The Seattle Seahawks’ rookie mini-camp this week will include on-field practices for the team’s newest players Friday, Saturday and Sunday at team headquarters in Renton.
And much of the nation will be scrutinizing it.
It’s normally a relatively mundane weekend of drills in blue shorts and helmets, still four months before real games begin. But not this time.
All of Seattle’s eight draft picks from last weekend plus the 12 undrafted free agents who agreed to terms this past Saturday are expected to be at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the first time as members of the two-time defending NFC champions.
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That includes Nate Boyer. The 34-year-old ex-U.S. Army Special Forces soldier, who served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan then walked onto the University of Texas’ football team for his first game as a long snapper.
This weekend’s minicamp will also include a far-from-feel-good story.
The team’s top pick, Frank Clark, is likely to attract national outlets that are talking about what the Seahawks did and did not do to investigate the pass rusher’s arrest and two days in jail for assault and domestic violence in November.
After getting kicked out of the football program at the University of Michigan, Clark struck a plea deal with Ohio prosecutors last month, down to a charge of disorderly conduct.
The Seattle Times and KING-5 television on Tuesday presented separate stories that did what the Seahawks acknowledge they did not do: interview witnesses other than the Michigan pass rusher in regard to the incident in a hotel room outside Sandusky, Ohio, during a Wolverines’ bye weekend.
Those witness stories contradict the assertions of Clark and the Seahawks that the player did not strike the alleged victim, his then 20-year-old girlfriend.
Hours after Seattle chose Clark in the second round with the 63rd overall pick, the ugly details of the report were released from the Perkins Township Police Department in northwest Ohio, about an hour south of the Michigan campus. Those details included witnesses accounts and photographs depicting cuts, scrapes, broken lamp shades and Clark left with a chunk of skin missing from his nose.
The Times also interviewed two witnesses who had been staying in the room next door and called 911 over the distressing sounds coming from the room inhabited by Clark, the alleged victim and others. The Times reported one of those witnesses saw the alleged victim lying on the hotel-room floor nearly unconscious and “definitely beat up ... like she was knocked out.”
The Times report also stated: “The Seahawks issued a statement (Monday) saying the team conducted ‘confidential interviews with people directly involved with the case.’ But other than Clark, the team did not ‘speak directly to any witnesses from that night.’
“The team’s investigation ‘provided our organization with an in-depth understanding of the situation and background,’ the statement said.”
USA Today, ESPN and Deadspin are among the latest national outlets to criticize the Seahawks for drafting Clark.
Domestic violence has been a problem for the NFL over its handling of cases in the past year such as the one involving then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Rice was shown on a New Jersey hotel surveillance video striking his fiancee to the ground in an elevator. The league’s slow, and what many saw as tepid, response to the incident has haunted the NFL since — to the point commissioner Roger Goodell established a task force that includes experts on domestic violence and that of sexual assault.
Seattle general manager John Schneider said Friday the team did not need to get any sort of league clearance to select the pass rusher some teams reportedly had dropped from their draft boards because of Clark’s arrest.
Schneider said Seahawks personnel did talk to more than just Clark, including counselors who have worked with both Clark and his alleged victim. Schneider said those counselors told the team the alleged victim corroborated Clark’s account that he did not hit her.
Asked Friday if anyone from the team had spoken directly to the alleged victim, Schneider said: “No, I did not. No, nobody in our organization did specifically, but you can get to those things.
“She was interviewed by specific people. … We interviewed the counselors who were involved with the two of them.”
Coach Pete Carroll, sitting next to Schneider Friday night at team headquarters, added: “She collaborated to the way the case was handled at the end in a supportive fashion. That was clear.”
Schneider said the Seahawks weren’t alone at the bottom of Friday’s second round in wanting to draft Clark.
“There were a number of teams,” Schneider said. “Quite frankly, it was very hairy in whether or not he was going to get to us. Everybody knew it was going to be this area where everybody is going to be comfortable selecting Frank. But no, there was no specific approval by the NFL for Frank. There are a number of players in this draft, starting pretty high, that have been scrutinized.
“I think it was a process. The most interesting thing is that I was there (at the Michigan campus in Ann Arbor) two days after it happened, so our area guy went through there twice. Ed Dodds, our regional scout, went through there twice and went back and spent several days there. Like I said, the easiest thing to do is completely dismiss this. I think over time things became clearer and clearer as things built up through the evaluation process. We brought him out here, too, and met with our sports psychologist, and like I said, it was very extensive and built over time.”
When Carroll was asked Friday if he was worried about the perception of drafting Clark, the coach said: “We are concerned, of course we are. We are very sensitive to that. That’s why we had to do such a thorough job and understand what was at hand so we could clearly come to the right decision.
“Every guy is an individual case and that’s why our guys did such a thorough job and that our guys came to the conclusion and give this man the opportunity that he will come through and that it was a good decision. We would not have done this — we would not have gotten to this point, realizing there is going to be the questions and the scrutiny — if we didn’t know we were doing the right thing.”
The Seahawks didn’t have to have domestic violence as part of its post-draft discussion.
But after deciding to draft Clark, that’s what they have now.
Not that he had much of an option after the Seahawks tendered him as a restricted free agent, but wide receiver Jermaine Kearse signed his 2015 contract with the Seahawks on Tuesday.
It will pay the native of Lakewood outside Tacoma and former star at Lakes High School and the University of Washington $2,3560,00 this coming season.
Pretty good for a formerly undrafted special-team reserve who scrapped just to make Seattle's team as a rookie making $390,000 in 2012. Kearse has become something of a postseason star since, scoring touchdowns in postseason games — including the one in overtime to beat Green Bay in January's NFC championship game. That got him on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Kearse announced the deal first reported today by ESPN in an understated way on Twitter:
The Seahawks also announced some minor roster moves to keep them under the offseason roster limit. They waived T Justin Renfrow, LB Mike Taylor (failed physical), DE Julius Warmsley, C Jared Wheeler and LB Mike Zimmer.