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For Giacomini, patience has paid off
When James Carpenter went down with a season-ending knee injury last November, Breno Giacomini stepped in and started the final seven games at right tackle for the Seahawks.
This spring, as the team continues to prepare for the 2012 season, Giacomini has stepped into the role of starter as he continues to work with the No. 1 line in OTA practices. He just looks more confident, and capable of remaining in the starting lineup. You can see it in his body language, and just the way Giacomini is carrying himself. You can see it in his approach to the game, as he’s more focused and intent on improving his game.
And, you can plan on seeing more of Giacomini this season.
“The cool thing is, Breno has proved that he deserves to be in there somewhere,” assistant head coach/line coach Tom Cable said when asked the obvious question about what happens when the still-on-the-mend Carpenter is ready to return.
But then the 6-foot-7, 318-pound Giacomini always has looked the part. Broad at the shoulder. Thick in the thighs. Arms that seem to have muscles stacked upon muscles. It’s just that he had to wait to show that he also can play the part – which he did last season, when the Seahawks averaged 134.9 rushing yards over the final nine games compared to 77.7 in the first seven.
Cable admits he didn’t exactly have the full book on Giacomini when he was hired last year.
“I knew the name. I didn’t know a lot about him,” Cable said. “But right away you could see that he had a skill set that was pretty cool; just had to refine it to fit our system. We did that, he took to it and every time you coached him he’d just get a little better and a little better.
“Then, opportunity knocked. He gets a chance to go in and play right tackle a bunch and he just took it and ran with it. And he did a fantastic job.”
So good, in fact, that Giacomini set himself up for a nice payday as an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Before he reached the open market, however, he re-signed with the Seahawks.
“All of a sudden, he’s a guy who’s a sought-after free agent,” Cable said. “Really good development on his part.”
That’s Breno Giacomini – an overnight success story that has been seasons in the making.
He entered the league in 2008, when the Packers selected him in the fifth round of the NFL Draft – and Seahawks general manager John Schneider was working in Green Bay. But Giacomini was released on the final roster cut and signed to the Packers’ practice squad. He was added to the 53-man roster as a rookie and played in one game – which was one more than he played in during the 2009 season. In 2010, it was back to the Packers’ practice squad. That’s when the Seahawks then signed him in late September, but he did not appear in a game that season, either.
“It’s definitely been a long progression, and a good one,” he said. “You take it day by day for a few years and then finally you get a chance and you go out there and bust it.”
Somehow, that sounds easier said than done. After all, you play the game because you want to play.
“You’re right, it does kind of take a toll after awhile,” Giacomini said. “But if you like playing the game like I do – actually, I love it – you just keep playing. You’re playing with some of the elite guys in the world. For me, it’s just a great opportunity and I really don’t want it to end.”
Giacomini’s late start in the NFL can be traced to his late conversion to being a tackle. It happened his senior season at Louisville, when the former tight end was moved to tackle. But it goes back even farther than that, as Giacomini didn’t play football as a junior at Malden (Mass.) High School to concentrate on basketball. That’s was back when Giacomini was a defensive end and linebacker.
“That was rough, especially the first two games,” he said of his conversion from tight end to tackle at the college level. “But that was just like what I’m doing in practice now – I just kept getting better game by game. In the 12th game, I felt like it was natural.
“Then I hit the league, and it wasn’t natural.”
So it’s not surprising that it has taken Giacomini awhile to step into his role, when you consider how long it took him to get the chance to just step into the lineup.
“He’s doing really, really well,” center Max Unger said. “He played a lot last year, so it’s not a real big change. He played real well. Just kind of getting used to him being over there and hearing his voice. He’s responsible for kind of a lot of stuff that we do and he’s doing a real good job with it.”
Giacomini is a large piece in the improved group that Cable finds himself coaching this offseason – his first with the line because of last year’s 136-day lockout. At left tackle, there’s 2010 first-round draft choice Russell Okung. At center, there’s Unger, a second-round draft choice in 2009. Last year, Carpenter and right guard John Moffitt were the team’s top draft picks. There’s also Paul McQuistan and Lemuel Jeanpierre, who also stepped in and played well last season after Okung and Moffitt were lost to season-ending injuries. This year, the club has added veterans Deuce Lutui, Frank Omiyale and Alex Barron in free agency; promising project J.R. Sweezy in the draft; and Rishaw Johnson as a rookie free agent.
As for the Giacomini/Carpenter or Carpenter/Giacomini situation that’s currently on hold, Cable said, “We’re bringing James along as we can. At some point here – when we don’t know – he’ll be able to get back to work. So it could be them competing, or it could be a new position for one of them.
“It’s a good problem to have.”
The goal, of course, is to get the five best blockers on the field. And the more you have to choose from the better.
“You start to develop your team and your group,” Cable said. “That’s what we’re doing, we’re moving forward.”
And Giacomini is among those leading the way. Even if he won’t allow himself to think that way.
“We’ve got a few tackles where anybody could play that spot,” he said. “So, yeah, I’m running with the No. 1 line, but that doesn’t change anything. That’s just the way it’s always been for me. This is just like when I was practicing on the practice squad. I’m not going to change anything because that’s how I got here.”