INDIANAPOLIS—Before taking the podium for his own press conference, Seahawks general manager John Schneider dropped in on the end of Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht's session with the media, playfully asking Licht, "Who do you see yourself picking, and can I get your thoughts on Kyler Murray?"
Moments later, it was Schneider's turn to address the media at the NFL Scouting Combine, and the Seahawks GM covered a number of topics, ranging from free agency (you can read more on that here), to Seattle's limited draft capital to, yes, Murray, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Oklahoma who is one of the biggest names at this year's combine.
In addition to the free agency info linked above, here are eight things we learned from Schneider's 2019 combine press conference:
1. Schneider hopes to come out of the 2019 draft with more picks than he currently has.
Due to trades for Duane Brown, Shalom Luani and Brett Hundley, the Seahawks head into the 2019 draft with only four picks, meaning if they don't make any other moves, they'd come out of the draft with the smallest draft class in franchise history.
Asked the odds of that actually transpiring, Schneider said, "I hope it's slim."
Given Seattle's propensity to move back under Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, particularly in the first round—the Seahawks have not used their original first-round pick since 2011—it's easy to foresee a scenario in which the Seahawks move back one or more times to add to their total number of picks.
Asked about heading into the draft with so few picks, Schneider said, "It's a challenge. We try to fix our team all throughout the year. It isn't like the draft is the only avenue that we build our team. We're constantly working the waiver wire, practice squads, with the trade deadline. Not having our second-round pick this year with Duane (Brown), that's a challenge for us. We gave up a sixth-round pick for (Brett) Hundley, then Shalom (Luani) with our seventh. It's a challenge but it's exciting, it's what we do... We don't necessarily have to (trade) down all the time, but it's kind of fun."
2. The Seahawks have been getting big contributions from young talent and hope to keep that trend going.
When asked about last year's busy offseason in which the Seahawks parted ways with several big-name veterans, Schneider was quick to note that "every year you have to make some tough decisions, you have to try and figure out where you're going to be 2-3 years down the line. This year isn't any different, we have some tough decisions coming up."
But while there's some of that every year, Schneider did point out that more young talent was able to emerge last year.
"I thought our coaching staff did a phenomenal job last year with the younger guys that we played, getting back to the basics, teaching competition," he said. "Pete and his staff did a phenomenal job."
Schneider added that, "these last two classes have done a nice job. We have to get to that point where we're bringing in players that are willing to take somebody's job, as ugly as that sounds, but they have that level of confidence to them. Some of the mistakes I've made along the way are maybe not bringing in some guys who were ready to take, for instance, they're looking at Kam Chancellor like, 'Holy smokes, that's Kam Chancellor, that's Earl Thomas, that's Richard Sherman, how am I going to make this team?'"
3. The Seahawks hope to have Kam Chancellor around the team again in 2019.
While a neck injury has kept Chancellor off the field since the middle of the 2017 season, the veteran leader still had a presence with the team in 2018, frequently attending practice, home games and even going on road trips, and Schneider hopes that can continue in 2019.
"I hope so," Schneider said. "You know, he was around a lot this year, kind of mentoring some of the younger guys, especially the DBs. We had asked him to come be around. And Cliff (Avril) was around a lot, too. But Kam has been such a strong leader and such a strong presence for us. I mean, it was great having him around.
"He's one of these guys he really didn't realize he was a leader until his junior year in college and all these guys kept coming to him and asking him questions, whether it was about experiences off the field or on the field, just learning. He has been a pro's pro."
As for Chancellor's contract status—he spent all of last year on the physically unable to perform list—Schneider said, "There is some administrative stuff from a cap standpoint that we have to get through with him."
Schneider clarified that that administrative stuff probably means Chancellor no longer being on the roster, saying, "but he knows. It's not a shock. He knows what's going on. This is really a formality, for our salary-cap situation."
