Once again, Ben Obomanu is entering the Seahawks’ final preseason game hoping that he already has shown the coaches enough to earn a roster spot because of his versatility.
Ben Obomanu has been here before. Four times, in fact.
As the Seahawks enter their final preseason game Thursday night against the Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, the veteran wide receiver will be looking to conclude his case for a spot on the roster when it is trimmed to 53 players on Saturday.
Pressure? Not to Obomanu. Business as usual? Definitely, at least for Obomanu.
“For me, it’s still another preseason game,” Obomanu said. “I’m not feeling too much pressure, or anything. This is my fifth season, so it’s the fifth fourth preseason game for me.”
He made the roster in 2006 after being selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft, and despite catching only one pass for 5 yards during the preseason. The following year, Obomanu led the team during the preseason with eight catches for a 20.5-yard average and one of his two touchdown receptions went for 57 yards. In 2008, against the Raiders in the preseason final at Qwest Field, he broke his clavicle while diving for a pass near the goal line and spent the season on injured reserve.
Last summer, he caught five preseason passes for a 19.6-yard average, including 38-yard TD. This summer, Obomanu has caught four passes in the first three preseason games, including a 3-yard TD reception from Charlie Whitehurst in the Week 2 loss to the Green Bay Packers.
But this year is different, because just about everything around him is different. New head coach (Pete Carroll). New offensive coordinator (Jeremy Bates). New position coach (Kippy Brown). New system. New competition (second-round draft choice Golden Tate and free-agent addition Mike Williams).
Still here are T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch, the veteran wide receivers who have been the starters; as well as Deon Butler, a third-round draft choice last year who has eight receptions to share the preseason lead with Williams and Houshmandzadeh.
Compounding his situation is whether the coaches decide to carry six wide receivers or only five, so they can keep an extra player at another position – especially with the injury concerns on the offensive line and at linebacker and tight end; and the depth on the defensive line and in the secondary.
If his first four preseasons have taught Obomanu anything, it’s not to get caught up counting numbers, or looking at situations at other positions. Instead, he always has tried to just take care of what he can control.
“Every year, a lot of people try to put a lot of pressure on one preseason game,” he said. “There is some reality to it that one preseason game can do a lot for players on the fence, on the bubble. But at the same time, you can’t stress and strain.
“So that’s my outlook toward it – go out and take advantage of whatever opportunity I get.”
And, to examine the entire resume, not just take one game or one quarter as that last chance to show that you belong. Again.
“I think a lot of people have that comfort level, where you don’t have to wait to that last exact moment – that last preseason game, maybe even the fourth quarter of that game – to try and put yourself in position to make the team,” Obomanu said.
“But at the same time, you need to be confident in the body of work that you’ve done – going all the way back to OTAs and minicamps, back in March and April. So for me, it’s just taking advantage of those times and not leaving any room for doubt.”
And even with that accomplished, it doesn’t necessarily translate into playing time during the regular season. Obomanu did not have a catch as a rookie, but then caught 12 passes and scored a TD his second season. Last year, he caught three passes.
“You can’t control opportunities in games,” Obomanu said. “And I do understand the reality of if you’re not a starter in the NFL you need to play special teams.
“I haven’t really had the opportunity to play wide receiver in the NFL, yet. But I still feel I have some skills to play receiver.”
What Obomanu also has is versatility. He made 12 coverage tackles on special teams last season. He also has averaged 25.4 yards while returning 15 kickoffs and he can return punts, as well.
“I’ve been working on both,” Obomanu the receiver said of Obomanu the special teams player. “To still keep myself in the conversation as a viable receiver for this team, and at the same time still be able to contribute on special teams – as the only receiver we have who does play special teams.”
A little of this. A little of that. Will it add up to enough? Again.