LAS VEGAS — The long wait for Aaron Fuller finally ended when the Seahawks’ offense took the field for the first time in their preseason opener against the Raiders here Saturday night.
With starters DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett getting the night off and injuries to some other receivers, Fuller — a former University of Washington standout — was officially a starter.
And it didn’t take him long to make an impression. On Seattle’s third play, Fuller caught a short pass from Geno Smith, then shed a tackle attempt by Raiders cornerback Damon Arnette — a first-round draft choice a year ago — and turned it into a 17-yard gain.
Fuller was one of three undrafted rookie free agents who signed with the Seahawks in 2020, but then never got to play in a preseason game due to COVID-19 and then spent the entire season on the practice squad without being called up to the active roster.
That meant the last time Fuller had played in a game was Dec. 21, 2019 when he concluded his Huskies career a few miles away, in the Las Vegas Bowl at Sam Boyd Stadium against Boise State.
“It’s going to be dope,’’ Fuller said earlier this week of finally getting to play in a game — preseason or otherwise — for the first time in more than 19 months. “This is what you dream of as a little kid and after a year long waiting I finally get to experience it. There’s no doubt I’m going to make the most of it and have as much fun as I can and try not to overthink the moment.’’
Fuller is one of 12 receivers on the Seahawks’ roster and the team might keep only five or six on its initial 53-man roster.
That makes the preseason particularly important, especially with starters usually seeing little action, and the Seahawks still without second-round choice Dee Eskridge, who has been on the PUP list so far with a toe injury but is expected to practice next week.
“It was definitely hard (in 2020) not having preseason games,’’ Fuller said. “Those are the biggest part where undrafted free agents and guys on the cut can kind of make their name known, not only for the organization they are in but for the other 31 teams.’’
Fuller, at least, got to play in two scrimmages at Lumen Field. In one he made what was generally considered as the play of the day, a leaping grab of a Geno Smith pass under tight coverage from Shaquill Griffin.
He also played well in the other scrimmage, compelling coach Pete Carroll to say Fuller “has really come through in both gamelike situations.’’
Said Fuller: “The scrimmages were kind of what brought my game to life and I think they appreciated how I played and I think I played pretty well.’’
Certainly, the Seahawks saw something to keep Fuller on the practice squad all year and then re-sign him again after the season.
Fuller went undrafted after a UW career in which he had 159 receptions for 2,051 yards, both seventh in school history.
Calls from teams to sign as a free agent arrived the minute the 2020 draft ended, and Fuller said he also considered Houston (he’s from McKinney, Texas) and the Chargers. But Fuller said that he now considers Seattle a second home and the recent success of the organization made it “a no-brainer to come here.’’
The Seahawks also are using Fuller as a punt returner, a spot that is wide open with Lockett no longer used regularly and Seattle uncertain whether or how much it wants to use D.J. Reed in that role given his expected heavy use as a starting cornerback.
“I think that’s going to be a key way I can make my way onto this roster,’’ he said.
Forsythe takes blame for hit on Smith
Geno Smith, who started the game at quarterback with Russell Wilson in uniform but was consigned to the sidelines wearing a headset as the game began, suffered a concussion and was ruled out late in the second quarter.
Smith headed to the blue medical tent midway through the first series when he was hit hard on a corner blitz by Nate Hobbs.
Hobbs broke free over the left side of the Seahawks offensive line, where rookie sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe was the starter.
Asked later if Forsythe should have picked up Hobbs, Carroll said “yeah, we missed the look and should have keyed it and we didn’t do it right and so he gets pounded on the play. It’s really a basic pressure that they ran and we missed it.’’
Forsythe took the blame saying “it was a little rough start for me. The first few series kind of a few missed communications.’’
Smith initially missed just one play and returned. There was a lengthy review to determine if he fumbled. But after playing the rest of the first series and all of the second Smith was taken out of the game.
Carroll said Smith appeared OK, but that “there was a factor that kind of accumulated later on and he didn’t feel right so we had to get him out of there.’’
Alex McGough took over for Smith on the Seahawks’ third series after filling in for him for the one play he missed on the first series.
The Seahawks recently signed veteran Sean Mannion as a fourth quarterback and he finished out the game.
Schneider: nothing new on Adams, Brown
In his first weekly radio show of the season on 710 ESPN Seattle, Seahawks general manager John Schneider offered little insight when asked about the contract situations of safety Jamal Adams and left tackle Duane Brown.
Each is “holding in’’ — having reported and attending meetings and walk-throughs but not practicing — as they seek contract extensions with the team.
Seattle is known to have offered Adams a four-year deal worth a reported $17.5 million annually while the team is not thought to be currently negotiating with Brown.
“We don’t get into that,’’ Schneider said. “There’s nothing new to report on there. We have 21 guys that are in the last year of their contracts. All we want to do is win here. We want to win on a consistent basis.’’
Schneider then noted that the organization’s goal is to have a consistent championship-caliber team very year and “that’s how we conduct our business on a daily basis.’’
Carroll said last week Brown will not play in the preseason. Adams is not expected to take part in anything on the field until a contract is completed.
Carroll says Smith departure unfortunate
In what were his first comments on the team’s decision this week to waive defensive end Aldon Smith, Carroll confirmed that off-field issues were the cause of Smith’s departure. Smith has had well-chronicled issues with addiction.
“He just couldn’t hang with us’’ Carroll said. “He tried. He just couldn’t make it.’’
Carroll said it was disappointing, but mostly: “I’m disappointed for him because we gave him a real chance. We looked after him in every way we know how to do it. I wish we had done better. I don’t know what we could have done better. But we were very open to helping him become part of the program and it’s just fortunate he wasn’t able to do that.’’
- DeeJay Dallas got the first two kickoff returns, a spot that remains wide open. Reed, listed as the starting kickoff returner, did not play.
- Seattle’s three game captains were Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Nick Bellore. The Seahawks have not announced their official captains for this season yet. Wilson and Wagner were offensive and defensive captain last year. Neiko Thorpe, no longer with the team, was the special teams captain last season.
- Marie Osmond sang the national anthem. Only about three or four Seahawks appeared to be sitting.
- Aside from Smith, Carroll said the only other injury was a left knee issue that caused guard Phil Haynes to leave the game. “But it’s nothing serious,’’ Carroll said, saying the team was “very fortunate in that regard’’ that there were no other injuries.