While counsel for the NFL and NFLPA were wrapping up arguments about the future of professional football in a St. Louis courtroom last Friday morning, a group of more than football players — most of them Seattle Seahawks — gathered in the University of Washington weight room to participate in structured workouts put together by UW strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis, and coordinated by longtime Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
Though he’s currently a free agent and has been tied to a number of other teams in various rumor mills, Hasselbeck ran Friday’s workout with a sense of order and command that exhibited his value beyond stats and plays to his team.
It’s difficult under the best circumstances to get a group of players together to participate in voluntary offseason conditioning with no NFL involvement. But under Hasselbeck, this 45-minute weight session, and the subsequent hour-long football drills that took place at the UW’s Dempsey Indoor facility, looked as disciplined as any organized team activity. Hasselbeck handed out workout sheets for position groups and barked out plays for the seven-on-seven drills where he and backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst alternated snaps.
Modest to a fault, Hasselbeck compared his role to that of a secretary, and gave most of the credit for organizing the drills to halfback Justin Forsett, who did get everyone on the same page from a logistical standpoint.
“Everyone’s got a role, and we do these group e-mails,” Hasselbeck said. “My role is that I’m local, I’m here, and I’ve got six footballs that are kind of beat up right now. I’ve got to go invest in some new footballs. But other than that — yeah, I know where to park.”
Several Seahawks free agents were in attendance, including Hasselbeck, defensive backs Jordan Babineaux and Kelly Jennings, center Chris Spencer, and right tackle Sean Locklear. While the team may be making plans to replace all those players, and the lockout continue, these players were focusing in on what they could control. That’s the only way to keep from going nuts when everyone else seems to have control of your lucrative career but you.
“I think it’s been good — across the country, really,” Hasselbeck said. “Guys working out together and communicating about their workouts. As players right now, that’s all you can do — just make sure you’re ready when the lockout gets lifted. You’ve got to be ready to go, and that’s kind of the focus for everybody.”
For receiver Mike Williams, it was as much about getting away from an off-season level of boredom that even his own apparently extensive workouts don’t relieve. Williams recently said on a Seattle radio station that he was doing six hours of cardio per day, and he certainly did not resemble the former draft bust who struggled with his weight — he was quick and crisp in the seven-on-seven drills. He explained how the workouts went.
“Okay…” the slightly exasperated-sounding Williams said. “The six hours of cardio is 2 ½ hours of football workouts, and then it’s two different sessions of basketball. It’s not just me doing my Lance Armstrong (stuff). It’s just that everyone assumed, ‘Oh, with all this time off and his attitude, he’s gonna be fat again. Well, good luck with that. I’m here, and I’m having a good time, and let’s get back to work.”
All players had great things to say about the UW staff, especially Lewis, who put together a program for each position group and set things up for the players, as Hasselbeck put it, “on a pro bono basis.”
The labor situation may be condition critical right now, but it’s advantageous in a way for players like Hasselbeck and Forsett to establish themselves as leaders in what has become a prolonged impasse nobody wants. The one thing upon which everybody agrees is that the teams best-prepared when this mess is all over could derive significant competitive benefits, and these Seahawks in limbo seem to understand that.