Poster players for perseverance

Posted Sep 6, 2009

Both Michael Bennett and Ben Obomanu persevered through an adverse past to make the 53-man roster for the Seattle Seahawks.


Ben Obomanu was sure he’d done all he could, but Michael Bennett wasn’t sure he could do enough.

Neither had to worry, as it tuned out, because both made the cut Saturday when the Seahawks trimmed their roster to 52 players – one below the league-mandated limit.

Obomanu was in a heated battle for the fifth – and final – spot at wide receiver with Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent, Logan Payne and Mike Hass. But the seventh-round draft choice from the 2006 prevailed, in part because of his solid all-around efforts in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Oakland Raiders.

“The thing about it for me, and all the receivers, you never want to put too much pressure on one game to go out and prove ourselves,” Obomanu said after the game. “We realized it’s been a whole body of work – from the OTAs, to minicamps and now training camp and the preseason games.

“But luckily tonight, I had a pretty decent game.”

Pretty decent, as in two catches for 58 yards – including a 38-yard touchdown – and one sequence in the third quarter where he dropped the Raiders punt returner for a 1-yard loss and then returned a punt for 10 yards.

“I thought Ben did some really nice things,” coach Jim Mora said. “I’ve said that part of the evaluation will be what those guys can do on special teams … and Ben seemed to be the guy that showed on special teams.”

Bennett, meanwhile, had been one of the pleasant surprises in a unit where it seemed there already were too many bodies to find a spot for a rookie free agent. But rather than decide between Bennett, seventh-round draft choice Nick Reed and late free-agent pickup Derek Walker, the club kept all three – along with the eight players that were considered locks.

“Every week, they play with a ton of energy, they play with a ton of passion – and I think that’s a reflection of (line coach) Dan Quinn and the way he coaches them,” Mora said when asked about the young bucks in that unit.

“It’s a good group to watch. The Nick Reeds, and the Michael Bennetts, and the Derek Walkers … and those guys that are trying to tear it up.”

How they fit when the regular season begins remains to be seen, because they’re still behind the starters – Cory Redding, Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane and Patrick Kerney; as well as the incumbent backups – Lawrence Jackson, Red Bryant, Craig Terrill and Darryl Tapp.

The Seahawks also added safety Lawyer Milloy on Sunday afternoon to add depth and experience to the safety position, but it was Obomanu and Bennett who persevered.

Obomanu appeared poised for a productive season last summer, only to break his collarbone while diving for a pass in the final preseason game against the Raiders – at the same goal line where he made his touchdown catch Thursday night.

“That didn’t go through my mind at the time,” he said. “But the whole game, and the week leading up to it, I had heard from friends and family and teammates, ‘Hey, this is the game you got hurt in.’ ”

So last season, Obomanu could only watch as Taylor, Kent and Payne got their chances to play – and even start – as injuries decimated the team’s wide receivers.

Bennett had no history with the team. He was signed in April – after the NFL draft. So he had to earn his spot by first catching the eyes of the coaches and then doing enough to retain their attention. Despite playing defensive end at Texas A&M, the 274-pound Bennett got most of his work at tackle for the Seahawks.

“I feel I’ve made a lot of plays for the Seahawks,” Bennett said. “But with this defense, hopefully I’m here. I feel like I did a lot, but you know how it goes.”

Against the Raiders, Bennett started at tackle because Mora gave his defensive starters the night off – with the exception of first-round draft choice Aaron Curry. Bennett responded with three quarterback hurries, a tip passed, a fumble recovery and two solo tackles. In the first three games, when he played primarily in the second half, he had seven tackles, two sacks and couple of QB pressures.

Mora’s decision to start the young players caught them by surprise.

“I didn’t even know we were going to start,” Bennett said. “All of a sudden it was, ‘You guys are starting.’ ”

Bennett didn’t just start, he finished – playing the entire game, and working at both tackle and end.

“I was really tired, but I just kept on going,” he said. “It felt good to keep on going. I became a lot better player this summer, learning from these other guys and trying to be a better player.”

Good enough to earn a roster berth at a spot where there didn’t appear to be one.