If you’re interested to know what my preseason predictions are for the Hawks’ upcoming season, click here.
If you are a fan, like me, who believes that this upcoming season is crucial for the Hawks’ future and their road to dynasty status, click here.
*Names have been changed or modified.
The featured image (the one above the link you clicked on) is a photo from the Seattle Seahawk Team Feed of Training Camp photos. I can be found relatively easily in the photo. I appear to have inadvertently photobomed this pic. +1 for me. +2 for you if you can find me!
I really feel that there’s a lucky rabbit foot somewhere in my pocket. I say this, because I have been incredibly fortunate enough to volunteer for the Seattle Seahawks, be active in their booster club, and just today, scored a pair of last minute Training Camp tickets. It’s been a wild few weeks for this 12. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
The 2015 Training camp for the Seattle Seahawks was the mainstay of conversation for not just the past six months, but the past six weeks, as pre-camp holdout, contract extension, and trade rumors dominated our attention spans. None of us knew if Russell Wilson would sign his contract extension. As the date of Training Camp approached, a lot of us exhausted our conversation fuel tanks about: salary cap hits, guaranteed money, if Wilson would sign, if the moon was out of alignment, is there an issue we don’t know about, oh my good now Bennett and Chancellor might not show up, etc., etc.
So, as I received an email from another Military Seahawkers member about some last minute training camp seats, I jumped at the offer. The tickets sold out relatively quickly, and there isn’t a lot of space to view the field from the grassy knoll adjacent to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, so I really wanted to get there before the impending crowd rolled in.
The other Hawker, named Ueda Harrell* graciously offered up two extra seats to this training camp as a couple friends of his couldn’t make it. He is an Air Force veteran, and expressed an interest in providing an experience for fellow service members. He was already a great dude in my opinion, just for his service. His desire to provide a similar experience for other veterans is just all the more awesome. We exchanged contact info and agreed upon a meeting time.
I slept about as well last night as most kids do before Christmas morning- a full compliment of tossing and turning. What players would I see? Who wouldn’t I see? Would the crowd be packed? Would any other fellow volunteers from the Seahawkers be there?
Listen, I’ve repeated myself a couple times about the advantages of the Seahawkers organization. I’ve included the link, just in case you’ve been weary or had questions. This organization is top notch. If you’re a Hawks fan, join in already!
Anyways, the event was composed rather smoothly, in spite of using hard copy printouts of registrations instead of iPads this year. A long line snaked all the way around the Landing in Renton, a mere two miles from the VMAC. We’d arrived, and not a moment too soon. Ueda* was thrilled that I was able to make it. In addition to being super laid back, he looked like a pro at doing this training camp thing- Blanket, cooler with food and water, light colored clothing. I on the other hand, had the jersey on my back, a pair of sneakers (a last minute choice, I almost wore sandals) and a lawn chair. I was winging it like this was Top Gun. I wouldn’t even have put sunscreen on, if my girlfriend hadn’t politely reminded me that I burn like a lobster when getting any tiny amount of sun. So I lathered up the SPF 50.
The best thing about being a Seahawker is the networking. Once I’d found out I was going to camp, I simply checked on Social Media to see what the rest of the 12th Man was doing. I was in luck. Tony, a fellow Seahawker and volunteer from the RWPA, was attending with some of his kids. He invited us to find him and catch all of the action. You remember what I described Tony as earlier in my RWPA Volunteer post (See above). In fact, when we got to the Landing his text message was simple, it said: “Get your ass up here”. Yes, Sir. Moving.
As we pulled into the VMAC parking lot on the busses, the excitement was palpable. Another long line snaked its way up to the knoll where we’d be viewing the sights. We hurried along, until we saw Dina, another volunteer from the RWPA, and fellow Seahawker. She was volunteering at the Seahawker booth. We took some photos, she was glad to see us, and us her. You’ll probably see her if you attend any more of the Training Camps. Be a true 12 and bring her or the other volunteers some snacks, water, or gatorade. (Yes, they likely will have already brought some for themselves.) It’s kindness we’re going for here. These people are volunteering their time and not watching the highlights and action occurring just on the other side of the wall. Pay it forward!
As we split into smaller groups my girlfriend and I ran into yet another volunteer from the RWPA, Jeff. He was taking a bevy of selfies and I was happy he obliged to get one with me so early in the day. Here it is.
