"See You In Beautiful Cheney"

"See You In Beautiful Cheney"

As the Seahawks' June Minicamp comes to a close, Mike Holmgren addresses the state of the team and the short "downtime" ahead before Training Camp begins in August.

The cold, sudden finality of an overtime playoff loss in Green Bay is now a distant memory. Six months of free agency, the NFL Draft and assorted minicamps are now complete. This is the real off-season. August will bring with it sunny optimism and the first heated position battles of training camp.

Like the Solstice, this day marks the changing of the seasons. The book on 2003 is now closed and in six weeks the story of the 2004 Seattle Seahawks will begin in Cheney, Washington.

On Wednesday, Mike Holmgren closed the team’s June minicamp with a message to his players.

“The main message is that I wanted them to know what I thought our chances were this year, what kind of team I think we could be and what I think we have to do to give us a chance to be good,” he said. “I talked about what I would like to see them do. I just wanted to come to camp ready to go this year, feeling good about what maybe we can accomplish.”

Holmgren is an honest, pragmatic man with a playful sense of humor. He reveals almost as much between the lines as he says flat out. As a quarterback guru and professor of the West Coast Offense, the success of his team revolves around the signal-caller.

“Well, I think it all starts with the quarterback,” Holmgren said. “Anytime you have a quarterback that’s confident and knows, really, that it’s his team, your camp is going to run better. We have two guys that can do that in Matt (Hasselbeck) and Trent (Dilfer).”

“I couldn’t be more proud of (Hasselbeck) and how he has progressed and where he is now,” Holmgren said. “He over thinks things just a little bit at times; he’s a very creative guy and I just need to rein him in a little bit. As far as running the team and being a leader in the clubhouse, he’s there.”

Because of his confidence in Hasselbeck, Holmgren let Dilfer run the first team for much of the minicamp to give his starter some extra rest.

“We’re really going to monitor (Hasselbeck’s) throws,” he said. “Every quarterback that plays, if you play the whole season, is going to come away with some aches and pains. He’s kind of thin anyway, and he got sacked 45 times last year. Some of it was his own fault. Not to mention when he runs, he’s like a giraffe on ice, you know, all over the place and he just gets killed. I just want him real fresh and ready when the season starts.”

After Darrell Jackson, Koren Robinson and Bobby Engram, wide receiver is going to be a very competitive position in training camp. Typically, the team will keep five or six at that position. Jerheme Urban, Taco Wallace and the rookies have looked good so far and then you throw All-Pro special teams player, Alex Bannister, into the mix and things get real crowded real quick

“Now, if you talk to Alex, it gets his feathers ruffled just a little bit when you talk to him about that because he sees himself as a Pro Bowl wide receiver that just happens to be a special teams player,” Holmgren said. “I said ‘well, you went to the Pro-Bowl as a special teams player,’ but somehow the logic of my argument escapes him. He’s a talented guy that will continue to get better as a wide receiver, but he won’t get as many chances as he thinks he should get as long as the three guys in front of him are healthy.”

On the defensive side of the ball the Seahawks are talented, but young. The hope there is that youthful enthusiasm and health will balance out their lack of experience. Enthusiasm goes a long way on defense with the right coaching and Defensive Coordinator, Ray Rhodes, has thrown a lot of responsibility at his young lions.

For several seasons, the middle linebacker job is one that the Seahawks have had trouble filling for more than one season. Instead of another veteran stop-gap stopper, this year the team has committed to finding a long-term solution in the middle. Orlando Huff, Solomon Bates and rookie Niko Koutouvides will share reps in Cheney at center stage of the most watched position in camp.

”We have three young kids that are pretty good football players, that haven’t played very much,” Holmgren said. “That always, for a coach, makes me a little queasy. One of those guys will emerge. That’s not to say we won’t do something. We have some money in our salary cap to spend if we needed to, but if we don’t do anything one of those guys is going to play.”

All of the hard work of the off-season has been done. Most, if not all, of the pieces are in place. The players will continue to stay in shape and the rookies will spend plenty of time in their playbooks. But in today’s NFL, the few weeks before training camp is the only real down time the organization gets.

“The off season is kind of a misnomer,” Holmgren said. “The coaches have been working really hard, we all really need a little bit of a break here. The coaches need to recharge the batteries a little bit and really get away from football. The players need to do the same thing, but at the same time they have to be ready to practice physically. So while they’re working out and keeping that tone, I do want them to kind of get away from football a little bit a read a good book.”

Any suggestions?

“No, no. That’s one of life’s simple pleasures for me. A lot of them read the sports section. That’s fine. You’ve got to walk before you can run.”

Ouch.

“You guys have a good summer,” he said, “and I’ll see you in beautiful Cheney.”

Kristopher Jones is the Executive Editor of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback at kristopher@seahawks.net.

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