. We’re looking to find spots for him to help us out. But I like the way he’s done his work so far.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HERRING
Will Herring will celebrate his 27th birthday on Saturday by starting at weak-side linebacker. With David Hawthorne sidelined because of a sore hip, the versatile Herring will get a chance to step in next to Tatupu and opposite strong-side ’backer Aaron Curry.
“Will’s a guy we think a lot of,” Carroll said.
And one they’ve already used in a variety of ways: weak side, strong side and middle in a pinch, as well as one of the two linebackers in the nickel.
“It’s a good opportunity for us to get Will all of this work, so he can help us when we need to,” Carroll said. “We think of him as a starter and frontline player in our program. So I think he’ll do real well at the spot.”
Herring started seven games last year when Curry and Leroy Hill were out with injuries. He made 38 tackles, including eight in the December loss to the Packers in Green Bay.
ON THE FIELD
The players worked in shells, shorts and helmets during their final full tune-up for Saturday’s game, when the starters are scheduled to play into the third quarter.
“Everybody is getting ready to play three quarters of football,” Carroll said of the starters.
The best play might have been the last play, as a pass went off running back Leon Washington and was tipped several times by Quinn Pitcock before the 6-foot-2, 299-pound defensive lineman made the falling interception.
Tight end Cameron Morrah was back after missing a couple of days with flu-like symptoms.
Still sidelined, in addition to Hawthorne: tackle Russell Okung (sprained ankle) and guard Ben Hamilton (sore knee), the starters on the left side of the line; offensive linemen Ray Willis (knee surgery) and Chester Pitts (coming off microfracture surgery); defensive linemen Nick Reed (knee surgery) and Kentwan Balmer (ankle contusion); linebacker Leroy Hill (sprained knee); and cornerback Josh Pinkard, who remains on the physically-unable-to-perform list.
With Okung and Hamilton out, tackle Mansfield Wrotto and guard Mike Gibson will start against the Vikings. Carroll was hoping to get Pitts some reps in practice this week, but that is now the plan for next week.
“He still worked out a lot this week,” Carroll said of Pitts, who was signed during the offseason. “He’s getting physically right. Next week will be an important week. By the game week for San Francisco we expect to see him out there practicing.”
Although Pitts has played guard most of his career, his initial work with the Seahawks will be at left tackle.
Willis has had the arthroscopic procedure to repair damaged knee cartilage, but “it’s going to be a while before he’s right,” as Carroll put it.
There will be a short walk-thru Friday morning before the team flies to Minneapolis for Saturday night’s game.
The players are off Sunday, before returning Monday to begin a short week of preparation for the preseason finale next Thursday night against the Raiders in Oakland.
Tuesday, the roster must be trimmed by five players to reach the league-mandated limit of 75.
YOU DON’T SAY
“I would anticipate they’re going to be really pumped up. I was at Minnesota for a long time. That place has always been able to rock. I think the fact that they get to see Brett for the first time (this summer) and just see this team coming in, they’re going to be all pumped up. Which is really good for us. We need this prep for the rest of the season.” – Carroll, who was the defensive backs coach on the staffs of Bud Grant and Jerry Burns with the Vikings from 1985-89