When he was brought in by Tim Ruskell, the implication was Seattle wanted to get better in short-yardage situations and last season, that's exactly what RB T.J. Duckett did for their offense. The tough, hard-charging back converted 26 of his 62 carries into first downs and scored eight touchdowns, but he said recently he doesn't want to just be considered a 'big back'...
"I knew a little bit about (Seattle's troubles in short yardage situations), but whatever my duty was, whatever they called on me to do in the game, that’s what I was going to do," Duckett told Sports Radio 950 KJR's Mitch Levy Sports Radio 950 KJR's Mitch Levy on Tuesday. "Once the role played itself out and I was the short-yardage, goal line guy that was my main focus and there was nothing that was going to stop me from getting that first down.
"I would love to have more carries, I don’t want to settle at ‘short yardage back’ just because of my size, so mentally I’m ready to compete for that, physically I’m ready so now it’s just a matter of going into camp and working and showing what I can do and show that I can be more than a guy that gets carries inside the 20 or on first and second down."
Duckett was inked by Seattle to a five-year, $13 million contract back in March of 2008. Many heard rumors of a tiff between former head coach Mike Holmgren and Ruskell over having to keep the seven-year veteran because of his high salary.
"After playing for so many years, there’s so many things that happen off the field that you can’t control so all I can do is control the shape I’m in, the way I play, the way I was learning the offense, just trying to make plays," Duckett admitted. "That’s all I was focused on when I was in the game. You can’t worry about it. If you’re worrying about that, then you’re worrying about the wrong things.
"I was focused on getting better and learning the offense. It was a new team and a new situation and I was just trying to learn things and as I went on, I thought things would improve and they did. If I had spent all that time worrying about that other stuff, it would have been a headache."
While he had to learn a new offense last season, this year things are familiar, but not because they remained the same. His old head coach while he was in Atlanta (Jim Mora) and his old offensive coordinator (Greg Knapp) both helped lead Duckett to his most productive seasons while he was with the Falcons and that familiarity could lead to big things.
"I was in Atlanta for three or four years and I was there under coach Mora and coach Knapp, so to have them in Seattle and knowing how I can run and what my abilities are rather than being on a team for the first time and feeling your way through, I think that’s definitely going to help out," Duckett said. "With my knowledge of the offense and being familiar with the blocking schemes, I think those are all things that will come into play.
"At the same time, I’ve always worked hard and gotten myself into great shape to compete for whatever spot was available.
"That’s the job and whatever it takes to win, if that means coming in and getting two carries and getting first downs or if that’s having a bunch of carries in the flow of the game, that’s all that I’m really focused on."
Helping him even more will be the offensive system Knapp employs -- a zone blocking scheme.
"In the zone scheme, you get your read and it’s ‘one cut and go’ and get upfield," Duckett said. "I’m not a ‘dancing type’ of a running back, I’m a ‘one cut and get up field’ kind of a guy so in that way the new offense suits me really well instead of a guy who needs to do some bouncing and running lateral and picking holes."
Duckett, along with second-year running back Justin Forsett and veteran Julius Jones will head to camp at the end of the month ready to show what they can do and Duckett says he's relishing the chance to find a new role.
"I’m definitely confident that if I come in the way I need to and perform to my abilities then my role will expand."