Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.
February 10, 2009 3:27 PM
Posted by Danny O'Neil
Seahawks coach Jim Mora answered questions about Leroy Hill on Tuesday morning when he was interviewed by Mitch Levy on KJR-AM. He just didn't answer the question of what will happen to Hill later this month as to whether the linebacker will be designated as Seattle's franchise player or if he'll become an unrestricted free agent.
The deadline for designating franchise players is Feb. 19. So far Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel and Falcons punter Michael Koenen are two players whose teams have indicated they will use the franchise tag on. If Hill is not named Seattle's franchise player or signed to a new contract, he would become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the month.
Here's a transcript of Mora's answers:
Levy: Tell me how the organization looks at that mistake. Has it changed the way the organization looks at him and how they're going to play this as we get close to the decision-time of whether to franchise him or expose him to the free-agent market.
Mora: Well, it's certainly a big part of the evaluation process. As you know, and everybody knows that is familiar with the Seahawks is we have made a real attempt to put a premium on character. Character players. And I think what's important for all of us to understand is even the highest character individuals make mistakes sometimes and that's how we feel about Leroy. Leroy, he's a good human being. He's a good kid. He's a well-intentioned kid, and he made a mistake, and he's paying dearly for it. Probably, I'm sure internally. I've talked to him and it's eating him up, but it is a part of the evaluation process. We have to decide, given all the variables, what we have to do to make sure that we put the best 11 players on the field on defense and make the right decisions in free agency. That is part of the evaluation. We have not come to a conclusion yet at all. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't say that we're close yet. Now we have worked through a million different scenarios, but we haven't nailed anything down and we don't need to for at least another week or so.
Levy: You haven't decided if you want Leroy Hill back?
Mora: No, we want all our guys back.
Levy: You want Leroy Hill back?
Mora: Yeah, we think that Leroy Hill is a good football player and we think Leroy Hill is a good person. we think that Leroy Hill made a mistake.
Levy: Is it possible that Tim [Ruskell] and you and everyone else that is making this decision would change whatever you were inclined to do before this mistake, is it possible that you would change that based on the mistake?
Mora: It is possible. It is something that is discussed on an almost daily basis, but we haven't decided anything yet. And we're going to get a chance to visit face-to-face with Leroy this week, which we have not had a chance to do yet, and once again that will be all a part of us making a decision. Looking him in the eye and getting a feel for him. I have two years with Leroy, but others have four years here, so we know the type of kid he is. Was it a mistake? It was certainly a mistake so we have to decide the depth of the mistake and if we can overcome it.
Matt Hasselbeck missed more than half his team's games last season after suffering a back injury that first flared up in August, became more serious after a loss to the New York Giants. Levy asked Mora about Hasselbeck's recovery from the injury and prospects for the season.
Mora: I think if Matt's healthy for 16 weeks, this team has a chance to do some special things because he's an outstanding player and we'd love to see that happen. And right now, all indications are that he's going to be fine and he's seen umpteen specialists and he's worked very, very hard on rehabilitation of the back. But once again Mitch, like you said, there's an uncertainty especially as you get up there in age and you're dealing with a back injury, there's just certain things that you can't predict. Right now, all indications are that he's going to be fine, but that can change. What's important for us as an organization, as we go through the draft, as we go through free agency is to not just say, 'Matt's going to be fine. Oh, Matt's going to be OK, we can ignore that position.' I don't think that's the thing you do.
Levy: You will look at free-agent quarterbacks?
Mora: I don't know that we'll look so much at free-agent quarterbacks, Mitch, as we'll look into the draft and say, 'Is there a guy that can be the heir apparent to Matt at some point down the road?' And that doesn't mean that we're trying to run Matt out of here because that is so far from the truth. I'm extremely excited about Matt. I think that Matt gives you a great opportunity to win a lot of games and we've seen that. Everyone in Seattle has seen that and people around the league have seen that. But at the same time, you have to keep in mind his age and the injury history, especially this year, and what the injury was: a back. So we're excited about him. I would say he's had six or seven, maybe more sessions, with Greg Knapp, just individual sessions. Already, he showed up the first Thursday that Greg was here and then he showed up Saturday afternoon, the first week that Greg was here, just to meet with him. So Matt is excited. Matt feels like he has a lot to prove, and when a guy is motivated like Matt is, then you feel like there's a glimmer of hope. He's extremely motivated to be healthy and he's extremely motivated to regain his status as a great player.
Levy also asked for updates on Nate Burleson's recovery from season-ending knee injury and the prospects of Bobby Engram being re-signed.
"Same thing with Deion [Branch]. Remember Deion got hurt in that Green Bay in that playoff game, and we all saw how long it takes to come back from a knee [injury]. But he seemed to be hitting full stride toward the end of the year."
Levy: Trying to bring him back?
Mora: Like I said, we want all those guys back.
Levy: Does Bobby Engram want to come back?
Mora: I believe that he does. I believe that Bobby at some point would like to be part of this organization. Not as a player, but a part of this organization in some capacity. And he's indicated that to me so I think that that gives you some wiggle room.
Levy: Isn't he more valuable to you guys than anyone else at his age.
Mora: You can make that argument. You certainly could. And notwithstanding what happened last year in the offseason, Bobby's a tremendous leader and if you're bringing young players into your organization and you're saying, 'Hey, be like that guy,' you would point at Bobby Engram. Be like that. Prepare like that guy does. Treat your profession the way that guy does. Be a member of this community like that guy is. He's a great role model, and I think there's value there.
Levy: Do you want to tell us whether it's better than 50-50 if he comes back?
Mora: I can't even answer that, Mitch. There's just too many moving parts right now.