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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.
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July 31, 2006

Afternoon update

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 4:54 PM

The Seahawks have added guard Taylor Schmidt to the training-camp roster after releasing center Lance Reynolds, who suffered an injury over the weekend and was on crutches on Sunday. Schmidt is from San Diego State. Schmidt is a rookie who is 6-4, 315 pounds.

The remainder of roll call, tight end Itula Mili was still out after experiencing some stiffness in his back during the morning stretch. Tackle Ray Willis, who was resting a hamstring on Sunday, took part in both practices on Monday.

The play that drew the most cheers from the crowd in the afternoon practice was tight end Mike Gomez catching a pass behind the defense. After other defenders slowed to a jog, conceding the play, Julian Peterson kept running and as Gomez slowed to turn around, Peterson knocked the ball away and caught it in the air to the cheers from the crowd.

Shaun meets up with Howard Stern show

Posted by Jose Romero at 2:01 PM

Players find a way to keep the mood light as training camp wears on, and two guys who are adept at doing so just happen to be two of the Seahawks stars — Shaun Alexander and Matt Hasselbeck.

Alexander's lighter moment, if it can actually be called that, took place two weeks before camp at the ESPY Awards show. He spoke about what happened there recently.

A radio reporter approached Alexander and first congratulated Alexander on his MVP season. Then came the questions of very direct and -- some would think -- of objectionable nature.

The reporter asked Alexander if he would have a problem with a gay athlete in the locker room. To which Alexander responded by saying not really, and that he didn't "think it was right" but that he knows people who are gay.

Asked if he knew any openly gay NFL players, Alexander said no.

Asked what was the worst thing a coach of his had ever said to him, Alexander said after a practice in college at Alabama, a coach told him he should never have recruited Alexander nor anyone from his home state of Kentucky. Then Alexander laughed.

Would he have sex with Serena Williams? "Never. I'm married."

Had he ever gambled on a game? "Never."

How many groupies had he "been with?" "I was a virgin until I got married."

That response shocked the interviewer, but only led to more grilling. All the while, Alexander kept his composure and never ducked a single query.

Did your teammates know about it (being a virgin)? "It was my choice. Like when you have all the girls you want, and you choose not to (be with them), you can't really bust on somebody that's doing it for a choice."

Alexander was asked why blacks make better athletes. Still unfazed, he delivered an answer about black youths being hungry to make it in sports and how some see it as the only way to get to the top.

There was more. In the end, the interviewer turned out to be Gary Garver, a correspondent for the Howard Stern radio show on Sirius satellite radio. The segment aired on July 17 on Stern's show, the morning after the ESPYs. Alexander looked back on the two-minute session with candid humor.

"Hilarious," Alexander said. "I didn't know who it was or what the show was. They just asked me questions and I just answered them. I didn't make a big deal about it because I didn't know who it was. I thought the questions were a little odd, but then I thought, 'Well, you know, maybe he just wanted to know.' ''

Alexander said he wasn't offended by the line of questioning.

"Questions are questions."

He's heard worse.

"Oh yeah. You should hear my cousins and friends talk. So it just is what it is."

Oh yes, there was Hasselbeck. The Pro Bowler walked into the dining commons at training camp yesterday with a camera and, for some reason, snapped a photo of myself, my co-worker and Times columnist Steve Kelley, and Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. And they say athletes abuse the media and vice versa?

Putting on the pads

Posted by Jose Romero at 11:50 AM

This morning the Seahawks put on the pads for the first time at training camp, but the hitting was limited.

It really only came down to blocking between the offensive and defensive linemen, as well as the fullbacks and linebackers.

Several Seahawks looked good in team drills. Tight end Mike Gomez, pressed into action when Itula Mili left practice with a back injury during warmups, made a few nice catches under good coverage. So did WRs Nate Burleson. Keenan Howry, Maurice Mann, Taco Wallace and Peter Warrick.

It wasn't clear when Mili, who was being used as the No. 1 tight end in the absence of injured starter Jerramy Stevens, would return to practice.

Still, coach Mike Holmgren was encouraged with what he saw.

"We had a really good practice today," he said. "They were focused. It was longer. We work on a lot of different situation in the morning. I thought there was real healthy competition. Guys were moving fast. So it was a good first day in pads."

The morning practice was the longest of camp to date, two hours and 27 minutes.

Free safety Ken Hamlin also donned pads for the first time since last October, but didn't make significant contact with anyone.

