For lack of a better phrase, they're on.
Every player that's ever made it to the NFL has claimed all they're looking for is an opportunity to prove their ability, and there's no doubt a slew of young receivers will get that chance on the Seattle Seahawks.
With Deion Branch still recovering from ACL surgery on his left knee, it was revealed Monday that veteran Bobby Engram will be out 6-8 weeks after cracking his right shoulder on the first play from scrimmage in Friday's win at Minnesota against the Vikings.
That leaves Nate Burleson as the old guy starting at split end – all 26 years of him - with coach Mike Holmgren saying Courtney Taylor, 24, has the inside track at the flanker spot with his peers Ben Obomanu, Logan Payne andJordan Kent breathing down his neck. And that's not to mention the big strides made by the 22-year-old rookie free agent, Michael Bumpus.
When asked if he'd ever been with such a young crew, Holmgren looked up and said, "Uh, no. So we'll see. I like 'em though." And then he turned whimsical for a moment and added, '"Of course, we're turning into a running team now, so I don't have to worry quite as much - 'Woody (Hayes) Holmgren.'"
As much as it was said primarily in jest, along with a compliment to the improved running game, this will be an interesting test Burleson as the veteran leader and Taylor, overcoming a hamstring problem from early in camp, as the youngster proving he belongs as a starter in the NFL.
"I would say probably now that Courtney is healthy again, he was the guy we kind of targeted for that spot – at least initially," Holmgren said. "But, heck, Michael Bumpus is making a nice run. Logan, Jordan Kent …Ben Obomanu – we'll let 'em play and see how it sorts itself out. Courtney's a pretty explosive guy. He's got great skill level. He's fast. His athletic ability is special."
As wired as Taylor tends to be in conversation, he started off low key … then essentially worked himself into a frenzy of excitement. First of all, he'll miss Engram being there – his friend, mentor and savior all rolled into one. More than anything, it blew him away that Engram actually had the injury on the first play of the game, stayed in and caught another pass before coming out.
"I didn't find out until the next day," Taylor said. "He said it, and I'm like, 'Oh, wow, when did that happen?' But he's a tough guy and he kept playing. He kept playing with it and caught another pass! The guy's unbelievable. He looked me in the face and said, 'Don't worry, I'm going to be back quick. But I'm going to be on you young guys
"It hurts a lot – that's like the ambassador of our group. He's the guy that stands up for us when coach is getting on us. He's like, 'Hey coach, I got it.' We don't have that now. It's kind of like 'Aaaahhhh, where's Bobby?' He already told us he's going to be back soon as possible, so that's one thing that motivates us. He's still kind of like our coach."
But on the field, Burleson now has the responsibility as the elder statesman.
"I feel like a truly old vet on the team," Burleson said. "Practice is going good. These young guys are flying around and it makes easier on my legs – these guys are coming along at a fast pace. It's tough (without Engram), but I don't know the depth of his injury. I just hope he'll be back sooner than later. I know Bobby's a resilient individual, so I'm not too concerned because I know he'll be back."
They both know this is their chance to make the system work for them. With the knowledge, consistency and success quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has had running this offense, it's just a matter of knowing where you're supposed to be at all times. The Holmgren system and quarterbacks have made many a wide receiver grow in stature, particularly at flanker.