From the offense, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and tackle Walter Jones. From the special teams units, linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski and long snapper J.P. Darche. From the defense, linebacker Lofa Tatupu and safety Ken Hamlin.
Given their status as the field general and the team’s best player, respectively, the selections of Hasselbeck and Jones weren’t a surprise. Kacyvenski and Darche have long been undervalued special teams standouts, maintaining their roster spots due to their abilities on those units. And as Holmgren said, the selections of Hamlin and Tatupu were just as much about their intangibles as what the players do on the field.
Hamlin suffered serious head injuries in an altercation outside a Seattle nightclub in October of 2005. Through training camp and the preseason, he has shown no effects of the injuries that once threatened to claim his career. In a season which seems to have an all-time number of Comeback Player of the Year candidates, Hamlin must surely be in the lead.
The coach mentioned Hamlin’s intensity as a primary reason for his election to the post. “Kenny is a vocal guy, well liked on the football team,” Holmgren said. “(The team) elect(s) guys I think that they know are passionate about it. The other thing is that I think they admire the fact that he’s back out here playing. I think that’s part of it as well.”
Tatupu’s selection would seem to be a virtual lock – from day one of his rookie season in 2005, the USC graduate tok over Seattle’s defense and made it his own, showing a highly unusual ability to make veterans listen to him. Tatupu was calling the defense in his first minicamp, and had an incredible 2005 season. One of the hallmarks of his success has been his intelligence - Tatupu has a near-supernatural knack for sniffing out an opponent’s intentions, and enough respect from those around him to be able to bust a teammate’s chops if necessary.
“He’s wise beyond his years, and he is the perfect choice for defensive captain I think,” Holmgren said.
Holmgren also talked about Jones’ selection to the “Inside Six” – a modest man who has taken his game to a Hall of Fame level, Jones is a great contrast to his more boisterous comrades. “I think there are different types of leaders,” the coach said. “Some are vocal and some are not - some are admired. When Walt does speak, people listen. He is naturally a quiet guy. I don’t think anyone should misunderstand that as not caring, or not being passionate, or not being able to speak his mind when he has to. I was very happy with the choices of players made. It’s their football team and I think they picked good guys.”
Holmgren then turned his attention to the upcoming season opener in Detroit. After a preseason full of injuries, the Seahawks will get several key players back in time for the opening kickoff. Key among those players is wide receiver Darrell Jackson, whose knee problems can be traced back to the fourth game of the 2005 season. Jackson missed nine games due to injury and ten overall as those around him stepped up and helped Seattle’s offense become the best in the league. Now, Holmgren hopes, it’s time for Jackson to add his estimable talents to that equation. When asked about the possibility of Nate Burleson and Bobby Engram moving up one spot each on the depth chart, the coach sounded pretty certain that he wanted his #1 man out there…at least in fits and starts.
“I might start Darrell depending on how (he) feels. He has had a good week of practice. As far as he tells me, he’s feeling good, but I would stick with my original idea that he’s not going to play the whole game. When he’s not there Bobby will be there,” Holmgren said, referring to his leading receiver in 2005, who came out of the slot to make up for a great deal of Jackson’s lost production.
Doing the math as he has, Holmgren could see Jackson out there for a fixed number of plays. ”I said 25 plays, I think I said that. You’ve got 65 plays in a game.”
What about other injured players? We know that TE Jerramy Stevens will be out for the first month of the season, but where do other players stand? “We have some choices to make,” Holmgren said. “Stevens will be the only one that is out. We will probably talk about it tomorrow, but guys like (Marcus) Tubbs, Russell Davis, (Itula) Mili, everyone is able to play if we can keep them active.
”I can’t keep them all active, but they can all play. Leroy Hill will be a Sunday decision. Right now it is still bothering him a little bit and. These things can go away rather quickly so that will be a Sunday decision.”
Ah, yes – the gametime status of his other standout second-year linebacker. What happened to Hill? “It happened in the game against the Raiders,” Holmgren said, discussing Hill’s shoulder injury. “As stingers happen, so we didn’t use him in a contact period here, but then in the seven-on-seven period (in practice) which is usually not too “bang-around”, he got into a collision with a guy and his neck went the wrong way. It just happened. When he had it before, he had a little pad in there to hopefully prevent that, but it didn’t. It had to be a bigger pad. These types of things, you have to let (them) quiet down.”
Fortunately, the Seahawks have as much linebacker depth as any team in the NFL, with several players able to step into Hill’s shoes in the short term – starting with last year’s best option on the weak side, D.D. Lewis. “That’s the position that if you had to sit somebody down and lose somebody for a game, we’d be okay,” the coach said. “You plug in guys. Leroy could not play, I don’t know that yet, but if he could not play then D.D. steps in and (he) knows what to do. You still have (Kevin) Bentley, (Isaiah) Kacyvenski, you/ve got (Niko) Koutouvides, you’ve got some guys in the backup roles who have played.”
Beyond the normal injury dilemmas, Holmgren’s primary focus is on the readiness of his team as they begin the defense of their conference championship. For the coach and his Seahawks, getting on the field after a long (and in this case, rather frustrating) offseason will be a relief.
“You don’t talk quite so much. You just go out and play, and then the games start and you get in to your normal weekly routine,” Holmgren said, reflecting on the training camp odyssey as well. “You’re at home. You’re sleeping in your own bed, and that’s all good. The difficult part of any opening season is games on the road. That adds a little bit more to your preparation. We’ve said it before; you’ve got to win on the road.”
Seattle’s opening kickoff will take place at Detroit’s Ford Field at 10:00 AM PST, Sunday, September 10.
Scouring the Waiver Wire: Seahawks .NET has learned that the Seahawks have recently tried out two receivers and a quarterback. Another receiver, as previously reported elsewhere, has also been invited to show what he can do.
The Tacoma News Tribune broke the story of Seattle’s interest in former Broncos receiver Darius Watts, and Watts was in for a recent tryout.
Receivers Rod Gardner and Derrick Hamilton, both Clemson grads, have been in to try out. Watts and Gardner have also tried out with the Chiefs. The Seahawks also brought in quarterback Stefan LeFors, who failed to survive Carolina’s final roster cuts in early September. LeFors was the Panthers’ fourth-round pick in 2005.
Gardner has bounced around the league with mixed results, and Hamilton was waived by the 49ers on August 11th with an injury settlement. He had missed all of 2005 after tearing a knee ligament in an offseason workout.
Watts was Denver’s second-round pick in 2004. His career has been notable more for occasional big plays and big drops than the kind of consistency required by Seattle’s offense, but he had been praised by Denver coaches for his offseason regimen this year after playing in only six games in 2005.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here.