Minicamp 101

Longhorns and Seminoles and Utes...oh my! Aaron Burtner looks at the first two days of Seahawks' minicamp through the eyes of our team's newest players.

Day One - Welcome To The NFL, Rookie…
Day One of the Seahawks’ minicamps is in the books, and for the team’s newest batch of rookies, the results were mixed.

It was only a couple hours of fieldwork, but Coach Mike Holmgren liked what he saw overall, even if it was just a basic overview.

“The first couple of days I’m trying to watch so many things that it’s hard for me to focus on just one guy. I got to see all of our young guys and I was pleased with how they conducted themselves, so that was a big plus for me. I really liked the enthusiasm of the whole group and I thought we had a good practice that way.”, Holmgren said.

1st round pick Marcus Tubbs battled NFL talent for the first time, and walked away breathless after leaving his asthma inhalers in Texas.

“He had a little asthma thing about him today, but we’re going to be right on top of that.” Holmgren said after the morning practice. “Sometimes the young kids get going and they-I don’t want to say they hyperventilate-but they’re excited and they want to do well, and that covers the reason why he had to take a knee.”

“I just have special inhalers,” explained Tubbs. “But those are back in Austin. I just need to make sure that I bring them.”

One can forgive the rookie if some details are lost in the shuffle. Relocating to the Northwest from Texas and putting on an NFL jersey for the first time can be a little overwhelming. But not as overwhelming as going against one of the NFL’s best offensive linemen in Seahawks left guard Steve Hutchinson.

“Those guys are really strong. I knew they were going to be strong and I knew that was something I was going to have to work on. But until you get out there and mix it up with an NFL offensive lineman you really don’t understand how strong they are.”

While Tubbs struggles to adjust to the physicality of the game, fellow rookie Michael Boulware faces the toughest transition of any of the rookies as he switches from collegiate linebacker to pro safety.

“I think as a linebacker I’m used to getting close to the line. I was trying to figure out what stance I was supposed to be in. I would get in a linebacker stance sometimes and then I would get in a safety stance sometimes. I’m definitely unsure about a lot of things, and hopefully it will clear up for me.”

Boulware and his coaches are confident enough in his athletic ability however. If Boulware can apply himself to the mental aspects of the game, he should make a quick transition.

“The biggest thing is learning the plays and terminology, because that’s the confusing part; because we all know we can play football. It’s just a matter of being in the right spot.”

“They’re making checks and I’m supposed to understand what they are saying and it’s kind of in French to me. I’m trying to keep up.”

Holmgren echoed those sentiments: “Well, it’s real early, but we are committed to moving him to strong safety. Until we feel he can’t do that he’s going to be at that position. So I think the first day we watched him a lot, and we’re going to watch everything he does. Our feeling is, what I mentioned to a few of you the other day, that athletically he can do this. The challenge will be playing farther away from the football and how he reacts from there; because he’s not a linebacker anymore he’s a safety.”

And while there may not have been a lot of contact, for the rookies it was good to get on the field again.

“It was good.”, said Tubbs about his first NFL practice. “It was just fun to play football again. I hadn’t been out on the field since January during my last bowl game. So it was fun to get out with the guys and run around.”


Day Two - Pushing Water up a Hill:
While Tubbs, Boulware and their fellow draftees get most of the media attention, a host of undrafted rookies are also working hard to make their mark at this week’s camp. Many were elite players on their college teams, and now have to adjust to being low men on the totem pole in their new digs.

“I feel that we have to work harder than everyone else,” said former Cougar standout Sammy Moore, who is trying to crack into a tight-knit and talented receiving corps. “We have to just scratch and claw for everything and nothing is going to be handed to us. We’ve just got to fight for everything.”

Moore joins fellow undrafted free agent wide receiver Marque Davis and 5th round pick DJ Hackett as the rookies trying to make a name for themselves in the Seahawks prolific passing attack. While Hackett appears to have the polish to join the receiving rotation as a 4th or 5th wideout, Moore and Davis are going to have to make their mark on special teams. It was an area that the shifty Moore excelled at during his days with the cougars.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the line of scrimmage, the Hawks have helped addressed a lack of depth in the defensive backfield by bringing in three prospects to battle for roster spots at cornerback and safety. Southern Arkansas’ Jordan Babineaux, Brigham Young’s Jernaro Gilford and Utah’s Arnold Parker all share one common trait . . . they are big. All measure over 6 feet tall and over 200lbs. With safety and corner depth still an area of concern for the Seahawks, these guys actually have a chance to make the squad.

Although these undrafted rookies are facing an uphill battle, the precedent is there for them to make an impact. The last two years have seen UDFA’s DD Lewis, Kerry Carter and Tracy White make the squad, and in Lewis’ case, make a pretty big case for significant playing time.

Missing in Action: Time for a little fan-rant:
While Coach Holmgren writes off starting tight end Ituli Mili’s mini-camp holdout a “contract statement”, I can’t help but think this is bad news for both Mili and the Hawks. For the team’s first camp with its fresh faced “diaper dandies”, it sends a message that the person is more important than the team, and that loyalty is secondary. It’s also disruptive to both the offensive chemistry and the development of rookie defenders like Michael Boulware, who are now learning from Casey Poppinga instead of the Seahawks’ finest.

But the bottom line for this fan is that it comes down to loyalty. When the Seahawks re-signed Mili 2 years ago, he was an unproven prospect who in 5 years had totaled 42 catches. They gave him an opportunity that very few clubs would’ve offered a player with his lackluster professional production.

And to be sure, both Ituli and the Hawks have to be very pleased with the turnaround evidence in Mili’s on the field performance. And Mili should certainly be rewarded for his diligence and stubbornness in clinging to his position despite the presence of former first round pick Jerramy Stevens. But I just have to think this is a backhanded way to go about these negotiations . . . a small but significant slap in the face to the coaches who have developed Mili’s talent and the teammates that have worked together to create one the League’s most exciting offenses.

Some will say it’s only a mini-camp, but in Mike Holmgren’s own words it’s a “statement.” And Mili would do well be remind himself what kind of statement his actions make.

Aaron Burtner is a regular contributor to Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback here.


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