A Memorial Day edition of Monday metatarsal musings: For the first time since before their Super Bowl victory, the veterans on the Seahawks’ defense and offense will matchup on the practice field when OTA sessions begin Tuesday.
The NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror. So is the rookie minicamp. And then there was last week’s whirlwind trip to that other Washington so the Super Bowl champion Seahawks could be honored by President Barack Obama.
But you know the mantra around Virginia Mason Athletic Center: What’s next?
After an extended Memorial Day weekend, the players and coaches return on Tuesday for the first of the team’s 10 OTA sessions – a three-week process that leads into the full-squad minicamp June 17-19. And then there’s the not-so-little event where the bling will be the thing.
“The White House trip is the latest reward for winning the Super Bowl, until we get out rings,” nose tackle Brandon Mebane said last week. “That’s the best part.”
But first comes the part that was a prelude to all the good things that happened to the Seahawks – and all the good things the Seahawks made happen – in the past 12 months. A year ago, they were being heralded as the NFC favorite to advance to the Super Bowl. Because of the exemplary way the players handled the hype, they did advance to Super Bowl XLVIII and dispatched the Denver Broncos – “By 35 points,” as President Obama underlined during his remarks on Wednesday.
And it all started in that first OTA session last May. The Seahawks’ competitive edge was honed by being competitive every time they stepped on the field – whether it was for a game, a midweek practice during the season, a Saturday walkthrough, a training camp practice or even an OTA practice. Let’s call it having “a fine focus on the task at hand,” because that’s the way former coach Chuck Knox always put it.
So here are a couple of things to focus on during the three OTA practices this week and next, as well as the four that conclude Phase 3 of the offseason program the week of June 9:
Competing – Or, com-Pete-ing, if you will. The competitive level was ratcheted the moment Pete Carroll walked through the door in January 2010 to become the seventh coach in franchise history. And it has only continued to increase as Carroll and general manager John Schneider have brought in players who not only thrive on competition, but make sure everyone else falls in line – or else.
It starts with All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas, but also includes the All-Pro duo of cornerback Richard Sherman and strong safety Kam Chancellor; the Pro Bowl duo of quarterback Russell Wilson and center Max Unger; wide receiver “Angry” Doug Baldwin; and, quietly but oh-so-effectively, Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch.
The rookies were impressed with the competitive nature of their minicamp, especially during the scrimmage that concluded the three-day event. As fullback and seventh-round draft choice Kiero Small put it, “That’s competition at its best right there.”
Sorry Kiero, but you haven’t seen anything yet.
Replacement parts – It’s startling just how many starters and key situational players the Seahawks lost in free agency or released this offseason. The point was never more obvious than when the team arrived at its hotel in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday night and then again while waiting for the ceremony to begin at the White House on Wednesday.
There were Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, the starting ends on the best defense in the league last season who were released and signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over there was Golden Tate, the leading receiver for the Super Bowl champions and also one of the best punt returners in the league last season who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency. Walking in side-by-side were Breno Giacomini, the starting right tackle who signed with the New York Jets; and Paul McQuistan, who started 40 games at three positions on the line the past three seasons and is now with the Cleveland Browns. Don’t forget about cornerbacks Brandon Browner (New England Patriots) and Walter Thurmond (New York Giants) and safety Chris Maragos (Philadelphia Eagles), who also left in free agency. And sitting on a couch in the Blue Room at the White House was fullback Michael Robinson, who is considering retirement after becoming a free agent and not being re-signed.
So, who steps up? Byron Maxwell replaced Browner and Thurmond last season, intercepting four passes in his first five starts. Derrick Coleman won the starting fullback job last summer, only to have Robinson return at midseason when he was injured. Michael Bowie and rookie Justin Britt will compete to replace Giacomini. The lines to replace Bryant and Clemons will form behind Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Tate’s replacement – or replacements – will come from a group that starts with the-still-overlooked (at least nationally) Jermaine Kearse and also includes draft choices Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood.
And the next step for all those players will be taken on the practice field Tuesday, when the competition to repeat as Super Bowl champs also jumps to the next level.
What’s next? OTA sessions begin Tuesday for Seahawks.