Seahawks training camp kicked off Saturday morning at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, and head coach Pete Carroll was so excited to have his team back on the field, he said afterward, "I've got to be careful, I might be a little out of control here."
Carroll is so excited about this year's camp, his seventh in Seattle, because of what he saw from his team in the offseason, and particularly from his veteran leadership.
"I've been more excited in the approach to this camp than I can ever remember," Carroll said. "Where we've come from, what we've done, the guys we're working with, the coaches, the continuity and all those kind of things, really spurred on and inspired by the guys who have been around here and the way they've handled this offseason and approached it. They've got me all jacked up."
With Day 1 of camp in the books, here are six things that stood out from Saturday's practice, the first three from team reporter John Boyle and the final three from digital media content manager Tony Drovetto.
1. The Offensive Line Mostly Looked As Expected
There will be a lot of competition when it comes to finalizing a starting offensive line, but based off of comments made by Carroll and offensive line coach Tom Cable during offseason workouts, some leading candidates for jobs have started to emerge, particularly at the guard and tackle spots, with center being more of a wide-open competition. And when the first-team offense took the field, the line looked pretty much as expected, though Garry Gilliam was replaced by Bradley Sowell at left tackle, as Gilliam is being eased back into things following an offseason procedure to remove a cyst in his knee. Next to Sowell was Mark Glowinski at left guard, with Justin Britt playing center, first-round pick Germain Ifedi playing right guard and free-agent pickup J'Marcus Webb at right tackle. None of those jobs are set in stone, but center in particular could change from practice-to-practice or from week-to-week to give Patrick Lewis and Joey Hunt a look with the first unit.
As for Gilliam, who is moving from right tackle to the left side in hopes of replacing Russell Okung, Carroll said, "He's really in great shape. He's already made his return. We've just got to ease him back into practice, so that's not going to be a problem at all. So it's not a factor. He's just going to be slowed down for two or three days here if everything goes fine and then he'll be back in. He was working with the guys today.
"He's looking great. He feels great. Doesn't feel any restrictions at all. We've just got to build up some workload. He's really excited about this season and he's just grown so much, so quickly. He's really looking forward to the challenge of playing on the left side. It's kind of where we always pictured him. We thought he was a classic left tackle, the opportunity opened up the other side last year, so this is kind of where we hoped it would go. We'll see. I don't think it's going to take him, maybe a week or something, before the trainers will feel like they can just totally let him go."
2. Kam Chancellor Enjoyed Day 1 Of Camp
At this time last year, strong safety Kam Chancellor was a training camp no-show, beginning a holdout that included the first two days of the regular season. This year, Chancellor was not only on the field, but making big plays, including an interception of Russell Wilson after Frank Clark pressured the QB into a rushed throw that was tipped before finding its way to Chancellor.
Chancellor's play will obviously be a big factor for the Seahawks in 2016, but so too will his leadership, which is stronger than ever according to Carroll, in part because of last year's contract dispute.
"We went through a real learning process last year with one of our great players and great competitors in Kam," Carroll said. "I think he's helped people understand what that's all about. He has been a big inspiration, I think anyone would think that way.
"He's here every day working. He's just around. He is a leader, he is the leader. He is available for guys… I think his message is very clear with these guys right now."
3. Michael Bennett Makes A Pretty Good Hype Man (Not To Mention Pass-Rusher)
Michael Bennett was his usual disruptive self on the field, pressuring quarterbacks, batting down passes at the line of scrimmage and being a general pain in the rear for the offense. But when Bennett wasn't on the field, he was also having a good time with fans, walking toward the crowd and encouraging them to get excited with a "Sea-Hawks!" chant.
"He brought a bunch of juice today," Carroll said. "He was in great spirits, he had a great attitude about it. He's just being the Michael Bennett that he is. Mike is a tremendous team player, and he has always been that—not to even mention his ability—he's a great factor on this club. That's why we want him to be here, we want to figure out how to make him a Seahawk until he's finished playing football."
Action photos from the first day of practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
4. Bobby Wagner Got A Bit Of Work At A Different Position
Bobby Wagner, Seattle's Pro Bowl middle linebacker, spent a bit of time at the start of Saturday's practice working out of position. Wagner, as well as fellow linebacker K.J. Wright, were seen working in individual drills with D-line coaches Travis Jones, Dwaine Board, and the rest of the Seahawks' defensive line on improving their pass rush, an area Wagner said he's hoping to improve heading into 2016.
"I'm just trying to be more versatile," Wagner said. "I think you don't want to really want to limit yourself to one craft. I know I'm really good at tackling, but one of the things I want to get better at is blitzing, and what better way to get better at it than work with Mike B. and Cliff [Avril] and guys like that to help make my pass rush better."
5. Tani Tupou & Tanner McEvoy Swapped Sides Of The Ball
Tani Tupou, a Marysville native and former University of Washington Husky, had been suiting up at fullback for the Seahawks this offseason after spending the majority of his college career at defensive line. But that changed Saturday, when the 6-foot-1, 284-pound rookie turned in his blue offensive jersey for a white one and was back working with the defensive line.
"He did a good job for us at fullback showing us that he could make the transition," Carroll said. "I want to make sure I know where he fits in in the competition with the defensive line and then he can easily flop back. I don't see Tani as a guy who is going to be a fulltime fullback. I think he's going to be a utility guy, very much like Will [Tukuafu] was for us last year. That is why we made that switch right now. We will feel free to go back in time whenever we think we need to."
Tanner McEvoy, meanwhile, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound rookie out of Wisconsin, had primarily been playing safety through the Seahawks' offseason program. But he was at wide receiver to open training camp, one of the three positions he saw time at last year for the Badgers along with safety and wildcat quarterback.
"Tanner is a very versatile athlete," Carroll said. "I loved all of the variety of things that he did in college so we took him out and threw the ball to him a little bit before we left. I think it is a nice opportunity for us to take a look at him right off the bat. When he is in camp we get him out there and he is the one, the real biggest, the biggest guy we have. We always like to have a guy with that kind of dimension, so we will see how he does. He is excited about it."
6. Paul Richardson "Looked Fantastic"
On Saturday, wideout Paul Richardson was doing what the Seahawks envisioned he would when they selected him with their first pick in the 2014 NFL Draft: beating people deep. The third-year pro used his elite speed to outpace a defensive back for an apparent touchdown, drawing high praise from his head coach and quarterback after practice.
"Paul looked fantastic today," Carroll said of Richardson, who tore his ACL late in his rookie season and returned to play one game last year before landing on injured reserve because of a hamstring setback. "He's back in action with us."
Added Wilson: "He brings so much speed. He brings so much excitement catching the football. He's got great moves once he's got the ball in his hands too. He's not just a fast guy, he's a quick guy. He knows how to break tackles and make plays. Like I said, we have tremendous talents. Paul Richardson has worked all offseason to be ready for this moment. He had a great rookie season, as you guys know. He was really coming along, making some great plays until he had the unfortunate situation. But he's done a tremendous job of rehabbing and getting ready to go again."
More than 2,500 fans came out for the first day of the Seahawks' 2016 training camp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.