With one Kelly (Herndon) out of the picture, the other (Jennings) gets the chance to live up to last year's first-round draft promise.
KIRKLAND — The Seahawks are transitioning from one Kelly to another, and the similarities between the former Seahawks cornerback and the current one are uncanny.
Kelly Jennings slid into the right cornerback spot with the No. 1 defense Monday in the first practice of the team’s June minicamp. The former first-round draft pick from Miami has assumed the position following the release of veteran Kelly Herndon last week.
Jennings and Herndon are of similar build and stature (5 feet 11, about 180 pounds), share a first name and a friendship and are not the most vocal people.
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By the end of last season, Herndon was out with a broken ankle and Jennings had taken over as a starter for the playoffs. Jennings had one interception last season, playing mainly as the nickel cornerback and on special teams.
“We all saw enough last year to see he’s a good football player,” coach Mike Holmgren said of Jennings. “He’s naturally kind of a quiet guy but he really is a competitive guy. Now that Herndon is gone … it’s pretty much [Jennings'] position to lose.
“He comes in with more confidence. He played against some very good people last year and he should be fine.”
Jennings will get some competition from rookie second-round pick Josh Wilson and perhaps veteran Jordan Babineaux, who is unable to practice while he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery.
“I think it’s just my time to step up,” Jennings said. “That’s what he [Holmgren] brought me in for and I think this a big opportunity for me and I’m just trying to make the best of it.”
Jennings will miss Herndon, who was released for salary-cap reasons and because he wanted to be a starter, something that couldn’t be guaranteed with Jennings, Wilson and Babineaux in the mix.
“Kelly helped me a lot,” said Jennings, who bid Herndon goodbye in person Monday before practice. “I’ve been to his house. We talked. A lot of stuff I do now that I’m comfortable with, I kind of got from him and watched him do. Even after it all happened [Herndon's release], I spoke to him and he was just like, ‘Hold it down, do what you gotta do.’ “
Less than a month ago, starting center Chris Spencer was in Alabama having his shoulder re-examined for the possibility of another surgery.
Spencer, who didn’t need surgery, didn’t take part in any of the May minicamp practices. But he was on the field at team headquarters Monday doing individual drills.
Spencer is working out to see how he feels. His plan: “Hopefully week by week get better and be ready for training camp,” he said.
Spencer just started doing the bench press. He thought about the urgency of getting ready for the upcoming season, when the third-year pro is expected to be the opening-game starter for the first time.
“The center is an important position for us, and he’s a good football player and I think he’ll be fine,” Holmgren said. “We’re just kind of taking it easy with him.”
• QB Matt Hasselbeck said he feels no pain in his surgically repaired left shoulder and that it’s a “non-issue” on the field. Holmgren said there are no restrictions on Hasselbeck and that he needs only to work through some rust.
• DE Patrick Kerney did not practice, though he did some running on the side. He is coming back from surgery for a torn pectoral muscle last year.
• RG Chris Gray is moving his family to the area from Florida and missed practice. WR Deion Branch is on his honeymoon but should be back for today’s practice. FB Mack Strong and DE Darryl Tapp were also absent Monday.
• The Seahawks signed OT Kyle Williams, an undrafted rookie from USC.