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Life in the fast lane

Posted Aug 10, 2011

John Moffitt, the rookie starter at right guard for the Seahawks, is keeping a close eye on veteran left guard Robert Gallery as the team prepares for its preseason opener on Thursday night.


If the Seahawks’ preseason opener against the Chargers in San Diego on Thursday night has snuck up on you, imagine how John Moffitt feels.

The rookie from Wisconsin and the team’s third-round draft choice will be starting at right guard in the nationally televised game, despite practicing with the team for the first time on July 30. What has his first NFL training camp been like?

“Fast,” Moffitt said after Monday’s practice. “Really fast. It’s hard to believe that a week and two days ago, I wasn’t here.”

Now that he is here, it’s time to make up for lost time – the minicamps and OTA sessions that Moffitt and the rest of the players missed during the 136-day lockout. Moffitt already has developed a catch-up method: Watching and listening to Robert Gallery, the veteran guard who was signed in free agency to anchor the Seahawks’ oh-so-young line.

“For me, watching the guy and his technique I learn a lot more than just him explaining it because I can actually watch him do it,” Moffitt said.

Not that Moffitt has eyes in the side of his head. His watch-and-learn sessions have come in the video reviews of practice, when Moffitt admits he sneaks peeks at the way Gallery does things.

“I like to sit by him in meetings and bounce a lot of stuff off him,” Moffitt said.

Good read by the rookie. Gallery not only has started 91 games in his seven-year NFL career – more than three times as many as the rest of the new-look line combined – he played in the same run-game system the past four seasons in Oakland that new line coach Tom Cable is installing.

“You can definitely tell when a guy has played in the league,” Moffitt said. “You can tell Robert is a proven vet and he really knows what he’s doing.”

Gallery just smiled when told of Moffitt’s comments. He’s been there, too. When he joined the Raiders as first-round draft choice in 2004, he followed the lead supplied by veteran Barry Sims. Later in his career, it was Cooper Carlisle.

“These young guys don’t know the system, so it obviously helps that I know it and give them little cues and whatnot to help them out,” Gallery said.

The “young guys” tag doesn’t apply only to Moffitt. He’s lined up next to tackle James Carpenter, the team’s first-round pick this year. The left tackle is Russell Okung, the team’s first-round pick last year. At center is Max Unger, who missed most of last season with a toe injury and started primarily at guard as a rookie in 2009. Between them, these four have started 27 NFL games.

That’s why luring Gallery up the coast was so vital.

“We talk a lot,” Gallery said of Moffitt. “He sits right in front of me (in the meeting room), so I try to help him out on certain things. He knows I’ve been in the system, so it’s smart by him to kind of look and see if he has a question on stuff.”

Moffitt has a little Gallery in him, and it does beyond their facial hair and long locks. Both are engaging and articulate off the field. On the field? Not so much. They engage, all right, but in a much more literal – and physical – sense. They also let their actions speak for them.

“He’s a very physical kid,” coach Pete Carroll said after selecting Moffitt. “He’s got a great mentality about him that he’s not backing down from nothing. He comes off the football with tremendous force. He’s a leader. He’s tough-minded. He’s a take-charge kind of guy.

“Just everything about him is just the kind of thing we want to be about on our offensive line, so we really thought it was a great fit.”

Cable made similar comments – very similar – about Gallery after he was signed.

“Very intelligent. Very tough-minded. Phenomenal worker. Kind of a relentless mentality when it comes to preparation and working hard and all that,” Cable said, flipping through a mental checklist with asked about the less-obvious attributes that the 6-foot-7, 325-pound Gallery possesses.

“So he fits my mentality right away. You just outwork everybody and then the result is going to be what you want.”

Gallery’s best technical trait? “Power,” Cable said. “Power, strength. He’s good with his hands. If he can get you up, he’s going to knock you on the ground.”

So Moffitt obviously can continue to learn from Gallery as they progress through their first season together – and Moffitt’s first NFL season, period.

“It still is a shock to be playing NFL football and I’m thrilled about the opportunity,” Moffitt said. “It’s a huge learning experience every day, I’m trying to take leaps and move forward.”

With the obvious assist from Gallery – and even the not-so-obvious.

“It’s kind of learn by fire,” Gallery said. “You make a mistake once, you’ve got to fix it by the second time.”

Almost always on the fly, and always with a 300-plus pound defensive tackle in your face. And how is the rookie adapting?

“John is a smart kid. He’s picking it up fast,” Gallery said. “He knows what he’s doing. He screws it up once, the next time he has it right. That’s what you need to play in this league.”

Music to Moffit’s ears, coming from Gallery? A symphony orchestra’s worth.

“I think the good thing is that I know what I know and I’m starting to get a good grasp on what I don’t know,” Moffitt said. “I think once you can do that, you start to nail everything down. So I’ll keep moving forward and keep hacking away at it.”

Just how comfortable is Moffitt feeling? “I couldn’t give you a level of comfort, or percentage,” he said, before adding with a laugh, “Maybe like 71 percent.”

Which will only increase as he keeps his eye on Gallery’s No. 72.