He takes a number of above average photos with a selfie stick, when he isn’t using his other, real camera. A modern day Ansel Adams with a Samsung. Look it up, kids, if you didn’t understand that prior reference. I digress…
We plopped down toward the end of the field, close to the snack tent. The knoll was getting packed, it seemed we got there just in time. A loud, uptempo set of hip hop tracks provided the background noise, and there was no announcer, no “Give it up for your Seaaaaaaaaaatle Seahawks!” to relay the arrival of the team on the field. Blue, Green, and Red Jerseys flooded the field. The crowd went nuts.
In case you hadn’t been following the news, Russell signed his contract extension before the first day of camp, and Kam Chancellor decided he would hold out. Naturally, everyone was happy to see #3 taking snaps, warming his arm up, and playing target practice with a 6 ft 7 player known colloquially to the rest of the world as Jimmy Graham.
Camp started with little fanfare- warm up routines, to the cadence of air horns and short yells, stretching circuits and warm up drills. You didn’t need to squint to see the players, they practiced fifty feet away from a three foot tall fence that separated them and what could only be described as over a thousand fans. They split into position groups to continue position centric drills, and I would be lying to you boldface if I didn’t let on that I wasn’t paying much attention to the big name players.
In my earlier post draft, pre-season predictions post, I wrote a little blurb about a fella named Nate Boyer. He was an undrafted free agent from Texas, he’s a former Green Beret and works tirelessly to promote veterans affairs and awareness. He is currently battling for a roster spot on the team (if I’m not mistaken). His heart and story are far more compelling than any of the critics could ever write about. It chaps my ass just a little to see them discredit his size, or playing ability. Seattle has another member of their team who took the same flack for size. He’s been to two Super Bowls. So, critics, GFY, and get ready to be proven wrong, again.
Odds, luck, all of it doesn’t really add up when you count Boyer’s tenacity, drive, and workaholic nature. Seattle will be shooting themselves in the foot by not selecting him or finding a place for him to reside on their roster. (I believe he would be a standout on DST and the regular squad, if given the chance. Google his stats. He’s as ready for a shot as the next guy, and primed to go.)
Boyer took some snaps, releasing the ball quickly and with ease. He’s got recognizable chemistry with both Jon Ryan and Steven Hauschka. He demonstrated agility, quickness, and ready hands on the field. I had a minor freakout when I saw him walking off of and away from the active field with a coach. His destination? The other field was where both Boyer and current Long Snapper Clint Gresham, would continue their drills. Whew.
A lot of buzz has been made about the Seahawks draft class. The field was amass with a lot of players, so it was foolish to follow more than a few players at a time. Newcomer R.J. Archer and veteran Tavaris Jackson looked at ease in the pocket. It being the first day, some of their throws came up short. It’s too early to tell if it was on the receiver or them. Former QB B.J. Daniels was catching passes in the backfield as a WR. He did not look out of place or that he didn’t know what to do. It’s yet another example of players maneuvering around the field to stick with a great team, and to continue their dream journeys. Of note, Russell Wilson had at least one mid range throw eek just out of the hands of a receiver. It’s day#1, I’m not expecting the world. However, there wasn’t much, if any, rust on these players.
WRs Baldwin, Kearse, and TE Willson lined up in multiple positions, running routes. Willson in particular caught a deep spiral and had no issue displaying an extra gear. I’m hoping he adds to the flashes he showed us last year.
One of the biggest buzzes has been about the Running Back position on the depth chart. Obviously, Marshawn Lynch will still receive the lions share of the carrying duties. But the #2 position isn’t all locked up. With Robert Turbin still recovering from offseason Hip Surgery, veteran Christine Michaels and newcomer Thomas Rawls are what’s left to battle for backup duties on the depth chart (outside of the fullbacks). Michaels was rumored to be nearing ‘on the bubble status’, and from the looks he got today on the field, he’s set on changing minds.
When inserted into the lineups, he displayed short bursts of power and some shuttle stepping ability. This impression was quickly matched by Rawls, as both players are similar in size, and speed. (From what my untrained eye could tell). Both ripped off sizable runs in touch and go coverage. Of course, Lynch got in some carries. Spin moves galore abounded. In case you’re wondering, he’s still really good at keeping his feet just inside the out of bounds line.
