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The last to leave
The last weights have been lifted. The last wind sprint has been run. The last drop of sweat has fallen.
The Seahawks wrapped up their offseason program on Wednesday, as the remaining players – nine rookie free agents – were put through their final paces by head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle and his assistants, Jamie Yanchar and Mondray Gee.
Like the veterans (two weeks ago) and draft choices (last week) before them, the rookie free agents are now “free” until training camp opens in late July.
Before they left the indoor practice facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, however, Carlisle offered a few choice words for the small group that gathered around him – defensive backs DeShawn Shead and Donny Lisowski; kicker Carson Wiggs; wide receivers Phil Bates and Lavasier Tuinei; tight end Sean McGrath; defensive end Cordarro Law; and guard Rishaw Johnson. Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse was not on the field because he is recovering from a foot injury.
“We talked about it on the field, especially with these free agent rookies, it’s a long road,” Carlisle said. “They’ve got a lot of people ahead of them and they’ve got to work, and they all did. They embraced the program philosophy and the way we feel about doing things.”
Coach Pete Carroll’s program is built on three rules: No. 1, no whining; No. 2, no complaining; and No. 3, no excuses.
“Nobody complained, nobody broke rule No. 2. Nobody broke rule No. 3, they were always early,” Carlisle said. “They were great students, and they came in with a great attitude.
“What they did, you can’t teach.”
Rookie free agents do face the longest of odds, as Carlisle said, in their attempts to earn spots on the 53-man roster or practice squad. But the Seahawks always have been good to undrafted rookies, and vice versa. The team’s honor roll of longest-odds beaters includes Ring of Honor quarterback Dave Krieg; free safety Eugene Robinson, the franchise’s all-time leading tackler; nose tackle Joe Nash, special teamer/linebacker Rufus Porter and fullback Mack Strong, who all played in the Pro Bowl during their careers and, like Robinson, were voted to the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team; and Doug Baldwin, the team’s leading receiver last season.
“There are a lot of guys who came in as free-agent rookies who play in the Pro Bowl, who were Super Bowl champions, that are in Canton (at the Pro Football Hall of Fame) right now that have gone from didn’t-have-a-chance to being pretty darn special,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle’s history lesson did not fall on deaf ears.
“This is a program that kind of breeds these undrafted free agents, and that fact is very encouraging,” said McGrath, who was heading back to Henderson State University in Arkansas to pack up the last of his left-behind belongings before going home to the Chicago area.
“Anything can happen. You’ve just got to put your mind to it and keep working hard.”
Despite the veterans and draft choices not being around to lead the way, the rookie free agents did not lose their way. In fact, it proved to be just the opposite.
“It was good to get a little bit more one-on-one time with coach Carlisle,” McGrath said. “The good thing about this whole class is we’re hungry. We just come out every day ready to work and try not to be a statistic – overcome those great odds.
“It’s going to make everyone better. Coach Carroll’s whole thing is competition and we’re driving the guys in front of us to get better, so everyone gets better.”
It sounds like Carlisle and staff were working on the players’ mental approach as well as they physical conditioning.
“It was a great time where we were able to teach,” Carlisle said. “And teach not only technique and how to lift and how to run, but how to be a Seahawk – the work ethic, the effort, the enthusiasm, being tough. All the things coach Carroll talks about, we talk about and we reinforce and they start seeing it work.
“These guys gave themselves a chance. That’s all we can ask, that’s all they can ask. They did exactly that. This has been a tremendous week, and two weeks for that matter.”