July 30, 2006

Jennings arrives

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 5:03 PM

Kelly Jennings was out on the field for his first practice this afternoon, and he looked quite good for a guy who spent a large chunk of his day on airplanes. He said he was up at 4:30 a.m. Eastern time to catch a flight to Denver and then on to Spokane. He said he knew on Saturday night that the deal was about to get done.

Jennings participated in individual drills on Sunday afternoon, but not the team session.

Jennings fills the spot on the roster formerly occupied by defensive end Jeb Huckeba, who was released. Huckeba is still recovering from the stress fractures he was diagnosed with in training camp last year.

Also today, tight end Brock Edwards was cut. He had not participated in training camp yet because of illness. Defensive tackle Alex Guerrero was signed, and was on the field for practice this afternoon. Guerrero went to Boise State and was with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent after the draft.

Guerrero provides some depth at defensive tackle for training camp as the Seahawks are missing Rocky Bernard and Marcus Tubbs for now. Their status for the season isn't in question, but Guerrero helps round out practice repetitions in the meantime.

Wide receiver Peter Warrick practiced for the first time today. He arrived at training camp on Saturday after being delayed by bad weather, but was on the field this afternoon.

Jennings is in

Posted by Jose Romero at 11:32 AM

The word is out all over training camp that cornerback Kelly Jennings has agreed to terms of a five-year contract and is in Cheney, where he has to take a physical, sign his deal and report to practice this afternoon.

This morning's practice will be remembered for the high winds and cool temperatures that had many of those not dressed warmly shivering on the sidelines.

More details on the Jennings signing have been posted here.

July 29, 2006

Still no Jennings

Posted by Jose Romero at 5:05 PM

The afternoon practice featured the arrival of WR Peter Warrick, whose flight was delayed by inclement weather. Also, rookie DE Darryl Tapp looked impressive during team drills with effective pressure off the right side working against veteran offensive lineman Tom Ashworth.

First-round pick Kelly Jennings has not yet signed, and if he has he wasn't at practice all day. I figured Jennings would get signed and into camp in time for today but it didn't happen.

After practice, RB Shaun Alexander spoke to reporters about his whirlwind offseason, which include awards shows and banquets, a new book, his endorsements, his offseason individual workouts and a good time with his wife and two kids. He also discussed complications he's had in maintaining his youth center in northern Kentucky and how he might not have made the best business decisions, but he looks forward to local city, county and community involvement in refurbishing the center. I'll have more from Shaun in the coming days.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck's message after practice was that it's way too early to talk about returning to the Super Bowl with so much work to be done. He said every player's focus should be on training camp and either making the team or getting through camp healthy.

"If we take care of the first things first than we'll have an opportunity for the bigger and better stuff," he said.

Let the fun begin

Posted by Jose Romero at 12:16 PM

The first practice of camp always brings with it some excitement on the part of fans, coaches and players with the new season approaching. But this morning was different.

These were the NFC Champion Seahawks opening camp. There hadn't been a Day One crowd like this since 1999, the first year of the Mike Holmgren era. And they cheered everything, from routine catches to nice plays to individual players simply jogging back into the huddle.

The players had some extra pep in their steps, especially the guys on defense. You could just feel the confidence already, so much so that Holmgren had to tell the players to go easy so no one gets hurt just before the 11-on-11 team drill.

Among the newsworthy items from morning: The Seahawks confirmed eight players on the physically-unable-to-perform (PUP) list after they failed their physicals Friday night. They are DTs Rocky Bernard and Marcus Tubbs, DEs Joe Tafoya and Grant Wistrom, CB Jordan Babineaux, WR Darrell Jackson,TE Jerramy Stevens and DE Darrell Wright. Most are recovering from offseason surgeries, and none of the players can practice until they pass physcials.

Also, DE Jeb Huckeba was released. The former fifth-round draft pick from last season was trying to come back from stress fractures in both feet.

Holmgren said the injured players, which include Olympia native Skyler FUlton, fall into three categories: A group will be ready by the second exhibition game. Another group will be back by the third game. And the last few players can practice now, including SS Michael Boulware, but they will be monitored closely.

Holmgren thinks all players will be healthy by the final exhibition game on Aug. 31.

And FS Ken Hamlin will put on the pads and make contact along with the rest of the team tomorrow. Hamlin practiced today, and it remains to be seen how he responds to live hitting with pads. Holmgren said he thinks Hamlin will be fine.

Three players were absent, CB Kelly Jennings, who is close to signing his rooie contract; TE Brock Edwards, who has the mumps; and WR Peter Warrick, whose trip was delayed by inclement weather but won't keep him from arriving later today.

