The window opened for Darryl Tapp, sitting next to his position coach Dwaine "Pee Wee" Board as the Seattle Seahawks defense was treated to a film session that reviewed some of the best defenses in NFL history.
They carried names like the "Steel Curtain," the "Purple People Eaters," the Doomsday Defense," the "46 defense," the "Killer Bees," and the "No-name Defense," to name a few. As Tapp watched wide-eyed, there was Board, buzzing about which of them he liked the best and played against during his 10-year NFL career as a defensive lineman, primarily with the San Francisco 49ers.
To put it mildly, it was a treat for Tapp to relive it through Board's eyes.
"That was really exciting sitting next to Pee Wee as he was remembering all the good teams he played on and the good players he played against," Tapp said. "He was pointing out people on the field. It's a good feeling to have a guy sitting there with me that had been there, done that, and he can relay all that stuff to me so I can keep getting better.
"We're knocking on the door right now to be a great defensive team and I'm sure that's why they showed us that. All the pieces are in place. We need to continue to build together and mesh, and we'll be right on track."
And Tapp is expected to be a big part of that. Drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft after an All-American career at Virginia Tech, the 6-1, 270-pound defensive end has had spectacular moments, and struggled in others. He played spottily as a rookie behind Grant Wistrom and Bryce Fisher, rotating in often enough to make 23 tackles, 3 sacks, had a huge interception returned for 25 yards for a touchdown against Denver and forced a fumble in a big win over the New York Giants. He also had 9 tackles on special teams while playing in every game.
All of that was enough for them to trade Fisher and give him the starting right end spot in 2007. He started all 16 games, had 50 tackles, 7 sacks and another interception for highlights. He began the season with a bang and in the sixth game against the St. Louis Rams, he tied the franchise record with 4 sacks, two passes defended and forced a fumble.
But he also broke his right hand. Oh, he had surgery the next week, fortunately a bye-week, and he never missed a game. Nonetheless it was a shock to his system and he admittedly couldn't maintain effectiveness.
"Last year was definitely a learning year for me," Tapp said. "It was my first year as a starter in the league, and I came out of the box pretty hot. I was involved, I was active. I finally pieced everything together in that Rams game and ended up breaking my hand in the game.
"That was the first major injury for me since I began playing sports ... period.
So it was difficult to deal with. As a defensive lineman, using your hands is a must. You start second-guessing putting your hands in there and doing things that your normally used to doing. Our training staff did a great job of keeping an eye on things, but at the same time didn't want to do too much. There were just a lot of things going on, and as a young player I needed to keep myself focused on the goal, but it was hard because there was so much going on."
Then came the 2008 NFL Draft, and the Seahawks made USC defensive end Lawrence Jackson their first round pick, which Tapp thought to be adding insult to injury, until the staff discussed the reasoning. Board continuously rotates players, Jackson will also play inside, and Patrick Kerney, the other starter, will be 32 in December.
Jackson was just another step toward making the defense more intimidating.
"We platoon the defensive linemen so they stay fresh," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. "The pass rush guys are high effort, they're going like crazy and they get tired. So if you can put in (another guy) and there's not a big drop-off - if everything's kind of the same - you're a step ahead of the game. Darryl Tapp, he came in playing the game 150 miles an hour and that's how he plays. So there's not going to be any different. I don't think he needs any extra motivation."
No he doesn't but it has that effect anyway. That's just how Tapp is wired, literally. The game is his passion and the motor is only at idle when he's asleep. Last year, defensive coordinator John Marshall referred to him as a rolling ball of butcher knives to emphasize the way he plays.
And now that his is 100 percent healed, he's been right back at it, particularly the Monday and Tuesday morning when they were in pads for the first time. He's thankful to Sam Ramsden's training staff and Mike Clark's strength and conditioning staff for helping him get back to 100 percent and stronger.
"Camp is great ... I love getting back on the field," Tapp said. "I'm not saying it just to be politically correct either. I'm really enjoying myself being back out here with the guys working for a common goal again. It's a real big year coming up.
"(The draft) fired me up. But once I looked at the big picture, the coaching staff and the guys upstairs did a great job of pulling me in and explaining the situation. It wasn't an attack on me, he was the best player they could get and we want to have a great defense. It was a move to make the team better. And the better we get, the more we win and that's what this is all about."
The specialty of it all
The first official special teams practice was Tuesday afternoon and special teams coach Bruce DeHaven, discussed his units that at the moment are virtually turned over in near entirety considering punter Ryan Plackemeier is still healing from a torn pectoral muscle. So Reggie Hodges is currently the punter, while there is a new place-kicker competition going on between veteran Olindo Mare and seventh round draft pick Brandon Coutu. And the new snapper is sixth round draft pick Tyler Schmitt.
Add to that the loss of veteran linebackers Niko Koutouvides and Kevin Bentley, two of the top special teams players the past few years and the turnover reflects what it's like to be a special teams coach in the NFL these days.
"Since free agency came along, that's kind of the deal every year," DeHaven said. "It's kind of like coaching junior college - not even four-year college. Every year or two you have almost a complete turnover in a lot of your personnel. Hopefully you keep your specialists around for a while, but there's a lot of turnover because most of those (other) guys are on the bottom end of the roster.
"If they're going to be the snapper, punter or kicker on opening day, they've got to be ready whether they're a rookie or a veteran. We try to get them ready the same way. Maybe I don't sleep quite as well at night, it's business as usual for them."
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren on the ordeal first-year quarterback coach Bill Lazor may be in store for this season.
"Well, I didn't know Billy Lazor, but both Dan Reeves and Joe Gibbs phoned me on the same day within two hours of on another and said, 'You've got to hire this guy.' The quarterback coach for me, you have to have an iron jock, you know what I mean?"
This and that
Leonard Weaver wowed the bystanders when he leveled linebacker Leroy Hill during running back blocking drills. And in a nice exchange of coaching and learning, first-year running backs coach Kasey Dunn talked to diminutive rookie Justin Forsett after he was beat badly. Forsett, almost immediately became more balanced in his positioning and holding his block, throughout the remainder of the drill. ... Holmgren said he is hopeful that starting center Chris Spencer (shoulder surgery recovery) and Chris Gray (strained back) will be able to practice in 5-6 days. "We don't know for sure, but that's what they're telling me," Holmgren said. Meanwhile, second-year draft choice Steve Vallos is running with the first team offensive line. ... Deion Branch and Marcus Tubbs continued to work hard on running and agility with strength and condition coach Darren Krein during morning practice to strengthen and stabilize the muscles around their surgically repaired knees. Optimistically, Holmgren says they are targeted for the regular season opener at Buffalo on Sept. 7. He also said they are shutting down All-Pro defensive end Patrick Kerney until his strained calf heals.
The Seahawks will hold their annual team scrimmage on Saturday at Qwest Field beginning at 11 a.m. Tickets will be available at all Ticketmaster outlets in the Puget Sound region and ticketmaster.com. Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $5 for youth (ages 6-17) and children under the age of five are free. Qwest Field gates open for the 90-minute scrimmage at 9 a.m.
All proceeds from the scrimmage will benefit "Play It Smart" programs in King & Pierce Counties. The Seahawks, in partnership with the National Football Foundation, fund "Play It Smart" programs at Clover Park and Rainier Beach High Schools during the 2008-09 school year.