By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
Kelly Jennings felt as if he had been running for days. As the highlight of the Saturday evening scrimmage for the Seattle Seahawks at the Seattle Center's Memorial Stadium, Jennings was still breathing hard long after he had returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown.
"It felt like I was running forever," Jennings said. "But I was going to get into the end zone."
While in the big picture, this wasn't a play that will be significant just because of the circumstances. But it is indicative of the new confidence and effectiveness of the secondary that has three new starters around left corner Marcus Trufant.
That would be Jennings, the 2006 first round pick from Miami, and the two veteran free agents safeties signed this year, Deon Grant and Brian Russell. Add in new secondary/assistant head coach Jim Mora and you've got a brand new secondary with tons of experience.
"It's completely different this year," said Jennings, who started the last two regular season games and the two playoff games. "Even coming into the beginning of training camp, I've got a lot more confidence in my game and the defense to let my talent take over so I can make plays. (On Mora and veteran safeties) Deon says all the time, 'Trust your safeties and know that we're going to be there.'
"And I've noticed that throughout training camp, Deon or Brian are there to help us out if there's a breakdown or anything like that. Between that and Coach Mora's attitude driving us and teaching us, I have a lot more confidence overall."
The interception was a beauty. He dove in front of rookie Chris Jones just in front of the goal line, raced up field until he had to cut back at about the 50, and outraced quarterback Seneca Wallace to the corner of the end zone on the opposite side of the field.
"As I turned I saw it coming low, so I dove for it," Jennings said. ". As soon as I caught it, I realized nobody had touched me so I just took off. The sidelines were cut off so I cut back and just kept running across the field as fast as I could."
There were several big plays by the defense and it left defensive coordinator John Marshall pleased, if not quite overjoyed. He loved the communications between players which started at camp and clearly figures to become a key ingredient to their success. But they have to set the bar high and stay there.
"I saw too much inconsistency," he said. "There were some very outstanding plays – although it was a little bit hard to see on the field – I won't mention any names, but there were 3 or 4 players that really caught our eye. And there were a couple of disappointments. We were too inconsistent. We made some good plays, but we allowed the offense to move the football too much. Maybe that's the way it is at this point."
This and that
Nate Burleson remembers the last time he played at Memorial Coliseum – a playoff loss to White River his senior year at O'Dea High School – where he was named the Seattle Athlete of the Year in 1999. And the way the crowd responded to him gave him an extra adrenaline shot playing on a field he grew to know so well.
"It was fun to come here and get that old school feel back," he said. "It always feels good to get a good response when you're on the field. Whenever I get on the field, I always want to make something happen."
In the controlled scrimmage, it he did make a catch that didn't show up the stats because it was a big play in a drill for a touchdown, but he also broke a kickoff return – although it's hard to say what would have happened if it would have been a real game.
It was just the continuation of what appeared to be his best week of practice on the Seahawks since he was signed as a free agent from Minnesota in 2006. Gone is the anxiety of coming home, injuring his thumb, and then being ineffectual as he struggled to catch the ball consistently.
Now he's going after it.
"I'm just going out to prove I'm one of the playmakers on this team and I need the ball in my hands," Burleson said. . To me, it's just doing my job. I feel healthy, strong and fast, all I've got to do is take advantage of the opportunities. For me, it was just coming to terms with the confidence issues after hurting my hand – coming to the realization that I can do the same things as I did in Minnesota. I just needed to stop playing mind games with myself."
Six players were officially credited with sacks: Russell Davis, Will Herring, Patrick Kerney, Lance Laury, Darryl Tapp and Lofa Tatupu.
The Seahawks resume practice Sunday at 2:45 in the afternoon. They will practice Wednesday morning at Husky Stadium – where it will be open to the public. They will leave for San Diego next Saturday in preparation for Sunday's game with the Chargers.
30 seconds with the president
Seahawks president Tim Ruskell on the day in general:
"It's too hard (to gauge) until we watch film. Some of the guys, Baraka Atkins made some plays – Josh Wilson – but you really have to see what happened in the trenches on film to get a good gauge of what really happened. We need to get reports on all injuries- you don't want them to be severe and miss time.
The atmosphere was great – it felt like coming home. The crowd was into it and enthusiastic – these are our fans. And when you hear them again after being gone for a long time like we have, it's refreshing. It gets you energized again. Some of our players have never seen what are fans are like and about – now they have a little taste of what it's going to be like in Qwest Field."