Finally, the Seahawks announced that all available regular-season game tickets, which went on sale this morning, soid out in 45 minutes. There are still some tickets left for exhibition games. This means the Seahawks will not be blacked out on local TV for all of the 2006 season.

July 28, 2006

Today's workout

Posted by Jose Romero at 2:49 PM

As Seahawks players made their way to Cheney in time for a mandatory team meeting this evening on the EWU campus, the rookies and quarterbacks took the field for a short workout.

All five signed draft picks took part, with only first-rounder Kelly Jennings not present while his contract is being negotiated. Starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck didn't participate and didn't appear at lunch. But strong safety Michael Boulware worked out, though he was not required to do so. Boulware said he was testing out his surgically-repaired left knee.

The most interesting part of the 33-minute workout was the fact that about 50 fans showed up to watch. Normally no one but media members watches the workout and fans come out in droves for the first official practice, which is tomorrow. But there they were, some in Seahawks jerseys and carrying signs, and they applauded coach Mike Holmgren when he took the field.

Holmgren stopped to sign autographs after the workout. One fan's T-shirt said it all, as far as the crowd was concerned: A Seahawks logo, underneath which read "Everyone Else Sucks."

Canned laughter

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 1:10 PM

Looks like the Seahawks are going to be the early joke in the NFL. Not their chances, mind you, as national expectations are going to be pretty high for the team. Rather, it's the result of the Super Bowl that's going to be a punchline.

Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback on includes the quip that it seems that more than a year has passed since the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl, but he cautions "be careful about saying that to Sehawks fans, because they still don't believe they lost the game."

Add that to a list of national jabs that also includes ESPN's Chris Berman throwing a penalty flag before the Seahawks made a pick in the draft last April, which was his not-so-subtle reminder of Super Bowl misfortune.

Line of fire

Posted by Danny O'Neil at 11:56 AM

The Football Outsiders is a site that is trying to take the principals of statistical analysis that are de riguer in baseball and apply them to football. Of course, the team-oriented nature of football and the complexity of plays makes it much more problematic to analyze in this way, but it's still interesting to see attempts to find the reality behind the stats we are bombarded with.

The site's most recent analysis is of the NFL's offensive lines, and the Seahawks are assessed as the fourth-best line in the league with the caveat that there is little doubt the Seahawks would have been tops in the league had they not lost Steve Hutchinson to the Vikings.

A couple of things to note. First, a look over the past four seasons shows that the Seahawks' run blocking has improved, according to the Football Outsiders criteria, and that improvement has coincided with the team's increasing success from the disappointment of the playoff-less 2002 season to three consecutive postseason appearances.

In 2002, the Seahawks' offensive line ranked No. 21 according to the Football Outsiders' evaluation criteria. In 2003, Seattle ranked No. 11. In 2004, the Seahawks were No. 9 and last season they were No. 6.

That meshes well with the league-wide perception that Seattle's offensive line was really the bedrock for the offensive success that reached a high point last season.

The Football Outsiders assessed more than just the offensive line, and Seattle graded out higher than any other team in terms of offense. The Seahawks' receivers and tight eneds were ranked No. 2. The running backs were No. 1, and the quarterback was No. 3.

What that means and how accurate the assessments are is open to debate. Baseball provides almost perfect conditions for an experiment since it's batter vs. pitcher, an isolated matchup repeated hundreds of times over the course of a season. Football is more problematic to analyze exactly who is responsible for what. Did a team gain 7 yards on a first-and-10 play because the running back's quickness or the tackle's block? Usually, fans argue over the answer to those questions, but Football Outsiders is looking for more educated ways to answer the question.

Greetings from Cheney

Posted by Jose Romero at 10:17 AM

I arrived here last night and got settled into my dorm room on campus. Some Seahawks had already arrived on the EWU campus as well and I expect the whole team to be here in time for the first full practice Saturday.

Every time I come back to EWU for camp, something is different either on campus or in town. Since my first season in 2002, the town has added a Blockbuster Video, Pizza Hut, a Taco Bell, a Starbucks, a strip mall with a Safeway and a Holiday Inn Express. Not to mention a glut of new homes and apartments.

Woodward Stadium, the home of the EWU Eagles, has been remodeled. A quad on campus near the dining commons was built and landscaped. And local businesses with corporate ties to the Seahawks have their employees wearing 12th Man buttons to welcome the team.

Cheney has grown, and this year it seems the town is more abuzz about camp since the team is coming off the NFC championship.

Some details from today's workout later.




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