Justin Britt isn't just preparing for his third season in the NFL, he's also preparing to play his third position since joining the Seahawks as a second-round pick in 2013. And while Britt has traveled an unusual path so far in his career, starting at right tackle in 2014 and left guard last season before moving to center this offseason, he is excited about what lies ahead.
"I love it," Britt said. "Really I just want to start and play. I love the challenge, and to an extent it makes me feel more important, more involved. I feel like I'm capable of doing the job. I know the offense in and out. The hardest part is really seeing it from the center perspective, reading the defense and getting the calls out quick. I'm so used to playing guard or tackle where I listen for the center to make the call, then boom, I know what I'm doing, but now I'm the one who has to see it, and people are waiting on me to get the call out. It's definitely getting better, more rhythmic and I'm getting more comfortable."
Offensive line coach Tom Cable has always had the idea in the back of his head that Britt might be a fit at center, and with the Seahawks adding a potential starting right guard in Germain Ifedi with their first-round pick, as well as guard Rees Odhiambo in the third round—Odhiambo will compete with Mark Glowinski at left guard—Cable thought this was the time to try Britt at center.
"You just want to find the best five—where are they, who are they?" Cable said. "We've messed around with it kind of as a backup thought in the past, so now it creates more competition there."
To win the starting job, Britt will have to beat out Patrick Lewis, who finished last season as the starter, as well as rookie Joey Hunt, a sixth-round pick. While Britt has less experience at center than those two, he knows the offense well, and is, as Cable puts it, "Smart, tough, gets it, good communicator, all those good things."
Cable agrees with Britt's assessment that the biggest part of the transition from guard to center is handling the mental demands of the position rather than any physical difference.
"Every play, the center's got to be able to go up and call everything, whether it's run or pass, it doesn't matter," Cable said. "I just think there's a lot more of it. The demand is every play as opposed to just when it affected him before."
After Cable discussed a move to Center with Britt, one of the first things Britt did was study film of former Seahawk Max Unger and other NFL centers, but he also got in touch with former Seahawk Lemuel Jeanpierre, a player who took Britt under his wing in 2014.
"I've talked to Lem Jeanpierre a lot since I got moved to center," Britt said. "He's a great teacher and a great player and he really understands the system here. Even though he's not here, he's a great asset for me. He has definitely helped me learn the ins and outs (of playing center)."
Britt didn't necessarily see this move coming, but he wasn't shocked by it either: "After they moved me to guard, I was like, 'Man, I better not put anything past them.'" And unexpected or not, Britt is fully on board with something that could help both the team and his career.
"You know, the more you can do," he said. "I'm definitely losing more hair because of it, but the more you can do. I'm thrilled to have the opportunity. I'm going to do all I can to make sure this works out well. It'll be good for my family and my future and good for the team if it works out. I just want to be one of the five we put on the field on Sundays."
Photos from the fifth of nine Organized Team Activities (OTAs) that the Seahawks held at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Wednesday, June 1.