Renton - Overflowing with energy and bubbling with enthusiasm, Pete Carroll opened his first training camp as head coach of the Seattle Seahawks on Saturday.
He pumped his arms to the 1,500 or so fans at the morning practice, imploring them to get off their backsides and make some noise.
He rifled spirals to defensive players as they worked on backpedaling into coverage drops. And he stooped to help up defensive tackle Brandon Mebane after he was knocked down, offering encouragement as he made his way back to the huddle.
“He says he wants every practice to be like a game environment,” veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said about his new coach. “When we stretch, they’re going to play music during the game, so he’s going to play music out here. And he knows nobody wants to look a fool when a lot of people are watching, so when you have a crowd you play at your best, so he has as many people here as he can get.”
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Carroll said he wants his players to experience playing with a lot of commotion going on, just like you would in a regular game.
“It’s important to continue to express to our guys the value there is in practicing at this level of intensity and focus,” Carroll said. “And it’s something that we’re going to try and champion forever. That’s how we know how to do it”
The Seahawks donned shoulder pads for their first practice of the season, a rarity because coaches usually ease players into physical contact. But these are football players who have not hit another player in anger in more than six months, so they relished the green light to pop pads.
First-round rookies – left tackle Russell Okung and safety Earl Thomas – hadn’t signed their contracts by Saturday, and missed their first day in pads. Currently, 23 of the league’s 32 first-round selections have contract agreements.
But second-year player Aaron Curry, who missed eight days of training camp last season, offered some words of wisdom for his missing teammates.
“I would tell them to be patient and understand there’s a business part of the game,” Curry said. “And that what they’re doing is their right as a player. They have to protect themselves, and they deserve every dollar they get, and that’s what it’s about. When it comes to the business part of the game it’s all numbers. And when it comes to numbers you have to protect yourself because you never know when you’re last play is.”
Carroll said he is keeping regular tabs on negotiations, and understands the two rookies are missing valuable time.
“Both those guys we’re counting on to play and it’s hurting their process when they are not in here,” he said. “Every day is so important. So we’ll just take one day at a time.”
A NEW, OLD SCHOOL
Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said the Carroll debut is the blend of the old and new in football. Eighties pop and ’60s oldies blared from a nearby hill, where fans watched practice.
The night before, linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. told players staying at the team hotel there would be a bed check at 11 p.m. and the hotel phones would be shut down for the evening, leaving many of the young players with cell phones scratching their heads.
“All the young guys are like, ‘There’s a phone in the hotel room?’ ” quipped Hasselbeck. “ ‘I didn’t even know!’ … So it’s new-school, but it’s old-school.”
Houshmandzadeh, who missed most of the offseason workouts after sports hernia surgery in April, said he’s fully healthy now and feels comfortable working in offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ new system.
“I missed a lot of the offseason work, and you can never get that back,” he said. “But I think it’s going to be a lot different in this offense with Jeremy. The routes that we run are very similar to what we did in Cincinnati, they just call it different. The same way they want you to run them, the same way they want you come out and the same depth. So from that aspect I feel very comfortable.”
Still rehabbing from a broken leg suffered against Oakland that cut short his season last year, new running back Leon Washington was a question mark heading into camp.
However, the 27-year-old suited up for practice Saturday, working on returning punts and participating in individual drills early in practice. Washington did not participate in the contact drills, and will be eased in when trainers deem him ready.
“Today was a day to just (get) my legs back under me and get used to pads on,” Washington said. “It’s been since last October since I had the pads on, since I got injured. So, more than anything else, it just felt great to accomplish one of my goals, and that’s to get back to training camp. And now my ultimate goal is to come in and help this team win a bunch of football games by making some plays.”
Washington said he’s still working on his conditioning and has not regained all of his speed. However, Washington said he can still move out if need be.
“I feel like if somebody tests me they won’t catch me,” he joked.
Offensive lineman Chester Pitts (knee), cornerback Josh Pinkard (knee) and fullback Owen Schmitt (elbow) have been placed on the active PUP list, which means they still count against the 80-man roster and can be activated at any time. Schmitt is expected to be out only a day or two, while Carroll said Pitts could be longer while the trainers continue his rehab from microfracture knee surgery. Carroll said the team would like to get Pitts ready to play in a game before the exhibition schedule is over. … The Seahawks also claimed long-snapper Clint Gresham, a rookie out of Texas Christian who was waived by the New Orleans Saints, to give current long-snapper Matt Overton some competition. To make room for Gresham, the Seahawks waived cornerback Marcus Udell. … The Seahawks will practice in full pads today.