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Playing for grandma

Posted May 4, 2009

Cameron Morrah didn't expect to be available in the seventh round, but is still excited about playing in the NFL

 

Cameron Morrah’s draft weekend didn’t exactly go as he had hoped.

Don’t get him wrong; the tight end from Cal couldn’t have been more pleased to be selected by the Seahawks. It was when he was selected – in the seventh round – that didn’t mesh with Morrah’s expectations.

“To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be around in the seventh round,” Morrah said Sunday, after the final practice in the Seahawks’ full-squad minicamp.

He wouldn’t have been, if Morrah had returned to Cal for his senior year. With another season of college ball, one scout estimated that Morrah would have been a third-round selection in next year’s draft.

But Morrah won’t allow himself to look back at his situation, and definitely isn’t second-guessing his decision. He entered the NFL because he wanted his grandmother, Fannie Smith, to have the opportunity to see him compete in the NFL.

“We’re a very close, tight-knit family, and my grandmother has always been the glue to our family,” Morrah said.

But Smith has heart problems.

“She had to be revived three times,” Morrah said. “So it’s important for me to give her any kind of spark she can have for whatever time she has left. And I know me being here and getting the chance to play at the next level is important to her.

“I wanted her to see me play in the NFL. It’s definitely a motivating factor.” 

Just how Morrah fits into the Seahawks’ plans remains to be seen. There is a roster spot for a third tight end, behind starter John Carlson and John Owens, who was signed in free agency. While Carlson is a do-it-all tight end, Owens’ forte is his blocking. Morrah has the speed to stretch the defense as a receiver and is a functional blocker.

“Being able to stretch the defense is my strength right now,” Morrah said. “But with everything you do, you’ve got to continue to work at it so you can get better. So I’m definitely working on blocking, and just trying to be a more complete tight end.”

Allowing the coaches to work with the rookies that were selected last weekend in the draft was a major objective of the minicamp this weekend.

“It was a productive three days,” coach Jim Mora said. “It was good to get the young guys out and get them working. I thought that they responded well.”


 

Here’s a look at what the other rookies showed:

Aaron Curry. The team’s first-round draft choice from Wake Forest stepped in with the starters at the strong-side linebacking spot that open when Julian Peterson was traded to the Detroit Lions. He impressed the coaches with his combination of size (6 feet 2, 254 pounds) and speed (4.52 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

Curry also earned points with his new teammates. As middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu pointed out, Curry approached the minicamp like a rookie free agent, not the fourth pick overall in the draft. 

Max Unger. The second-round pick spent the weekend playing left guard on the No. 2 offensive line. Unger played tackle and mostly center at Oregon, but never guard.

“My problem is calling the huddle. I have a tendency to do that,” Unger said with a laugh when asked if he found himself moving toward the ball when breaking the huddle. “Guard is good. I haven’t really played it before, but I’m getting used to it.”

Unger is expected to challenge for a starting spot at either center or guard. But his position switch was a necessary step toward that goal.

“It’s really important for a young guy that you put him in a spot and let him get settled before you ask him to do other things,” Mora said. “We certainly believe Max can do other things, and he showed that versatility in his college career. But it would really not be fair to him if we said, ‘This next camp, you’re going to play center.’

“We’ve got to let him master something – or at least come close to mastering something – before we move him. The plan, long-term, is to see where he fits best.”

Deon Butler. The receiver who broke Bobby Engram’s record for career receptions at Penn State displayed the speed that prompted the Seahawks to trade back into the third round to select him. But Butler also is showing to be a much better route runner than most players with his kind of speed (4.28 seconds in the 40).

Butler spent the weekend working at split end, but he also will be a factor as a slot receiver and punt returner before the roster is trimmed to 53 players this summer.

Mike Teel. The quarterback from Rutgers was quick to point out that playing in a similar offense in college will help with his transition to the NFL. But he also admitted that things happen much faster at his level – even if it is during a minicamp practice in May.

Teel had his moments – the pretty good and the needs improvement – while working behind Matt Hasselbeck, Seneca Wallace and Jeff Rowe.

Courtney Greene. The hard-hitting safety also is from Rutgers. Like Teel, Greene had to wait his turn this weekend. He began the minicamp teamed with Jamar Adams in the third unit – behind starters Deon Grant and Brian Russell, as well as the No. 2 tandem of Jordan Babineaux and C.J. Wallace.

But when given an opportunity, the seventh-round draft choice made plays – like the pass Greene broke up in the end zone near the end of Sunday’s practice.

Nick Reed. He is, in a word, small. At 6-1, 247, the team’s other third-round draft choice looked more like a safety while standing next to the other defensive linemen. But Reed also showed flashes of being the pass rusher that produced 29½ career sacks for the Ducks.

“He had some pressures,” defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said. “You look for guys like that, if they get the opportunity, you hope they flash. Nick was able to do that.”

Michael Bennett. The defensive end from Texas A&M was the most impressive of the six rookie free agents who were signed after the draft. He faces an uphill battle for a roster spot. But so did linebackers D.D. Lewis, Lance Laury, and David Hawthorne and Babineaux when they arrived as undrafted rookies.

Bennett has the size (6-3, 274) that Reed lacks, if not the same kind of quickness coming off the edge.

“Again, as with Reed, Bennett showed some flashes in the one-on-one pass rush (drill),” Bradley said.

Mora made sure that he and his assistants got to see enough of all the rookies – the seven draft choices, the six players signed after the draft and even nine others that were in camp on a tryout basis.

After each of the first three practices, the newer players remained on the field for an extra 10-minute session while the vets stretched out and then headed to the locker room.

“That’s something we’ll do through minicamps and training camp as well, is give them an opportunity period,” Mora said. “We want to maximize their reps, and with this many guys in camp those young guys don’t always get as many repetitions as they need in order to progress like you’d like them to progress.”

HAWK TALK: Hasselbeck slapped an exclamation point on the camp by scoring on a bootleg on the final play of Sunday’s practice. … Before displaying his prowess as a runner, Hasselbeck hooked up several times with wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh – especially in the red-zone drill. “They tore it up in the red zone today,” Mora said. … The rookies left after Sunday’s practice and are scheduled to return May 17, but the veterans will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.