The 26 rookies on the Seahawks’ 90-man roster have had limited time to prepare for the preseason opener against the Chargers, but they’re still excited about their first NFL experience.
SAN DIEGO – Yes, it’s only the preseason opener. Just don’t try to underplay the significance of Thursday night’s nationally televised game against the Chargers to the 26 rookies on the Seahawks’ 90-man roster.
The chance to run out the tunnel in an NFL stadium and play in an NFL game is the fulfillment of lifelong dreams and, they hope, the first step to earning a spot on the 53-man roster for the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco.
Ben Obomanu knows. He remembers his first preseason experience as if it was yesterday, even though it happened six years ago. In fact, the veteran wide receiver’s face lights up just recalling it.
“It was exciting to be in the NFL and play some football,” Obomanu said Tuesday after practice at the team’s training camp. “But it was kind of nerve-wracking, because the speed of the game is so fast.”
Obomanu’s debut as a pass-catcher came against the Colts in Indianapolis. Members of his family made the trip from Selma, Ala., to share the moment. Obomanu caught a 5-yard pass that produced a first down in the third quarter, and also was on the receiving end of a helmet-to-helmet shot from a safety that led to a 15-yard penalty.
“That was my ‘Welcome to the NFL’ moment,” he said. “So I can feel for all these rookies.”
Especially those who will have to wait until the second quarter, or even the second half, to have their “Welcome to the NFL” moment.
“You have to channel all that energy, all that emotion and all that pre-game hype,” Obomanu said. “It’s kind of tough because you’re on an emotional high. Then you have to calm back down, and then get back up by the time you get into the game.
“So there will be a lot of nervousness and a lot of jitters.”
This year’s rookie class will be featured against the Chargers.
First-round draft choice James Carpenter and third-round pick John Moffitt will comprise the right side of the starting offensive line. Free agent QB Josh Portis could play as much as a half, or more. Linebackers Malcolm Smith, K.J. Wright and Mike Morgan will take over after the starters have called it an evening, as will defensive backs Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell and Mark LeGree.
Also keep an on eye on wide receivers Ricardo Lockette (No. 2) and Doug Baldwin (No. 15). And don’t blink, or you might miss the ridiculously fast Lockette.
“Interesting guy in this class,” coach Pete Carroll said of Lockette, who played at Fort Valley State and also was the NCAA Division II 200-meter champion in 2008. “I’m anxious to see how the game affects his play. In practice, he’s this. What will he be in game time?
“I mean he has just not played very much football. He’s a real interesting prospect, though.”
It’s not just Lockette. Everyone is making up for lost time after the 136-day lockout erased the offseason minicamps and OTA sessions that are invaluable to even the veterans, but the clock is running faster for the rookies.
“The hard thing for the young guys in this camp is that they didn’t have the OTAs. They don’t have the same competitive opportunity that they’ve had in other years,” Carroll said. “This is an absolute race for these guys to learn information by game time.
“If you can image 14 OTAs and all those hours of meetings – 40-something hours of meetings that they would have had up until now – and all the extra work they have done. You can’t equate that. We’re never going to get that time for these guys going into this season.”
Carroll used second-year players Dexter Davis and Kam Chancellor as examples. Chancellor will start at strong safety, while Davis will see ample time as a pass-rushing end.
“Last year in the OTAs, they weren’t doing very much,” Carroll said. “They were kind of flip-flopping around and struggling and not really making much headway. By the time they came out of the OTAs and got to camp, they were ready to go and all of a sudden they were lighting up the practice field with their effort.
“That’s probably in this group of kids, too. We’ve just got to make sure that we’re patient enough and wait it out and look for the little tidbits that they give us that show who they can be down the road here, because we’ll never have as much time as we’ve had (in past years).”
Bottom line? “I don’t want to make a mistake and miss on a kid because we judge that he’s not quite ready yet,” Carroll said.
Make no mistake, however, the rookies are ready for their first night under the NFL lights – even if they’re not as fully prepared as the rookies in past openers. It will be Thursday Night Plights, if you will.
“I’m excited for it, I really am,” Moffitt said. “I’m nervous, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s a game. It’s like a lot of other games I’ve played as far as the process that I’m doing. But it’s on another level.”
Offered Maxwell, “I’m looking forward to it a lot. NFL lineup. NFL stadium. It’s something I grew up watching. So I’m probably going to be (wide-eyed) when I get there.”
Regardless of what happens, the memories will be lasting. Just as Ben Obomanu.