Mack Strong retired from the Seahawks and the NFL last season following a neck injury in the fifth game of his 15th season. The 36-year-old Strong has since had successful surgery, is 100 percent healthy, and will play a role in the FSN coverage of the Seahawks. Strong has no desires on returning to football and he will occasionally do blogs for Seahawks.com.
My first summer practice was in 1985 - my freshman year at Brookstone High School in Columbus, Ga. - and this is the first time in 23 years that I haven't been playing football at this time of year.
It was my first year ever playing football and I remember my first practice in Americus, Ga. for football camp. As soon as we got off the bus, we unloaded our stuff, and the coach wanted to make sure we got a good night's sleep so we ran 10, 100's. We ran 10 100's and then we went to bed. That was the beginning of my football career.
It was actually nice coming to camp this year. I'm lucky I didn't get hurt worse and I'm happy I retired at the right time. I was joking that it's really different being on the other side of the yard lines this time, so that takes some getting used to. It's just strange. I don't know the protocol of where to go or what to do now after 15 years of participating in Seahawks training camp.
I know I'm not supposed to be in and around the players. I know I'm not supposed to be in the locker room or training room. It takes some adjustment as far as what I'm used to doing and a comfort zone. But it is nice just being out here and watching. Honestly, I didn't think I would like it as much as I do watching the guys practice, prepare and train. Actually, it's kind of nice to watch it, not be doing it and looking at it from a different perspective.
To me, being away for six months seems like a long time. I didn't come to any of the minicamps or any of the offseason workouts. This is really the first time I've been around since the season ended last year. It's good. Still, I played with a great percentage of the guys out here. It's great to be here and it's not like I'm in unfamiliar territory. Everybody has welcomed me back with open arms and it's a great feeling to know I'm still appreciated.
I am looking at the team differently now and it surprised me. But I'm not in the meetings anymore. Watching practice is a lot different than being in it ... there's a different feel for things. When you're practicing, you can tell what kind of team you're going to be by the way guys are responding to each other. Are we going to be good? What specific areas do we have to work on? All of that is a lot more obvious on the inside.
This is harder. As a player, I was always optimistic and looked at things from the brighter side. What can we do to get better? It was easier to analyze, but not be critical. I'm trying to look at them and give some form of a critique now. I'm thinking, 'Can they do this and get better?'
Well, now I find myself being critical. That's a different feel. It's a transition and I'm not sure that I like that. The personnel in the backfield is as good as any in the NFL, but that doesn't necessarily mean it guarantees success. What I'm looking for right now is not about how the players are getting familiar with the system as much as they are with each other. That, to me, will go a long way.
The most successful teams that I've been on were all about chemistry. Guys knew each other. Guys knew what to expect from one another. It's going to take some time through training camp to work those kinks out. That backfield is more talented than it's been in years, with a mixture of youth and veteran leadership.
But how well they work together will be the key to the success of this team.