You know the veterans had to represent. Represent, they did. CB Richard Sherman wasted no time aggressively pouncing on opposing wide receivers, defensing a few passes and making it near impossible for others to gain a catch on him. No one was really worried that he wouldn’t, even with the injuries and avoiding the dreaded Tommy John surgery this offseason. DE Michael Bennett not only felt good enough to show up and practice (amidst reports of displeasure with his current contract and the threat of a hold out), he even felt good enough to do some dance moves with other members of the L.O.B on the sideline in sync to the music. This was pretty entertaining, right until LB Bruce Irvin jumped clear over a player pylon a few feet away. My educated guess was at least four and a half feet off of the ground. Opposing O-Lines, take note.
Safety Earl Thomas III was on the field, but placed on the Physically Unable to Perform, or PUP, list. He watched from the sidelines and offered encouragement to his teammates, as did Jeremy Lane, still rehabbing from both a devastating knee and arm injury. Currently, Thomas, WR Paul Richardson, and the cornerbacks Simon/Lane are on this list. Their recoveries are crucial.
Jesse Williams, fresh from his cancer treatment, is showing immense signs of progress. This, in addition to Brandon Mebane (who went out last year with a hamstring injury) was able to practice fully today.
The team spent the majority of their first practice playing in three separate squads, rotating out against one another, before coming back into some live play calls complete with referees. I was indelibly thankful for a small patch of fence that came available next to Tony and his friends/family. We got a chance to really see things up close. If this was a game, it would have easily been a few thousand dollars view. I mentioned earlier that the camp tickets sold out quickly. That’s because they were just $7 a piece! You might have expected a team with a caliber such as theirs would ratchet up the prices, as they introduced variable pricing for their home game tickets. This did not appear to be the case.
Some other notes:
I’ve spoken before about Head Coach Pete Carrol’s energy. He wasted no time hustling all over the field, throwing passes to the players, vigorously cheering them on, and for all intents and purposes, looking like God running around in all white. If you haven’t read his feature in S.I., here’s the link.
TE Jimmy Graham is a huge hit with the kids. Like, all of them. He also caught plenty of quick passes and long fades. Where are all of the critics that said he was a poor pass blocker? None of them were present to see him push other teammates with ease. He looked comfortable and competent in both pass blocking and catching roles. Absoloutely nothing to worry about.
WR Tyler Lockett, whom the Hawk’s traded handsomely to draft, showcased lightening quick feet and shuttle steps that had me seeing double. He has all of the speed that the talking heads on ESPN says he possesses. Oh, and speaking of ESPN, I got a glimpse as ESPN’s own John Clayton, as he perused the field. Sorry, Dad. I forgot to try to get a picture with him for you. I’ll do better.
While I mentioned Boyer, I may have slightly overlooked the fact that both Hauskcha and Ryan were easily landing balls within the uprights while standing still. Even with moving back towards what I could guess would be the ‘typical’ FG range, Mr. Consistency kept at it, and all of his kicks sailed through without issue. Fantasy Football players, take note. This is the guy you want, and need, for your team. He will go quickly (the second, if not the first, kicker to go off of the board).
The camp ended out with players peeling off from the field to attend meetings, or workout at the ginormous weight room at the VMAC. A few other players, such as J.R. Sweezy, Deshon Foxx, Krijstan Sokoli, Doug Baldwin, Jimmy Graham, Bobby Wagner, and many others walked up and down the fence line, signing helmets, footballs, 12 flags, and I saw a babies bottom get signed. Well, I’m pretty sure it was the onesie the baby was wearing. People were tripping over one another to try and pack the fence line. Of particular note- somehow R&B Singer (and current significant other of Russell Wilson) Ciara was on the field watching the practice. She made a brief appearance as well.
The takeaway from Day 1 of training camp is this: despite what is made out in the media to be calamity or bedlam, simply isn’t. The team dynamics are very much still alive, and even the new players, on a truncated OTA schedule, look the part, run the part, and are raring to go. Some players may not have been on the field as long as some fans wanted to see them be, but again, it’s Day 1. 15 Days to go, and the preseason starts on August 14th. The injury situation could have been exceedingly worse than it ended up being. The projected holdouts are down to one player. Contract discussions are ongoing, and now that Wilson is locked up, Seattle should be targeting Wagner and getting the maximum use of their dwindling salary cap space. Oh, and they should sign Nate Boyer. Like, yesterday. Till Next time…