Unlike years past, NFL teams have a full training camp roster of 90 players available for the final preseason game, a rule change Seahawks coach Pete Carroll loves.
Seahawks’ practices look a little different this week than they have in years past heading into the final preseason game.
And what is different is that they look the same as they have since training camp began.
Unlike previous years, when the Seahawks and every other NFL team would have had to cut their rosters from 90 players to 75 after the third preseason game there is now just one cutdown date.
That comes on Saturday when teams have to pare their rosters from 90 to 53 by 1 p.m. Seattle time.
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It’s a change that Seahawks coach Pete Carroll endorses heartily, liking the fact that the roster remains at 90 for the final preseason game, one in which starters often play little, if at all.
“This is so good,’’ Carroll said. “This is the way it should have been done a long time and I’ll criticize openly on that one. This is so much better for our players because they have more guys available to play in the last game. Under the circumstances that it’s the last game, you’d like to have coaches’ decisions—who needs to play and who doesn’t need to play. But when you’ve cut down, you just knocked a bunch of guys off your roster it’s a—it just doesn’t fit right.’’
Indeed, one of the biggest goals of the final week is simply getting through it without any more injuries. Having 90 players on the roster will make it even easier to be selective about who plays and how much and when.
That’s an even bigger deal for the Seahawks this week with five key players — defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, receiver Tyler Lockett, linebacker Michael Wilhoite and offensive lineman Luke Joeckel — off receiving Regenokine blood treatment. Frank Clark also appears out with a wrist injury and other regulars will likely also be told to sit it out as kickoff approaches with there being no need to be exposed to possible injury with the regular season now so close.
Having the full complement of 90 players will make it easier to absorb those losses by giving time to players who likely won’t be part of the 53-man regular season roster.
Carroll also argues that it’s better for the players who will play.
Some have wondered if the 15 who would have been released this week would be better off getting a head start on a new team since they are still likely to be released following the fourth game.
But Carroll says he thinks it’s more advantageous for those players to get one last extended look with the team they have spent all of camp with (and in many cases, have been with since last January) instead of maybe only having a day or two to learn a new playbook with a new team to then play and try to make a quick impression.
“I think the new rule feels so good to be able to have guys be able to compete and another opportunity with all this (training camp) behind them,’’ Carroll said. “You can just feel the difference going into the game, so I think the rule should show up and really help us in that regard.
“. … It also gives young guys who would be left off this opportunity and there’s so many times when a guy has a really good game and wows you and brightens the outlook for his future. These guys, there’s another 15 guys who are in a good chance to do that, so that’s fantastic.”
Given how secretive teams are about personnel decision making it won’t be real easy to accurately figure out if the rule really changes things all that much for any players. Players regarded as numbers 76-90 on the roster will simply always have a hard time breaking onto the regular season roster.
But Carroll said if there’s a year when the difference between the guys at the bottom of the roster and those in the middle isn’t all that slight, it’s this year. Carroll has said many times he thinks this is as deep of a roster as Seattle has had in a few years, with some comparing it as being close to the 2013 roster, the year the Seahawks won the Super Bowl.
That makes this a good year to have one more game to evaluate everybody, he said.
“The decisions are really difficult and I anticipate that,’’ he said. “We told you, this has been one of the deepest groups we’ve had. There’s a lot of good football players here and so we’ll just try to figure it out and do the best we can and do that.”
The new rule, though, will change the dynamic somewhat for the personnel departments of all NFL teams.
In past years, teams would have had a few days to look over the 480 players who would have been released last weekend before then having to scour through the rest who will become available following the fourth game. Now, 1,184 players will become available all at once.
It’s a sudden influx of available players that the Seahawks regard as akin to a second NFL Draft.
“It’s another opportunity of acquisition for us so we are going to treat it kind of like another draft process,’’ Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last year. “… We kind of get set up with our map — how do these guys compare to the players that we have.’’
There will be a bunch more players to suddenly have to place on that map this weekend with teams likely beginning to make roster moves almost as soon as games end Thursday night.
But Carroll said a little more work for the personnel guys is worth it.
“This is going to be fun and we’ll scramble a little bit with the number of guys as we go through the final decisions,’’ Carroll said. “But we’ll make it, we’ll make it. It’s not that much of a burden.’’