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Off-and-on offseason

Posted Feb 9, 2012

Facing their third schedule in as many years, the Seahawks will look to do more with less time than they had for offseason activities in 2010 – but more time than they had a year ago because of the lockout.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll aren’t just in their third offseason with the Seahawks; it’s also their third offseason schedule.

When Schneider and Carroll arrived in January of 2010, Carroll first as the coach and then Schneider eight days later as the general manager, the offseason included a longer strength-and-condition program, more OTA sessions and multiple minicamps.

NEW-LOOK OFFSEASON

Here’s a look at some key dates in the Seahawks’ offseason, which features the third schedule in the past three years:

February 22-28: NFL Combine

March 13: Free agency begins

April 16: Offseason program begins

April 26-28: NFL Draft

May 11-13: Rookie minicamp

May 22: OTAs begin

June 12-14: Mandatory minicamp

June 15: Conclusion of offseason program

Last year, all the offseason activity was erased by the 136-day lockout that began March 11 and did not end until July 25. This year, because of the new CBA that ended the lockout, everything has changed again. Again.

The offseason program will begin in April, a month later than in 2010; there will be fewer than half as many OTA sessions, and they also begin later (May); and the team will hold only one mandatory, full-squad minicamp (June).

It’s a brave new world in the NFL, as well as at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, and only the well-prepared will thrive.

“We’ve anticipated it, so we’re prepared for it,” head strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlisle said on Thursday.

It will, however, not be business as usual – or at least what usual used to imply.

Schneider and his staff continue to prepare for the start of the free-agency period on March 13, when the team’s priority will be re-signing its own players; as well as the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis later this month and the NFL Draft in April.

“Our stuff, we’re doing it 24/7 anyway,” Schneider said. “So it doesn’t really matter.”

That can’t be said for the coaches and players.

The coaches are working now to do things they’d normally do later, because later will now be more condensed – and intense. Whereas there were 50 days for the offseason program in 2010, there now are 20. Whereas the 10 OTA sessions were spread over six weeks in 2010, they now will take place in three weeks.

“Before, we’d have a couple of OTAs one week and then we’d have time to analyze the OTAs and talk about what we want to show them in the next OTAs,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “We would plan for the next OTAs based on how we did in the previous OTAs.”

Not anymore. This year, the OTA sessions will be conducted in late May and early June. And with the offseason program starting the week before the NFL Draft, rather than in March …

“Now, it’s bam, bam, bam,” Bradley said. “So all that work we would do then, we now have to do prior. So even though the players come in later, we still have all that time and we’ll utilize it. We’ve got to get our combine stuff ready earlier, our draft stuff done earlier, because at the end of April we’ve got to start working on our scripts for the (rookie) minicamp.

“As coach Carroll said, we should be ready to go with all the OTA and minicamp stuff and have everything done by May 1 – scripting of the workouts and all that – because we’re not going to have time in between like we used to.

“It’s the same amount of work, and we’re going to accomplish the same amount of things, but everything will just be done in a different timeframe.”

The players, meanwhile, pushed for this new offseason schedule during the negotiations that resulted in the new CBA.

“They’re basically doing it to just give people a better opportunity to do internships, go back to school and do stuff off the field to try and prepare for their lives after football,” veteran linebacker Matt McCoy said.

“Before, you’d get done with football and you’re 30, 31 and you’ve never even done an internship because you never had the time during the offseason. So if you competing for a job with a kid who’s 22, it put us in a bad position.”

McCoy doesn’t see the condensed OTA and reduced minicamp schedules creating a decline in the on-field product once training camp opens in late July and the regular season kicks off in early September.

“We still have almost two months, it’s still a long time,” he said. “Last year, we had nothing and it was fine.

“This gives guys a chance to get away and get their minds right.”

Getting the bodies right, however, might be a different story. That’s where Carlisle and his staff come in. He sent the players on their way following the season-ending overtime loss to the Cardinals in Arizona on New Year’s Day with a workout program that isn’t all that different from the one they got last year.

“The biggest thing you worry about is, it would great to think that everyone of our players is training at the optimum level,” Carlisle said.

But as he learned last year after the players returned from their prolonged layoff, that isn’t always the case.

“And I’m not just talking about our players, I’m talking about league-wide,” he said. “Last year, league-wide, the players were not as sharp as if they’d had an offseason. And the offseason is limited in a different way this year, so we’ve got to be a lot more efficient in finding out what our athletes are deficient in and making sure as quickly as possible – really in 20 workouts – we get them ready for that four-week period of OTAs and a minicamp.”

That’s what happens when the offseason conditioning program is sliced from 50 workouts to 20.

“It’s significant, so we have to do it all in a shorter period of time,” Carlisle said. “We have to figure out quicker what our athletes are deficient in and improve that.

“Fortunately, we have great guys, and they work their tails off and they do a great job. So I’ve got faith. But it’s up to the players to make it work.”