The sudden outburst of hugs and handshakes at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center and increased buzz in the building this week can only mean one thing.
Football is back.
Seahawks players officially reported to training camp Thursday, a day before the first practice of camp, though many have been around the building for past week or two already. As players trickled in and out of the locker room sharing hugs and stories from their time away, they also had business to attend to in the form of physicals and meetings. Then on Friday at 10 a.m. preparation for the 2015 season begins in earnest when players take the field.
"I'm excited, man," said linebacker K.J. Wright. "This is my fifth training camp, it's gone by fast, and I'm just enjoying the journey. Just coming out here, it's another opportunity for us to build as a team and get that camaraderie going and just get everything rolling.
"We definitely came back focused. There weren't guys complaining about the past; we all came back focused and ready to go. Everything should be good, with the leaders we've got on this team, we should be focused."
The past Wright refers to, of course, is the topic players know will be unavoidable when camp begins: the finish to Super Bowl XLIX. But rather that focus on that, players are using camp as a chance to turn the page on last season and put their focus on what lies ahead.
"This is a much needed training camp because of all the stuff we've had to deal with," Wright said. "Thankfully it's here and all the talk should stop and everything should be focused on this upcoming season and trying to win another NFC West championship."
The group of leaders Wright brought up did not, as of Thursday, include last year's defensive captain, Kam Chancellor who did not report. Every other player on Seattle's 90-man roster was present.
For veterans like Wright, this camp will feel almost routine, while for younger players it's a brand new experience. Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis said he was "a chicken with its head cut off" in camp last year, and jokes he's still a chicken wondering around, but says "I know a little bit more now, so it's great."
"It's exciting just being out there with my teammates, having everybody together competing again," said Pierre-Louis, who finished last season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. "Especially missing part of last season, I'm looking forward to getting back to this for sure. It's exciting. I've never been with a group of guys that competes at the level that we compete. It's a lot of positive emotion, we're excited to get back out there."
Another player who's excited to be back out there is cornerback Will Blackmon, who returns to the team with which he spent 2013 training camp before spending the past two seasons in Jacksonville. Blackmon didn't make the final roster in 2013 when he was part of an absurdly deep position group that included Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane, Walter Thurmond, Antoine Winfield and Ron Parker. But even though Blackmon's previous tenure in Seattle was brief, he has fond memories and is excited to be back.
"When I was here last time, this was the most fun I've had in camp, so I'm excited to be back here and get started again,"
Blackmon is also excited about his second go-around with Seattle because he is a better player than he was two years ago when he joined the Seahawks having not played in the NFL for more than a year.
"The first time I came here, we were extremely deep, and John Schneider basically told me it was going to be tough," he said. "I was coming right off the street, I hadn't played the year before, so there was a lot of rust trying to get my confidence back, trying to get my feet back. But that camp helped me come back in the league and go to Jacksonville. Now I have been playing, I've been starting, so it's great to come back and be familiar with the system here."
And with that Blackmon was off to catch up with safety DeShawn Shead a couple of lockers over. Today they shared a few laughs, and tomorrow they'll battle with Seattle's receivers in the first practice of training camp. Yes, football is back; you can feel the excitement building in the VMAC.
Players report to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for physicals and the first team meetings of the season on the eve of the 2015 Seahawks Training Camp presented by Bing.