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Carroll hands the ball to T-Jack
When Pete Carroll was asked about Tarvaris Jackson’s role after practice Saturday morning, everyone was thinking that the Seahawks coach would say the just-acquired quarterback would compete with Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job.
Carroll said Jackson will start the Aug. 11 preseason opener against the Chargers in San Diego, as well as the Sept. 11 regular-season opener against the 49ers in San Francisco – despite the fact that Jackson only signed with the team on Friday and won’t be able to practice for the first time until Aug. 4.
“This entire program has always been about competition. That’s the central theme in this program,” Carroll said. “In this situation, I think to make it the most competitive for our team, Tarvaris needs to be our starter right now.
“He comes in as our starter. He’s going to own that position until Charlie and the next couple fellas that are playing at the spot (rookie free agents Josh Portis and Zac Lee) get a chance to catch up. Then the competition will begin from their end.”
The reasons for Carroll’s seemingly surprising decision are obvious.
Because of the 136-day lockout, the Seahawks had no minicamps and OTA sessions to learn the new offense being installed by coordinator Darrell Bevell. Jackson played in that system with the Minnesota Vikings the past five seasons – starting 20 games.
“Tarvaris brings so much continuity to us, I think it’s the best thing for our club,” Carroll said. “And I’m excited to tell you that. I think this guy is a heckuva prospect that’s already been embraced by our players and our coaches. What he brings us is something special. He’s a very talented kid.”
When asked about Jackson on Friday, the first thing general manager John Schneider mentioned was his arm strength.
Has he always possessed that? It’s in his genes, according to Jackson.
“I get it from my mom,” Jackson said. “She was a shortstop playing softball. Everybody asks me where I get my arm; they get kind of surprised when I say my mom. But she had a pretty strong arm, and I always had it.”
Schneider also talked about Jackson’s “foot quickness” and “movement skills,” and both play into the way the Seahawks will play this season.
“Tarvaris gives us just a real good asset in his mobility,” Carroll said. “He does have very good mobility and he’s very strong in the pocket. He can really stand up against the rush – get banged around and still be standing. A very physical kid.
“And I’ve always felt that the guy who can take off every now and then and run is always the most difficult guy to defend. So we have that element on our side right now. It’s always been part of complementing the running game; it’s just more of a factor in our favor now.”
Again, has Jackson always possessed those skills?
“I can make plays out of the pocket. I can stay in the pocket and make throws,” Jackson said. “I kind of consider myself a football player more than a quarterback.”
It doesn’t hurt that Jackson also brought a receiver with him – former Vikings teammate Sidney Rice, who was a Pro Bowl wide-out in 2009 and also signed with the Seahawks on Friday.
“Once we were able to come to an agreement with T-Jack, it helped us with Sidney, obviously, in terms of recruiting,” Schneider said.
Several times during practice, with Whitehurst running the No. 1 offense, Jackson and Rice were on the side conferring and gesturing as they studied the play card.
“Sidney is an incredible player,” Carroll said. “Tarvaris knows him extremely well. He knows he’s got to get the ball in his area. His catching range is phenomenal.”
And what about Whitehurst? He was counting on being the starter – or at least competing for the job – once the club decided not to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck, who subsequently signed with the Tennessee Titans.
“He was awesome,” Carroll said when asked about Whitehurst’s reaction. “I’ve been so straight with Charlie from the moment we ever started talking. He knows what we’re talking about. He gets it. He understands the competitive approach now is to take advantage of this opportunity where he gets all the reps and he gets all the focus time to accelerate his process in learning all of our stuff.
“This is just a competitive decision because of the time frame we’re dealing with. It’s strictly that. This is not the purely competitive situation I would like it to be. But the other side of that, I think to compete for our team this is the right thing to do. That overrides the individual.”
So that’s where the Seahawks find themselves – with the quarterback who was just signed and can’t practice getting the nod over the quarterback who was here last season and won the season finale that allowed the team to capture the NFC West title.
“It’s just a very unusual situation,” Carroll said. “But we’re ready for it. We’re embracing it.”