Carpenter won’t back down

July 30, 2011 

RENTON – When James Carpenter showed up at Seahawks headquarters after being drafted in the first round, he told us how much he loves his mother’s macaroni and cheese.

When he took the field as a Seahawk for the first time Friday morning, and looked out of breath early, I had to wonder: Just how much mac and cheese has he been eating?

It’s logical that the rookies, big linemen in particular, would find it tough to be training-camp ready when the lockout kept them out of the usual minicamps and off-season training activities that would help them ease into their careers.

And then, on his first play in team drills, Carpenter false started. Hmmm.

Linemen from both sides of the ball then headed off to one end zone to square off in pass-blocking drills.

This is the testing ground for physical dominance, for bragging rights, where young linemen can earn their stripes or be found wanting. There’s no place to hide, no room for the weak or irresolute … just man on man.

Into this crucible the 22-year-old James Carpenter was thrust. Having been on a professional football practice field for all of about half an hour, Carpenter had to get in his stance against veteran defensive end Red Bryant.

Oh, no … well, welcome to the NFL, rookie.

The 330-pound Bryant blossomed into a force last year after moving from tackle to end, and is probably the most naturally powerful Seahawk. He’s the perfect definition of the term “country strong.” Although a thoroughly pleasant and mild-mannered individual, Bryant doesn’t just fight off blockers, he man-handles them at times.

And when the ball was snapped, Bryant fired straight into the rookie with a fearsome bull rush. They locked their hands on each other and engaged in a sumo-style duel.

Like a scene from an Animal Planet documentary on the savage territorial battles of grizzly bears, neither side yielded. I couldn’t see inside the helmets to tell whether they were baring fangs, and the other linemen were shouting so loudly I couldn’t tell whether the two combatants were growling. But I suspect as much.

And when the whistle blew, the two were still fairly close to the line of scrimmage, meaning the rookie had stonewalled the powerful veteran.

They lined up again, and Bryant got a little more push, but still wouldn’t have reached the quarterback. James Carpenter had made a profound statement. It was his only statement, as he was not made available to the media on his first day.

“He’s a big, strong guy; he brings a lot to our team from a toughness standpoint,” said left tackle Russell Okung, last year’s first-rounder who, also, brings a lot to the team from a toughness standpoint. “(Carpenter) expects a lot out of himself already; he wants to be out here to be the best player and contribute to our group. Anytime you get a guy like that, we’re ready to roll.”

Perhaps as early as this morning, the Hawks will add free-agent Robert Gallery as the starting left guard.

Receiver Mike Williams was a teammate of Gallery’s with the Raiders, when they both played for new line coach Tom Cable.

“I know what kind of toughness (Gallery) is going to bring to our group, and an attitude that is just like coach Cable’s,” Williams said.

In just his second season, it’s still fresh in Okung’s mind how hard it is for a rookie to step in and learn a scheme on the fly. “You have to catch up really quick,” he said. “But James is doing a great job.”

While Bryant and Carpenter are a pair of soft-spoken southern gentlemen, they’re both very competitive, so Bryant didn’t seem to want to talk too much about his showdown with the rookie.

“He’s a big right tackle,” Bryant said. “I can see why they went and got him. I think he’s going to be a good addition.”

Carpenter is going to have to learn the schemes, and the techniques, and how to work in concert with his linemates. He’s going to have to work into playing shape, and understand the toughness it takes to play on a line in the NFL.

Still, from as few as a couple snaps on the first morning of his pro career, Carpenter announced his presence and made two things clear: He’s got the strength to take on anybody, and the attitude to not back down.

Both will serve the Sea-hawks well.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com

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