So, Marshawn Lynch was in Least Mode.
But in other regards, the first practice for the 2014 Seahawks looked a great deal like the daily displays during the 2013 season.
There was Russell Wilson perfectly firing a deep touchdown pass to Doug Baldwin up the left sideline against the No. 1 defense, and Richard Sherman making a couple difficult deflections look easy.
Except for the weather and the clamorous training camp crowd, it could have been confused with any practice in October or November last fall when the Seahawks were building toward a Super Bowl championship.
The values of consistent practicing, coach Pete Carroll said, were the elementary lessons established and reinforced since he got here.
“We talk about trying to be the best we can be; that’s what we’re competing for out here every day,” Carroll said after Friday’s practice. “The foundation of the discipline it takes to be that focused continues to get stronger. I’m hoping we should be better and stronger this year than we were a year ago, and we’re going to try to build on that.”
Maybe getting better and stronger seems an outrageous goal for the coach of a team that won the Super Bowl by a 35-point margin.
But it’s obvious that these guys already know how to practice fast, play sharp and come up with big plays. They are comfortable with the pace and intensity and competitiveness, and with the reality that if you don’t perform, somebody is going to let you know about it.
Being taught at the team headquarters Friday were not just the mechanics and techniques and schemes, but also a team’s tenets of mode of operation. Most obvious of those Friday was that if you miss practice, somebody might just take your place.
Second year right tackle Michael Bowie, for instance, tweaked his right shoulder, and rookie Justin Britt stepped in. Bowie got eight starts last season and made nice progress. But Britt is a second-round pick, with the size and early savvy of a guy who might be tough to dislodge if he gets the chance with the first unit.
Carroll’s assessment was less than subtle, saying that Bowie “opened up the door … remember that Wally Pipp story.”
He was questioned at length about the absence of Lynch, the team’s beastly back who was a no-show, presumably in hopes of leveraging his way to a contract upgrade.
Carroll voiced his eagerness for Lynch’s return, and rightfully credited Lynch for his unassailable toughness and production. But he also reminded the inquisitive media that the team showed its appreciation and commitment to Lynch a couple years ago with a “big statement” contract that remains in force.
It was a chance, then, to praise the readiness of Lynch’s backups, Robert Turbin and Christine Michael. Michael, in particular, was touted as “a very talented kid, our biggest running back and probably the fastest.” Carroll didn’t actually point out that Lynch isn’t getting any younger, but the implication is there.
As defending champions, the Seahawks were covered by more national media than at the start of any training camp in team history. But it’s nothing compared to what most of the team went through just a little more than five months ago.
“It helps to know we can handle the limelight,” Carroll said. “They’ve been through it. That’s a good thing. We’ve been teaching guys about handling situations like this and being prepared for it to happen so that when it did, we could move ahead and take advantage of it. So it’s really not a new conversation for us … as long as we do the work — and that’s what we have to recapture on the practice field.”
It’s all about adhering to the process, and sustaining a focus that’s been instilled incrementally, one which stresses the habit of excellence.
And if those are the criterion, Day One of 2014 was a success.