Take a roster, binoculars and have fun if you go to the facility in Renton
RENTON — You registered in advance on the team’s Web site, drove to The Landing in Renton and paid $5 for the shuttle to take you to the Seahawks’ state-of-the-art training facility.
You’ve staked out a spot on the hill overlooking three full-sized practice fields. The sun is out. Lake Washington sits coolly in the distance and the Seahawks are on the field.
It’s a question that the 1,500 fans who attend each of the Seahawks’ 12 open practices in Renton will be asking themselves as the team draws back the curtain, opening its training camp to the public for the first time in two years.
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What do you watch for? It’s a legitimate question because a football practice doesn’t have a scoreboard to keep track of the action or a public-address announcer to point out the players.
“You have a tendency to follow the superstars, follow the ball,” coach Jim Mora said. “There’ll be 1,500 people here and there’ll be 3,000 eyes on Matt Hasselbeck.”
That means they’ll be missing some of the more interesting things that are happening on the field.
1. Get a roster, preferably one arranged numerically from No. 3 (quarterback Jeff Rowe) to No. 99 (rookie defensive end Derek Walker). The Seahawks have 80 players on the roster, so a cheat sheet may be necessary if you want to know that the linebacker wearing No. 42 who’s showing a nose for where the ball is headed is David Philistin, a rookie from Maryland.
2. Make like a school teacher: take roll. Search for a few specific players. If No. 59 is on the field, it means first-round pick Aaron Curry and his agents reached a contract agreement with the Seahawks. If No. 23 is out there with the defensive backs, Marcus Trufant has recovered sufficiently from his back injury to be activated. Is Walter Jones practicing? How about Patrick Kerney?
3. Bring binoculars. The hill will provide as good a seat as you can find at Qwest Field, but there’s still quite a bit of distance between you and the players. You’ll be amazed at the details you pick up with binoculars.
4. Every practice has different stages. The players stretch as a group, then divide up by positions to work on individual drills. The first 45 minutes are composed mostly of non-contact drills. There are often two different 11-on-11 drills in the second half of practice, and the tendency is to watch the ball. Try instead looking where the offensive lineman are going; specifically look at the guards who line up on either side of the center. It’s the best key to knowing where the back will run.
“It’s always physical, especially in between the tackles,” said guard Rob Sims. “Watch for me pulling, watch for Mansfield Wrotto pulling. Watch how the play develops before the running back actually hits the hole.”
5. Focus on the one-on-one drills that occur during the second half of practice. Corners cover receivers while safeties and linebackers defend passes to running backs and tight ends. Lineman go at it mano-a-mano, the offensive lineman trying to keep the defensive lineman from getting around him in a pass-rush drill.
“That’s where the battles are won and lost in terms of playing time in the preseason,” president Tim Ruskell said. “You’ve got to show something there. It’s really a gut check.”
6. Don’t forget to be a fan. “Just come and enjoy yourselves,” Mora said. “You’re going to sit up on the berm, you’re going to look out at the lake, you’re going to watch your favorite team practice.
“You might want to bring earmuffs for your kids in case things flare up on occasion, but we’ll try to watch that as best we can. I just encourage them to come out and have fun and enjoy themselves, hoot and holler and be loud and cheer for great plays.”
Danny O’Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org