“We had a really good practice today,” Holmgren told the assembled media after the morning workout. “They’re focused. It’s longer of course, but we work on a lot of different situations in the morning. I thought there was real healthy competition. Guys were moving fast. It was a first good day in pads.
“We did not scrimmage, but there was a lot of banging. The offensive, defensive line, they bang around anyway, whether you tackle the ball carrier or not, their lives never change that much. When you say less hitting, what you are really talking about is tackling the backs and the receivers.
“We have a period, we call it ‘thud’, you have to come up and bump off pretty good, make sure they can make the tackle, at least we think they can make the tackle. There is collision, but there is no tackling. I don’t want a lot of people on the ground.”
Holmgren addressed the necessity of the wide receivers to concentrate on catching the ball better, something that, until this morning’s workout, hadn’t gone well.
“We work on it,” Holmgren admitted. “That has been a bugaboo for us a couple years ago. We’ve gotten much better, our concentration levels, and they practice like I expect them to practice, but I agree with (the media), I think they did a nice job today.”
Two wideouts that had very good days today were Nate Burleson and Peter Warrick and Holmgren said he was pleased with their efforts.
“Both of those guys have good hands,” Holmgren said. “We’re counting on them. They know we’re counting on them. One of the reasons you come to training camp is you have to see how those guys respond, and really they’re telling you how much they want it. Both of them are off to good starts.”
Holmgren has also noticed a change in Warrick’s speed and running since he joined the team for camp.
“He will say ‘no, I’m fine, I was fine last year’,” Holmgren said about Warricks leg injury from two years ago that still lingered last year. “If you ask anybody, you watch him run, he’s always had great hands, but he’s running better and he understands what we’re doing now.
“For a wide receiver, if there’s any doubt as to what you’re doing, and then you add on a little bit of an injury, a little bit of a leg thing, it’s pretty hard to play the position. Also, he probably will be our punt return guy probably. We have some good competition there, too.”
At the fullback position, there isn’t a battle for the starter’s spot – that’s held down by Pro Bowler Mack Strong. However, two solid players are vying for the backup job.
“I feel good about the fullback position,” Holmgren said with a nod. “I’m paying close attention to it. The fullback position, we have Leonard Weaver and David Kirtman behind Mack in getting most of the work.
“Leonard will also play some halfback for us. In the preseason you’ll see both of those guys play a lot in games. I tease Mack all the time. For the last five years I’ve said to him ‘this is probably your last year’. As long as he’s productive, it’s a little like the situation with Robbie Tobeck and Chris Spencer, as long as you’re productive and doing what we expect you to do at the position, then in all likelihood you’ll play, but you have good young kids behind him playing. I think we’re ok there.”
As noted throughout the offseason, for the first time in the Holmgren era, the Seahawks will have the same middle linebacker for the second season in a row.
“It’s a wonderful feeling to have because that guy’s a very important player on your team for a lot of reasons,” Holmgren said referring to the “quarterback of the defense”. “Lofa (Tatupu), (the media) talked to him yesterday, he’s a special young man. You love coaching guys like that. It’s a good feeling… His approach his whole life at competing and playing football hasn’t changed one bit.
“That’s probably why you look at a guy that you might say the measurables might drop you down a little bit, but he defies that because of the type of kid he is, and how he’s approached his career.”
Middle linebacker isn’t a spot that has fans wondering who will be manning that position come September 10th, but one spot that is up for grabs is the cornerback position opposite Marcus Trufant. Veteran CB Kelly Herndon and rookie Kelly Jennings are going to be going at it all month in an effort to find a cover corner to shut down the other side of the field.
“There is a great competition there,” Holmgren said happily. The easiest thing in the world for anybody is to say ‘he was our number one draft choice, here is the position’. We’ve tried never to do that, hand the position to any of them. I don’t think that’s a healthy way to go about it. Yes, they’re competing.
“In Kelly Herndon’s defense, he got hurt a little bit last year, and people get on him a little bit. He’s come into camp and is off to as good a start as anybody we got. You must have three quality corners in this day because you’re going to see three wide receiver sets a lot.”
Another player of interest for both coaches and fans alike, is FS Ken Hamlin who returned to practice on Saturday after missing the better part of nine months after fracturing his skull in a bar fight last October.
“He’s moving awfully well,” Holmgren said. “I teased him; I said ‘I guess your hand-eye coordination is the last thing that comes back’. He dropped a couple passes. Then I realized ‘wait a minute, you didn’t have great hands before you got hurt’.”
The staff was also waiting for Hamlin to get his first licks in.
“I think anyone who was involved with the team last year you wait and see,” Holmgren admitted. “It’d be like a guy coming off a bad knee injury, the first hit and how he responds to things. My feeling is he’ll be just fine, but I’ve got to admit we’re waiting for that first big collision.”
Mili injured: Holmgren said TE Itula Mili did something to his back during warmups and was unable to practice today.
“It’s one of those weird deals. I hope it’s not a lingering thing, but he couldn’t practice anymore,” Holmgren said.
Leaded only for Stump: Running backs coach Stump Mitchell was especially animated during the early workout.
“I think they switched the decaffeinated and the caffeinated,” Holmgren said with a laugh. “We have two pots with different colors on them. It’s early, Stump is a little sleepy, he went for the wrong one. He feels good. I love to see him like that.”