Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren didn’t have to set the tone, as his players were going at each other physically from the start. “They were going pretty good in there. I don’t want anybody getting hurt, so every once in a while I have to step in there and tone it down just a little bit because, really, they don’t have equipment on and we don’t want anyone getting hurt”, Holmgren remarked. “They learn to practice fast without pads on. That’s another good reason for this minicamp, because we have to do that and learn to protect each other a little bit.”
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck noticed the increased attendance at the “voluntary” camp, and was encouraged at the level of preparation the team is ready to undergo: “There’s no question this is the most numbers that we’ve had, yeah. And that’s a great thing. Especially for the younger guys, who maybe don’t get the same amount of reps that the older guys get in minicamp; they get all the reps they want in the off-season program.”
“I think what it does, especially for the young guys, is it allows them to learn the offense”, said Hasselbeck. “And then when they get out here they have a chance to just compete. They’re not thinking, okay, what do I have on this play?, or they’re not counting one, two, three, four, five steps, break out. They’ve done it a few times, they’ve got repetition at it, and the guys who have been here, we develop chemistry with them and have a comfort level with throwing them the ball.”
Hasselbeck also disclosed the details of a less successful training method employed by Quarterback Coach Jim Zorn: “He invited us (quarterbacks) to all go on a bike ride with him in Cheney once, and that ended with a couple of us puking our brains out. And that was the day before camp! That was tough, and the last time I tried that.”
As expected, perennial holdout Walter Jones was conspicuous by his absence. Unlike previous years, when the coach played a closer hand when commenting about the Jones dilemma, Holmgren was more vocal about his All-Pro left tackle: “It’s one of those questions that might never be answered as long as you and I, well, I’m older than you are, so, as long as I live. We’re in the same boat. Walter Jones will be our left tackle. Now, what do we do in terms of practice in the mean time? It forces us to get another guy ready over there, but it also hurts us in the fact that you’re taking a young guy that probably might be playing another position and he’s being taken away out of that position. There’s no easy answer. Wayne (Hunter) is playing right tackle, we had (Jerry) Wunsch at left tackle today. Pork Chop (Womack) would be getting some work, but he’s not going to be getting some work until training camp. It’s exactly the same puzzle we’ve had the past three years.”
When asked if he thought that the players (such as Jones and Itula Mili, who did show up for Day Two despite ongoing contract negotiations) who missed out on the preliminary camps might be operating at a disadvantage later on, Holmgren was definite: “There are three facets. One is the on-the-field stuff. The other stuff is the book learning and studying, and I don’t care how long you’ve played, you must continue to do that because we put in new stuff all the time. The third thing, and I don’t want to discount this, is just getting the feeling of the team and getting to know the guys. We have some new players we’re counting on and the more they’re together the more you can build on that before the first game I think you’re better off. I’m hopeful we can get the guys that weren’t here.”
Tuesday’s camp was rendered notable primarily by the return of Itula Mili. Despite an unresolved contract, Mili himself was very positive about his intent to learn and his future with the team: “I’m just glad to be back on the field, and I just have to let the business side take care of itself. I do what I do best, which is get on that football field and play football, and most importantly be around my teammates, which is where I feel the best. Being away from that just isn’t me. I always tell my agent that I belong on that football field and that’s what I do best. I’m 100 percent at that, and anything off the field, well, I don’t think I need to know any of that stuff. I only know what I know how to do, which is make plays and make touchdowns.” Take notes, Walter…
Although absent from the team’s last minicamp, Mili obviously understands two things – the necessity of his own integration within the Seahawks’ complex offense, and the fact that his “vacation” allowed Jerramy Stevens to start the year shining like never before. “With me being absent the last camp it gave Jerramy more time and more reps to get into his own again and build that confidence in himself, and it’s starting to work. I’m happy, because now we can go into the season with two good tight ends. We’ll definitely need that.”
Stevens discussed the boost that working with the first team has given his confidence: “Every time you get the nod to go ahead it gives you a little more confidence knowing the coaches are with you and they’re behind you, so I’m feeling real good right now”, Stevens said. “I haven’t had some of the troubles that I’ve had the past off-season. I have had a chance to stay in the weight room and get on the field and get my timing down with Matt and the other quarterbacks a little bit better. Whenever you have the opportunity to do that you’re going to play better.”
In addition, Stevens appears to have taken some steps forward in his personal life, which he candidly discussed: “It’s close to 180 degrees. I think the biggest difference is how I’m feeling about playing. I was kind of discouraged about what I was doing off the field and what I was doing on the field. Feeling good about yourself and your ability is a good part about playing football. There were some legal things I had to get through. Obligations that I had with that. Once that was over I think it was a process of building my confidence back up last year on the scout team, and I didn’t get a chance to make a lot of plays in games so it made it a little more difficult. I have the confidence of the coaches behind me now, so it feels good.”
Missing In Action
Absent through Day Two were Jones, Chad Brown (attending to undisclosed legal issues in Colorado), Anthony Simmons and Chris Terry (personal business, both are expected later in the week).
Mili’s agent, Brian Treggs, said that his client is looking for far more than the $750,000 he’ll make in 2004 in the final year of a three-year contract. The concept of “fair market value” has been instigated by Treggs, which could possibly mean that Mili desires the same sort of money that Vikings’ TE Jim Kleinsasser recently bagged with his 5-year, $15-million contract. Although Mili had a fine 2003 (46 receptions, 492 yards and 4 touchdowns), it remains to be seen what the Seahawks’ concept of “fair market value” will entail. Stay tuned…
Marcus Trufant and Orlando Huff practiced for the first time this year, as both players were recovering from offseason surgery. Holmgren, while happy to see both of them back, will limit their activity this week and ease them in gently in preparation for training camp in August.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of, and a regular contributor to, Seahawks.NET. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.