Seahawks notebook: Russell Okung has learned what it means to be an NFL pro

Staff writersJanuary 30, 2014 

— Collecting checks from an NFL team makes a man a professional. But it takes more to be considered a “pro.”

Here’s how Seahawks offensive line coach Tom Cable puts it: “I say to those guys (linemen) that when you start out, it’s just cool to be an NFL player, and some of those guys will end up failing. You really become a pro when you learn how to take care of your body, when you learn the importance of study.”

And where does starting left tackle Russell Okung fit in that progression?

“He is truly becoming a pro,” Cable said. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”

Okung has been in the league four seasons, and was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2012. But injuries have sidelined him for 19 games in his career. After ankle injuries cost him six games as a rookie and a torn pectoral caused him to miss four more in 2011, he missed eight games this season with a toe surgery.

But he was tenacious in his rehab, and he’s been on the field consistently and productively the last eight games, helping the Seahawks to a 13-3 regular-season record and a roll through the playoffs into Sunday’s Super Bowl XVLIII match against Denver.

“He had the ankle issues and the pec problem, but then last year, he went out and played all the time and I thought he matured a lot,” Cable said. “This year, his physical rehabbing and preparation to get back the way he did … I was impressed by that. A real sign of maturity.”

Okung agreed with Cable’s assessment.

“Once you get past the collegiate level, it’s about being professional,” Okung said. “You have to learn how to deal with injury better and have the mental capacity, as well as the fortitude, to stay in the game regardless of the circumstance or situation.”

But it wasn’t without frustration, and dealing with that is another challenge a pro faces.

“You want to be out there with your peers, you want to play in the football game,” he said. “But the truth is, sometimes your body just won’t allow you to do it. You have to have plenty of resolve and get as healthy as you can preparing for a comeback.”

In his absence, guard Paul McQuistan moved to left tackle, while rookies Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey also saw extra action because of injuries across the line during the season. They all performed well enough that the Hawks won the NFC West and claimed the conference’s No. 1 in the post-season.

“We don’t allow them to act like young guys, or even play like them,” Okung said of the rookie fill-ins. “Since OTAs and minicamps, we’ve been staying on top of them and really encouraging them to be their best.”

Okung was the first pick (No. 6 overall) of Pete Carroll’s first draft class in 2010. So, he’s a young veteran probably entering his prime, but like the rest of the Seahawks, playing in the Super Bowl is a new experience.

He was asked whether the lack of exposure on the biggest stage will work against the Seahawks on Sunday.

“No, I don’t think experience wins games at all … players do, people do,” Okung said. “We may not have Super Bowl experience, but we know how to play football and we’ll see that Sunday.”

FIGHTING WORDS

New Jersey native Dan Quinn came to appreciate boxing when he was growing up in Morristown, N.J.

One fighter who caught his eye is Miguel Cotto, who boxed in three weight classes from the 140- to 154-pound range. Quinn appreciated the Puerto Rico-born Cotto’s toughness.

When living in New Jersey, Quinn became connected with trainer and announcer Teddy Atlas, a New York native. Atlas was able to bridge the analogies between the boxing world to general motivation. Quinn tried to transfer some of that into his coaching philosophy.

“I think some of those guys can really relate to the combative side of things,” Quinn said. “Sometimes, you’ve got to out-hit a guy. Sometimes, you’ve got to go to a spot that’s going to be physical, there’s going to be pain involved.”

There may be no greater symbol of the ferocity in boxing than the three face-mashing fights between Mickey Ward and Arturo Gatti from 2002-03. Gatti used to train in Jersey City, where the Seahawks are staying during the Super Bowl. Quinn has shown those fights to players in the past to make a point about toughness.

Quinn also uses boxing techniques to help defensive players with hand speed. He doesn’t want to teach players how to throw a punch, rather how to quickly place their hands in a specific spot, then reload them to do it again.

LYNCH IS DONE, BOSS

Marshawn Lynch had his final and most cooperative press conference of Super Bowl week when he spoke with reporters Thursdaymorning.

Fullback Michael Robinson was again at Lynch’s side.

Lynch’s best quote came when he was asked for his thoughts on offensive line coach Tom Cable when he first arrived with the Seahawks. Cable was the Oakland Raiders head coach from 2008-10. He allegedly broke the jaw of an assistant coach during that time.

“Well, being from Oakland, all I knew about him was that he punched people,” Lynch said. “That’s my type of person.”

EXTRA POINTS: The Seahawks kickers have been practicing in MetLife Stadium while the team practice in the New York Giants’ indoor facility (with the doors open). … There was an overall feel Thursday of exhaustion with the media process from all participants. … Players are done speaking to the media for the week. Each head coach has a 25-minute press conference to attend Friday morning.

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