With the end of the NFL’s 136-day lockout, the Seattle Seahawks’ players began returning to Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Tuesday morning eager to make up for lost time.
Isaiah Stanback was the first player to return to the Seahawks’ facility on Tuesday, but he wasn’t – and won’t be – the last.
With the 136-day lockout ending on Monday after the NFLPA executive committee and 32 player reps approved a new CBA that the owners had agreed to last week, players were free to get back to work.
“I’m just glad it all got resolved,” said Stanback, who entered Virginia Mason Athletic Center at 7:45 a.m. “We let the business people take care of the business aspect and our representatives did a great job.
“So now we’re back to playing ball, and I’ve got work to do.”
Stanback, a quarterback at the University of Washington, was claimed off waivers last June. The idea was to use him a wide receiver and in a variety of other roles, but he tore an Achilles tendon during training camp and spent the 2010 season on injured reserve.
So one of his first stops Tuesday was the training room, to could continue his rehab and conditioning.
“I’ve been training and I had rehab down at Athletes Performance in Texas,” Stanback said when asked how he spent his offseason. “So I’ve been staying busy.”
Following Stanback into VMAC were center Max Unger (8:05 a.m.), cornerback Roy Lewis and wide receiver Deon Butler (8:08), quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and offensive lineman Paul McQuistan (8:10), punter Jon Ryan (8:20) and defensive tackle Colin Cole (8:30).
The number of players returning will only increase, as they are scheduled to have physicals Tuesday and Wednesday. They will gather as a team for the first time with coach Pete Carroll and his staff for a 6 p.m. meeting on Wednesday.
Following a pair of walk-thru sessions on Thursday, the first practice of training camp is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Friday.
After an offseason of uncertainty and waiting, the players can’t wait.
“First day back,” said Lewis, who is returning from knee surgery that ended his 2010 season. “It feels good to wake up and finally come to work, instead of wake up and drive way out of the way to go to rehab.”
Things will – and could – look differently for the defending NFC West Champions. They have 22 players who are scheduled to become free agents, as well as some decisions to make on others who remain under contract.
There also is a new twist to the offense, with Darrell Bevell taking over as the coordinator, Tom Cable coming in to coach the offensive line and Carl Smith stepping in as the QB coach. Who will quarterback the offense remains to be seen, because incumbent starter Matt Hasselbeck is among the team’s unrestricted free agents and Whitehurst is the only QB under contract.
“I’m excited to get with coach Bevell and coach Smith and really get going on this thing and learn the offense as fast as I can,” Whitehurst said. “I’m excited about the opportunity that I’m going to have to be the starting quarterback here.”
The Seahawks open their preseason Aug. 11 in San Diego against the Chargers, the team that traded Whitehurst to the Seahawks last year.
“That would be fun,” he said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
But Whitehurst was taking a first-things-first approach on Tuesday.
“I’m just looking forward to getting back on the field and getting back in the locker room and getting around the guys and starting to play football,” he said. “That’s the thing we’ve all been doing our whole lives and we missed out on that this (offseason).”
The line also will have a new look, with Max Unger moving to center after missing most of last season with a toe injury and the rookie tandem of tackle James Carpenter and John Moffitt – the team’s first- and third-round picks in the April NFL Draft – expected to start on the right side.
Unger, a second-round draft choice from the University of Oregon in 2009, played center for the Ducks. He started 13 games at right guard and three at center as a rookie. Last season, he was injured in the opener.
“I’m looking forward to just getting into meetings,” Unger said, before catching himself. “I mean, it’s not something you look forward to. But it’s pretty necessary just to learn the offense.”
Unger lives in Bellevue, so he was happy to make the short commute to work.
“I’ve been driving by here every day pretty much for however long the lockout has been going,” he said. “It’s been weird not being able to come in here when you spend so much time at the VMAC during the season. So I’ve been here the whole time just kind of looking down at the building, waiting to know when we could come in.
“But we’re back, and the excitement and the reality is kind of setting in.”