Rookie Willson fits in at tight end

With starter Zach Miller sidelined, Luke Willson has made an impression during training camp

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comAugust 5, 2013 

RENTON — A week into training camp, Seattle Seahawks fifth-round selection Luke Willson already looks more comfortable in the offense.

Just ask his position coach, tight ends coach Pat McPherson.

“He’s a sharp kid,” McPherson said. “He’s very vigilant in his studying, and just staying on top of everything mentally. He’s doing a great job out there. For a rookie, he’s been dynamite.”

Willson’s play also has caught the attention of quarterback Russell Wilson.

“Luke looks great,” Wilson said. “He’s doing a great job at understanding where he needs to be at the right time. He has a great sense of looking for the ball, and he’s got unbelievable hands and a lot of speed.”

With regular starter Zach Miller on the physically unable to perform list to begin training camp, Willson is listed as the starting tight end on the depth chart for Thursday’s exhibition opener at San Diego.

Although Miller’s relegated to the sideline, Willson said the veteran has regularly been in his ear throughout practice, offering tips and advice.

“Zach’s been a ton of help,” Willson said. “With him being out right now, he’s really been talking me through a lot of plays – what to think, and what to look for pre-snap. He’s been tremendous for me so far.”

The former Rice star has demonstrated he has the physical attributes to play tight end in the NFL. He admitted to being a work-in-progress as a run blocker, but said learning the playbook has been the most challenging thing so far at training camp.

“For me, the toughest part has been the mental part of it,” Willson said. “I mean, we’re up here, especially as rookies, until 8:30 (p.m.). We’ve got meetings and special teams stuff – things like that going.

“It’s not a bad thing, but you really have to be focused, because if you miss that little bit of crucial information, all of sudden it shows up on the field. So that’s kind of the big thing for me is mentally, I really have to be focused in.”

McPherson said he’ll dial things back a little bit for Willson during practice this week so he’s fresh for Thursday’s game.

“Right now, to get ready for this game, partially it’s my job to help get his legs fresh again, so we can get him back to that speed,” McPherson said. “He takes so many reps, and he runs so hard, that he gets a little tired, a little sore.”

RB TURBIN READY

The Seahawks received some good news on the injury front Sunday.

Second-year pro Robert Turbin, who was on the physically unable to perform list with a foot injury, passed his physical and practiced with the team in the afternoon, coach Pete Carroll said.

Turbin will jump into what Carroll described as an intense competition for the backup job at tailback, with second-round draft choice Christine Michael, sixth-round draft choice Spencer Ware and second-year pro Derrick Coleman all making plays at different times during training camp.

“The young running backs have been really impressive,” Carroll said. “They’re versatile, and just the style that they bring – they really add to the style. It’s going to be our deepest running group by far that we’ve had.”

INJURY UPDATE

Defensive end Bruce Irvin, fullback Michael Robinson and receiver Stephen Williams were new additions to the list of players who did not practice on Sunday. Carroll said Irvin has a groin injury the team is trying to manage, but still is expected to play on Thursday at San Diego.

Robinson received treatment for a nagging ankle injury during practice.

And Williams is still dinged up from a hard fall he took in Friday’s scrimmage after being flipped by Winston Guy while going up for a pass.

“His head got knocked a little bit, and his neck is a little sore,” Carroll said of Williams. “So we’re going to rest him for a couple days.”

Carroll said defensive end Cliff Avril, who missed past six days with a hamstring injury, likely will not play against San Diego because he’s missed too much practice time.

“He’s getting close, but he’s not quite ready to come back yet,” Carroll said about Avril. “They’re going to run him today, and find out where he is for tomorrow. So it’s kind of day-to-day now.”

Miller (foot) has not been cleared by trainers. Carroll’s targeting having his tight end back by the team’s third exhibition game, which gives players such as Willson and Sean McGrath an opportunity to get extra reps with the first unit.

Miller, Chris Clemons (knee), Tharold Simon (foot), Percy Harvin (hip) and Greg Scruggs (knee) remain on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. Linebacker Korey Toomer (hip) remains on the non-football injury list. Other players not practicing include Avril, Williams, Irvin, Robinson, cornerback Ron Parker (hamstring), tight end Darren Fells (hamstring) and tight end Michael Palmer (groin).

Players returning to practice Sunday included cornerback Jeremy Lane (foot), defensive tackle Michael Brooks (unknown), receiver Doug Baldwin (stiffness), safety Kam Chancellor (ankle), kicker Carson Wiggs (unknown), linebacker Kyle Knox (unknown) and linebacker Bobby Wagner (shoulder).

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@thenewstribune.com @eric_d_williams blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks

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