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Max Unger remains in the center of everything for Seahawks
When Pro Bowl center Max Unger joined the Seahawks as a second-round draft choice in 2009, Organized Team Activities didn’t go by OTAs.
The current system of OTAs that the team concluded on a cloudy Thursday at Virginia Mason Athletic Center was a creation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that ended the 136-day lockout in 2011.
|OTA 9 HIGHLIGHTS
Defensive player of the day: Tharold Simon. With All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman being given the day off, Simon stepped in on the left side with the No. 1 unit and the second-year corner made a couple of Sherman-esque interceptions. The first came near the goal line on Russell Wilson’s pass to Taylor Price. The second came in the end zone, on a Tarvaris Jackson pass to Jermaine Kearse. Simon also dropped fullback Derrick Coleman after a 2-yard gain on a pass from Wilson.
Defensive play of the day: In addition to Simon, cornerbacks Chandler Fenner and Akeem Auguste also intercepted passes on Turnover Thursday. But Fenner’s came with a diving effort in the end zone off a ball that was tipped by rookie safety Eric Pinkins. Honorable mention to a play where Michael Bennett flushed Wilson and Cliff Avril got the “sack.”
Offensive player of the day: Doug Baldwin. To say the fourth-year wide receiver was on it during the team’s final OTA session doesn’t do justice to everything Baldwin did. Third-and-9? Jackson to Baldwin, who made an over-the-shoulder grab for the first down. First-and-10? Wilson to Baldwin for 13 yards. Third-and-3? Wilson to Baldwin for 9 yards. Baldwin also made a nice grab of a Wilson pass at the right edge of the end zone for a two-point conversion.
Offensive play of the day: Wilson passed for three touchdowns, while Jackson and Terrelle Pryor had one each. But let’s go with Pryor’s 46-yard run up the sideline.
Special teams player of the day: Steven Hauschka. The rock-steady kicker nailed each of his four field-goal attempts during the special teams portion of practice and then added a 50-yarder on the final play.
“Special” teams play of the day: At the conclusion of practice, coach Pete Carroll had center Max Unger and nose tackle Brandon Mebane try to split the uprights from the 5-yard line. Mebane nailed his 15-yard attempt.
But OTAs aren’t the only new wrinkle that differentiates the 5-11 Seahawks team Unger was on as a rookie and the one that will look to defend the first Super Bowl championship in franchise history during the rapidly approaching 2014 NFL season.
Unger is reminded of that fact every time he walks down the hall to the video department. On the wall are photos of each of the Seahawks’ first 37 teams – no photo of the Super Bowl champion 2013 team, yet.
“There’s a picture hanging up and it’s interesting just to see the transition in the roster from six years ago to what it is now,” Unger said after yet another spirited, competitive practice along the shores of Lake Washington. “It’s pretty different. But I’m very fortunate, obviously, to be able to still be here.”
And it’s not surprising that they are the only three players remaining from the team coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider inherited in 2010. Unger has been voted to the Pro Bowl the past two seasons and also was selected All-Pro in 2012. Mebane ranks second among interior linemen in the NFC with 157 tackles the past three seasons. Ryan has rewritten the franchise punting records in his six seasons.
So Unger obviously finds himself surrounded by newer – and younger – players on the offensive line: Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle Russell Okung, a first-round draft choice in 2010 who did not participate in the OTAs that concluded Phase 3 off the offseason program because he’s recovering from foot surgery; Alvin Bailey, who made the team as a rookie free agent last year and is working at left tackle for Okung; left guard James Carpenter, a first-round draft choice in 2011 who has shed 15 pounds since the end of last season; right guard J.R. Sweezy, who was a seventh-round draft choice in 2012; and Michael Bowie and Justin Britt, seventh- and second-round draft choices the past two years who are competing for the right tackle spot that opened when Breno Giacomini signed with the New York Jets in free agency.
“Carp looks good,” Unger said of the guard who lines up to his left. “He’s been playing very well. He came in in awesome shape and he’s been here working very, very hard. We’re expecting quite a bit out of him this season.”
The same could be said of Unger because, regardless of who else is on the line and which back is carrying the ball, a lot of what the Seahawks do on offense centers around Unger.
Unger is one of six players born in 1986, along with wide receiver Sidney Rice, running back Marshawn Lynch, defensive end Cliff Avril, snapper Clint Gresham and wide receiver Ricardo Lockette. Only eight players were born prior to that – Ryan and linebacker Heath Farwell (1981); quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (1983); and kicker Steven Hauschka, defensive linemen Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel and Mebane; and tight end Zach Miller (1985).
“Older, not old,” Unger said with a laugh when asked about his senior status. “There’s always more you can learn. You have coaches who spend about 20 hours a day in this building, every day. They can teach us quite a bit.”
Including Unger’s position coach – Tom Cable, who’s also the assistant head coach.
“One of the best O-line coaches in the NFL,” Unger said. “Just listening to him in our meetings. Just kind of walks us through our game plan, you just try to pick up more and more of it up every time you go – formations, what the running back does, what the receivers do, this and that. There’s always more you can learn.”
And there’s even some give that comes with the take in their relationship.
“Thanks coach. How’s it going?” Unger cracked. “Snohomish High grad. What year were you? What year – 1950-what?”
Actually, it was the SHS Class of 1982. But when the laughter subsided, Unger shed some light on the tricks he uses to retain his edge. He’s usually the leader of the linemen pack as they go from one drill to another. He’s also one of the first to grab the bags and pads the linemen use in those drills.
“As you get older, I guess, a little bit, you really have to maintain your play,” he said. “Doing stuff like that I think helps keep you sharp. That’s the name of the game – just being consistent. So if you go out and do the same things that you’ve done to get to this point in your career, why change?”
Unger’s lead is one the younger players – and not just the linemen – would be wise to follow.