4. The Griffin twins will enjoy a more normal offseason.
When Pete Carroll was asked about Shaquem's rookie year and all that came with it, he included second-year cornerback Shaquill Griffin in his answer, noting that both had a lot of extra attention on them in 2018. Schneider had a similar response when asked about Shaquem Griffin on Wednesday. While Shaquem Griffin continues to use his platform to inspire, especially when it comes to working with limb different kids who can relate to his story, both should benefit from a bit more normalcy this offseason.
"I think just naturally those guys had so much pressure on them outside, everything that was going on," Schneider said. "I look for better things for (Shaquem) next year where his offseason he is not going from focusing on getting ready for the Combine and then you get to the draft and all the exposure that the two of them had, the draft and commercials and book deals and movie deals and all these things. I think they are both ready to just be able to have a whole offseason focused on football."
5. Rashaad Penny is "getting ready to have a great season."
Rashaad Penny showed plenty of promise as a rookie, including a 108-yard performance in Week 10 and enough explosive runs throughout the season to show his upside, but the first-round pick out of San Diego State also dealt with injuries for the first time in his football career, which kept him from maximizing his potential. Penny missed most of training camp and the preseason with a finger injury, then after getting going in the middle of the season, he sustained a knee injury that kept him out of two games late in the year.
"He's never been hurt before, so as a rookie it was kind of hard for him to figure things out," Schneider said. "I think he's on the path of getting ready to have a great season. We don't have any reason to not think that."
Asked more about Penny off the podium after his press conference, Schneider added, "Well, he had never been hurt. So this is the first time he had ever been hurt. He was like, 'What?' He didn't know how to handle it, really. He's got a ton of pride. So he's like, 'Hey, I don't want to be disappointing anybody.' So it's just about him getting through that, having that confidence in himself that, 'I can play through this injury' or 'I'm going to get better. I'm going to get better in two weeks and then be ready to go.' It's hard… I mean, he had one of the better medical grades that our docs have ever given anybody. And so he didn't know—when you are hurt for the first time you don't necessarily know what feels like. Whether that's breaking your finger, having a hamstring pull.
"So moving into next year I think he's got a much better feel for knowing his body and communicating that to people like, 'OK this is how I'm feeling, should I go for it, should I fall off?' He's a real respectful nice kid. He's still just trying to figure that out."
6. Why the Seahawks made changes to their strength & conditioning and athletic training staffs.
The Seahawks announced last week a handful of changes to their strength and conditioning and athletic training staffs, including the hiring of Ivan Lewis as the team's strength and conditioning coach, and the promotion of David Stricklin to head athletic trainer.
Asked why those changes were made, Schneider said, "We're just trying to focus on getting better. Pete's always talked about doing it better than it's ever been done before. And so we went through that. We had a good evaluation of where we've been, regarding injuries and injury prevention. Again, that's our training staff, our strength and conditioning staff, sports science, we are trying to be the best we possibly can be. Equipment, we want to have the safest helmets, you know? It's, 'how are we affecting the players? Who is putting their hands on them? And, how are we helping them get better every day?'"
7. Russell Wilson's many interests are a positive.
Kyler Murray, the Heisman trophy-winning quarterback who only recently chose football over baseball, is bound to draw comparisons to Seattle's quarterback, not just because both lack what is considered the ideal height for that position, but because of their baseball backgrounds.
Asked about having a quarterback with a lot of interests outside of football, Schneider said he likes that Wilson doesn't have a one-track mind.
"I think it's a positive, especially knowing Russell, his mind never stops," Schneider said. "I think he calls it no time to sleep or something like that. He's into flying helicopters. He's into learning different languages. He's just amazing."
8. The Seahawks plan on having competition at kicker.
Seattle's 2018 kicker, Sebastian Janikowski, will become a free agent next month, and while Schneider didn't rule out a return, noting he has talked to the veteran kicker's representatives, he also said the Seahawks plan on having competition at that spot. Already the Seahawks have signed a kicker, adding Sam Ficken, and they'll look to add to that group this offseason.
"Sam had a great workout with us, so we wanted to get him in there as quickly as we could and have that stable guy," Schneider said. "And we'll continue to look for somebody to compete with him."
Seahawks general manager spoke with the media in Indianapolis on the first day of the NFL scouting combine.