K.J. Wright’s first training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 2011 was a relatively low-key affair.
No fans leading chants, no live TV broadcasts — the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex was a remote outpost at the edge of a lake.
How things have changed.
“It’s a scene,” Wright said. “I’m glad we didn’t get in any fights and end up all over the news.”
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ESPN produced a live broadcast from Seahawks camp Tuesday, adding to the already raucous atmosphere in Renton, where hundreds of fans paid to watch the Hawks’ two-hour practice.
Coach Pete Carroll said the decision to let the cameras in was easy, because it wouldn’t make much of a difference either way.
“We have people out here watching anyway,” he said. “I wasn’t worried about it, because it didn’t bother us at all.”
Wright said practice after winning a Super Bowl has become totally different than his 2011 camp experience.
“My rookie year, there wasn’t hardly anybody here to watch our practices,” he said, gesturing to the fans. “NFL Network wasn’t here, ESPN wasn’t here, but that’s what happens when you get good. People want to see you and see how you do things.”
Most of the reporting was done by ESPN’s John Clayton, who filed sideline reports, and the special was hosted by Kenny Mayne, a native of Kent who once signed with the Seahawks. The cameras were right in the middle of the action — and could have made for a big distraction at practice.
“It makes for an intense atmosphere,” Clayton said. “But that can actually be good for them. It’s more like a practice in October, intensity-wise.”
Wright said the practice atmosphere and attention has changed, but ESPN being at Tuesday’s practice didn’t bother the team much.
“This is how we look every day now,” he said. “We came here and did the same thing we always do, just like no big deal because it wasn’t. (The media), the cameras, they are always here all over now, so it was just another day.”
But while guys such as Wright and Carroll have grown used to the bright lights, it’s a new experience for some rookies. Brock Coyle, who the Seahawks signed this spring after going undrafted, played at the University of Montana.
So instead of letting the cameras get to him, the linebacker simply pretends they aren’t there at all.
“I just go about my business,” he said. “I try not to let them get to me, or make me nervous. I just play like there’s nobody watching, even though there are thousands who are.”
But while some players thrive in the spotlight, Seattle’s most exuberant player, Richard Sherman, wasn’t fazed by some extra cameras around either.
“Not even a little bit,” he said.
With the offseason departure of Golden Tate, Seattle is in search of a new punt returner, and several candidates are auditioning for the job.
“It’s pretty wide open,” Carroll said. “Because Earl (Thomas) has had the most reps, in that sense he would be the first guy to go, but from there it’ll be wide open.”
Thomas, Sherman, Percy Harvin and Doug Baldwin are all battling for the job to replace Tate, who signed with the Detroit Lions in the offseason. He ranked ninth in the NFL in punt return average, with 11.5 yards per return last year.
All four were seen fielding punts after practice.
Carroll said Harvin especially wants to return punts, which he views as a good thing.
“The first thing you want in a punt returner is a guy that wants to do it real bad, because it’s a difficult, challenging job,” he said. “Both Earl and Percy are that way, and I know Doug wants to jump in there and Sherm wants his turns, so it’s a good side competition that’s going on.”