The Seahawks wrapped up their three-day minicamp on Thursday, which also marks the end of their offseason workout program. Players won't be back on the field at the VMAC until training camp starts in late July, but as the team heads into the break, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is very excited about the work he saw this spring, and in particular with how much they got done this week because players showed up for minicamp exceeding his expectations when it came to conditioning.
"Really, we were able to go farther than we thought we would, and they did more and they handled the workload really well," Carroll said. "We found a couple good rhythms to this time of the year, with our walkthroughs and things that we did, and it just was a really successful couple of weeks here, so we're really pleased about it."
With offseason workouts now over, here are six things we learned from Carroll's final press conference before players head out for some time off ahead of training camp:
1. Rookies & young players benefited from extra work this offseason.
In a departure from past offseasons, most of Seattle's veterans stayed home for much of the voluntary offseason workouts, only coming back last week for OTAs heading into minicamp. That meant more focus on the 35 or so rookies and younger, inexperienced players who were around for the entire offseason program, and Carroll said that group is better prepared for camp than past rookie classes because of the extra work they got over the past couple of months. Obviously last year's rookies were behind with the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating the entire offseason program and preseason games, but this year's group not only got a more typical offseason, but also the extra work that came their way with most of the veterans not on hand.
"An incredible benefit," Carroll said. "Last year at this time they had done nothing, they hadn't done anything, hadn't been here for anything. So we showed up a camp (last year)—and it's one of the things I wish I would have handled it better, although I don't have the answer for it—you get to camp, you've got to get your team ready that you think is going to play, and those guys just did not get the quality opportunity to rep and grow and all of that. So we're at the other end of the spectrum; we've never had this much focus time on our young guys. So this is the best group we've ever had as far as being ready for football. I just visited with them before they walked out the door (and told them) that if we were going to camp right now this would be just an enormous opportunity for them to take advantage of. They've been smart, they've been strong, they've been consistent, they've been active, they've been juiced up, and they know they know a lot of football right now. I don't know what that's going to mean as we put the team together in preseason and all that, but when those guys go in the game, man we aren't going to hesitate, we won't worry about them at all, they're going to be ready to go, if—and let me send this message out—if they do a good job in the next six weeks staying in shape don't screw it up. We kind of hammered them a little bit and want them to take care of business and come back to camp ready to go."
2. Darrell Taylor "was a real highlight" off offseason workouts.
Darrell Taylor, a second-round pick in last year's draft, never got on the field as a rookie thanks to a leg injury sustained during his final season at Tennessee, and while that was a less-than-ideal start to his career, Taylor has spent this offseason showing his coaches that he is ready to make big contributions on defense in 2021. Taylor, who is listed as a defensive end but who has also been working at strongside linebacker, took part in the entire offseason workout program, including rookie minicamp, and that extra work has been paying off.
"Darrell was a real highlight to this time," Carroll said. "He worked out with the rookies the whole time, which was great for him. He is probably, of the guys coming back, the best prepared guy on the football team right now, because of all of the time he spent. He invested in it, he came with a great attitude and work ethic and all of that. He's an exciting football player. His edge rush ability, his athleticism, he's got a really good burst off the football, the ability to play in space, as well as rush the passer. You can maybe see why we were frustrated last year that we didn't have him, but now we've really seen him. We hadn't really seen him with much to go on, and really he had one of the really the brightest camps."
3. Penny Hart "lit it up" in minicamp.
Receiver Penny Hart, who went undrafted in 2019, made his NFL debut last season and appeared in 13 games, primarily on special teams, and he'll again be battling for a spot on the 53-man roster in training camp. And while roster spots aren't won in a June minicamp, Hart spent the week making a good impression on his coaches, including a couple of great catches on Thursday, one of them an outstretched grab in the end zone on a slightly overthrown deep ball.
"Penny made the team last year because you can count on him," Carroll said. "You can count on him in a lot of ways—in running his routes right, knowing the offense, multiple positions, contributing on special teams, his toughness. The attitude is obvious, and he came out here this camp, these days we've had here, and probably had the best shot of making things happen. He had catches today, but he's had catches and other days too. He's just had a spectacular couple of weeks. So where is he in the competition? He's right in it. He made a club last year, we really can count on him. He can do a lot of things. He was really battling, and I was really fired up for him, we all were. He kind of lit it up out here."
4. Carroll expect "the bulk of the team" to be vaccinated by the start of training camp.
Carroll said that Seattle's entire coaching staff has now received the COVID-19 vaccine, and he hopes to see the number of players continue to increase before the start of camp. Ideally that would mean every single player being vaccinated and while Carroll doesn't know if that will happen, he thinks most of the roster will be by the time players return in late July.
"There's a chance," he said. "We've got a shot at it because we're far enough along. We have a little vaccination event going on right now after this practice, so we'll see how those numbers show. But we're not in bad shape, we're within striking distance of making it. I think the bulk of the team will be done… We're going to be be hovering around 70 percent here soon, maybe by the end of the week, and we'll see where that takes us from there. We have a lot of guys have been asking questions. We have a lot of leaders that are vaccinated, and they've spoken to guys and all of that, and we've had a lot of really good input from people around the science community that have talked to our guys and helped them understand what's at stake and all of that."
In addition to health concerns, players who choose not to get vaccinated will face far more restriction this season than vaccinated players will, which should also help encourage players to get vaccinated.
"There are some consequences for not being vaccinated, as we've talked about," Carroll said. There's restrictions, so our guys should be well aware of that as well, and so they'll make the choice as they make it."
5. The cornerback competition will be "wide open" in training camp.
"The cornerback position is going to be really competitive. We've got a good structure of guys, we've got different style of guys who can play. We've got some long guys, some big guys, we've got some quickness, we've got a whole mixture of guys who can play. The competition is going to be wide open; it's going to take us all of camp to figure it out."
6. Injury updates.
In addition to the updates he provided on Tuesday on a handful of players who weren't participating in minicamp, Carroll gave a few more on Thursday with a few new players sidelined who were on the field to start the week.
Guard Pier-Olivier Lestage, an undrafted rookie from Montreal, had sports hernia surgery, Carroll said, while receiver John Ursua was held out with was sounded like a minor knee injury.
"Johnny just tweaked his knee a little bit the other day," Carroll said. "Nothing's wrong with it, he just kind of came down wrong, so we just protected him. Pier had to have surgery. He came in with an athletic hernia situation, and so we decided to do it now rather than later. He was making it through camp and fighting it out. He made a really good impression in his start here with us, so we felt like we had a pretty good feel for him, so we went ahead and got the surgery done."
Also not practicing the past couple of days was defensive back Marquise Blair, but that wasn't because of any new injury, but rather just a case of being cautious with a player coming back from a torn ACL.
"Marquise, we're just protecting him going through it," Carroll said. "He has worked a lot, so he got a lot of stuff done here. He's right back on track. Really, he's ahead of schedule in terms of learning his football, he is much further along than he was a year ago at this time. And we're moving him around, he's got a number of different things that he's doing. We want to give him a chance to show it—we love the playmaking that he has in him. So we just took care of him is all, didn't want to overload him this early."
Defensive end Aldon Smith did not take part in minicamp but is working out in the area, Carroll said: "He's in town, and he's been he's been working out. We didn't feel like he was ready for this yet, but we'll see how he handles himself through the summertime, the conditioning he gets into. But we're looking forward to him making it and getting out here. We just felt it was best for him, at this point, to just work out on his own, so he's been in the facility in and out, but he's sent a good impression that he's made on us right now. He's working hard at it."
Photos from Seattle Seahawks minicamp on Thursday, June 17 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.