By Mike KahnSeahawks Insider
There were any number of reasons why Deon Grant was voted one of the six captains for the Seattle Seahawks by his teammates heading into Sunday's regular season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
For example, as linebacker Julian Peterson put it: "Hey Deon, was that part of your contract that you had to be a captain or something?"
Or perhaps it was this, as quarterback Matt Hasselbeck figured: "He's kind of the DJ (disc jockey) of the locker room. It probably won him some points. It won me over. I voted for him."
But most likely, as coach Mike Holmgren explained after considering that he'd never had a first-year player as a captain before: "I talked for awhile on who the captain is and what he should be for the team. It's not a popularity contest. I require a little more from the captains. I deal with them in getting the pulse of the team sometimes and the decision-making things throughout the season … in addition to the natural leadership qualities that they have. It's not just going out and calling heads or tails on the toss. I expect a lot from those guys. And they took it seriously."
That explains why it was so unusual that Grant was named a co-captain. It's one thing when veteran Seahawks such as Hasselbeck, Mack Strong, Lofa Tatupu, Niko Koutouvides andJosh Brown are voted as captains. Although Grant has only been a Seahawk since signing as a free agent in March, the 6-2, 215-pound safety has been a leader in his previous season seven seasons dating back to stints with Carolina and Jacksonville.
"Really, it's a good thing," Peterson said. "I was just joking with Deon. He's a great leader out there, especially in the secondary when it comes to getting those guys together out there. It's like having another linebacker out there, but in the deeper half. It's a tremendous help for us at linebacker to have someone with his experience back there."
And it obviously meant a lot to him. For a guy who spent his entire rookie season on injured reserve with a fractured hip after an All-American career at Tennessee, he has established himself as one of the most durable and dependable strong safeties in the NFL by starting 96 consecutive games since that rookie year.
"Remember when I first got here I was asked how long it would take to adjust, and I said, 'I'm already comfortable because what the guys and the city showed me with their welcome,'" Grant said. "I felt at home right away. They made it so easy that all I had to go was be myself and give 100 percent, and be loyal with my word.
"It's really an honor that the other guys have that trust for me and I've shown them the kind of play that they would give me that label. So it's up to me to show them they didn't make a mistake."
Opening game visions
One of the more humorous moments of Holmgren's weekly Wednesday press conference came when he was asked about the Seahawks 10-21 record in openers – the worst in the NFL.
He seemed speechless at first, and then recovered quickly when he was informed his opening day record through eight seasons as coach is 4-4.
"I am 4-4," Holmgren said, tongue-in-cheek. "I am not going to take the heat for those other guys."
Nonetheless, he expressed concerned for opening games because there is no rhythm established yet and how a team performs in that first game is always highly unpredictable. To be sure, it is beneficial to be playing Tampa Bay Sunday at Qwest Field, and consider his 4-4 opening day record is based on six of those eight being on the road.
"We have managed to win more games than we lost as the season goes on," Holmgren said. "Our November, December record has been pretty good. It is a long season. The first game shows you things, I think At times, a few years ago, it was a struggle. Now our team is better. I expect them to play better. I know about how they will play."
Holmgren didn't commit at wide receiver in the too-close-to-call battle between D.J. Hackett andNate Burleson, but emphasized he may very well rotate who starts from week-to-week and that they both will play a lot. It's a tougher scenario to decipher at defensive end, where all appearances are that Darryl Tapp has beaten out Bryce Fisher at right defensive end, and most importantly, Walter Jones practiced Wednesday and felt good after being out most of the past three weeks allowing his surgically repaired shoulder to heal.
Although nobody would ever know when the All-World left tackle is hurt anyway, he's pleased with how he feels and excited now that the games really matter.
"I felt pretty good," Jones said. "Just to get back with the fellas … to run around and be with those guys to get my wind back; I needed that. I did a lot of running while I was out, but I still had to get my football wind back. It felt good and got better as practice went on.
"I was on board with what they decided in holding me out. The regular season is what counts. That was the way everybody felt, so I would be ready to go out there to do whatever I can to help this team win."
Holmgren on why the team is in better shape mentally and physically than they were a year ago after the run to Super Bowl XL:
"If you play in the Super Bowl, the real thing is that you have less time in the offseason. So you'd better plan and take that into consideration when you're making your offseason program and things like that. I think that's real. They need time to get away (and heal)."
This and that
Ben Obomanu is the only player held out of practice Wednesday, still recovering from that hamstring tweak he suffered eight days ago. He's been running and he says it isn't a pull, but he understands the motivation behind everyone being careful. "I've never pulled a hamstring before and didn't pull this one either. Really, I think it was just a little bit of wear and tear from training camp and the preseason games. The main thing I want to do is keep my focus on the big picture. It's a long season and this is the best way. I want to get out there, there are 16 games and this is only the first game, so we'll take our time to make sure it's OK."
Defensive back and special teams keyJordan Babineaux participated in his first full contact practice since bruising his knee the morning of the first practice of training camp on July 29. He was thrilled to be back and is hopeful to contribute Sunday. "The whole camp I watched those guys sweat it out every day and I really wanted to be a part of it. The jelling experience is important and we have a bunch of new players, so it's important to get the timing and the chemistry down with the guy next to you. I've got to catch up real quick. One thing about this game, you can never prepare for a game until you play that game. It's a different speed. Everything is faster, up-tempo and the only way to get in game shape is to play a game."
Seventh round draft pick Steve Vallos is playing center for the scout team now on the heels of making his debut at center amid all the injuries that occurred in the preseason finale against Oakland. A natural offensive tackle, he made the switch to guard upon being drafted … but Thursday night was something new, and perhaps permanent as he was released then re-signed to the practice squad on Saturday. "I just can't fumble a snap – that's all I'm worried about right now," the Wake Forest All-American said. "I don't care who I block. Never in high school, never in college have I done this. But it's going to help in the long run, so I'm happy to get this chance to learn. I'm here still, and that's all that matters to me."
Both Deon Grant and Leroy Hill intercepted passes against the scout team that would have been touchdowns in practice Wednesday. … It was initially shocking when the film crew piped in a huge dose of crowd noise for the team to get adjusted in the middle of practice. … A 3,000 square foot "12th-Man Flag will fly Thursday and Friday behind an aircraft along the I-405 and I-5 corridors from Renton through Redmond, Bothell and Kirkland then head across Lake Washington to Eastlake, then south to Elliott Bay, over downtown Seattle and Qwest Field before heading back to the Renton Municipal Airport. … Rookie wide receivers Courtney Taylor, Jordan Kent and Logan Payne all showed up with shaved heads on Wednesday, and no, it wasn't part of rookie hazing.