KIRKLAND – When a player invests as much time toward staying in shape as Seattle Seahawks defensive end Patrick Kerney does, he takes it as something of an affront to his professionalism when somebody suggests he became fatigued during the season.
This is true with almost any player in the hyper-competitive NFL, but even more so with the 6-foot-5, 272-pound Kerney, whose frame possesses nary a trace of excess fat and who embraces alternative methods of healing to keep himself in peak condition.
So when Kerney was informed that the Seahawks’ decision-makers said they drafted Lawrence Jackson in the first round because they thought Kerney was worn down at the end of last season, it put him in a difficult position.
On one hand, he doesn’t really want to admit such a shortcoming. On the other, he doesn’t want to say his bosses are wrong. So he equivocates.
“Some of my best games were in December, the playoff game against the (Washington) Redskins, I had a strong performance,” said Kerney. “The coaches work with us as far as practice and giving us reps off.
“But having another talented defensive lineman will never hurt you. Guys get hurt and defensive line is an exhausting position to play and having more guys to come in and make plays is beneficial.”
There is no question that Kerney was worth every cent the Seahawks gave him as a free agent, when he signed a six-year, $39.5 million contract last offseason.
But because Darryl Tapp, the team’s other defensive end, fell so far off after he suffered a broken hand against the St. Louis Rams on Oct. 21, opponents were able to double- and sometimes triple-team Kerney, who went into the last week of the regular season tied for the NFL lead in sacks.
Against the Redskins in the playoffs, Kerney had seven tackles, four quarterback hurries and what he thought should have been a sack of Washington quarterback Todd Collins.
But against the Green Bay Packers, Kerney did not record one defensive statistic. His name is not even on the stat sheet. It is as if he never played in the game at all.
He has since maintained that he thought he played well in that game, taking up several blockers so that teammates could make plays. But it also was that game that at least partially prompted the Seahawks to take Jackson.
“Patrick is our leader in sacks but he did wear down because he plays the game hard all the time,” Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said. “And he did wear down to the point where against Green Bay he was hurt pretty good. And he still played. If we can avoid that by taking some of the snaps away from him, as long as the next guy can come in and play … that’s what we’re looking at right now.”
Kerney still won’t admit that he needs a break. But he is at least partially receptive to the idea of a rotation that includes Jackson and mimics the successful approach employed by the New York Giants last season.
“When I get the adrenaline going, I don’t like watching,” Kerney said. “Taking snaps off early in a game can be helpful, maybe take off a series in the first quarter and one in the second. That can pay off in the second half, and hopefully make you more productive.”
Kerney has sat out most of training camp with a sore left calf, but rejoined his teammates on Thursday for the first time. Holmgren said resting Kerney is not part of a grand plan to keep him fresher at the end of the season, but that the injury was legitimate.
That he is in his 10th season and knows how to prepare himself, of course, allows Kerney to plan his rehabilitation less aggressively than a player fighting for a roster spot.
With that in mind, he wore a walking boot for a few days last week, came out for individual drills for a few days and then came back full strength on Thursday – though the team was practicing in helmets, shells and shorts.
Kerney will not play in Saturday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears but said he will be in full pads Monday and plans on playing in the final two exhibitions before the regular season.
“I set the same goals ever year,” Kerney said. “I want to be consistent down in and down out, game in and game out.”
This year, he may have to amend the “down in, down out” mentality.
Thursday was the final day of regular practice at the team’s facility in Kirkland before everyone moves to the new facility in Renton on Monday. There is one brief walkthrough this morning in preparation for Saturday’s exhibition game, but the team offices are moving on Saturday.
“Give me a desk and a TV and decent chair and nice fields, and that’s really what we get used to,” coach Mike Holmgren said. “So in that respect this place is very comfortable. The one thing I will not miss is the bubble, or the moldy smell or anything that went with that, like the darkness.”
Besides Patrick Kerney, Leonard Weaver, Sean Locklear and Matt Hasselbeck also returned to practice. Hasselbeck – whose father, Don, attended the practice – had only limited participation and is not likely to play Saturday.
“I have a feeling based on reps,” said Hasselbeck, “but nobody has said anything to me.”
A few dropsies
Wide receiver Jordan Kent had a tough day, dropping two passes in the morning practice. One pass was from Charlie Frye – who is likely to start against the Bears – and the other was from Seneca Wallace. Trent Shelton dropped a pass in the afternoon practice.
Nothing from inside
Holmgren told a humorous story about one of his four daughters getting kicked out of her fantasy football league because the other members thought she was getting insider information.
Frank Hughes, The News Tribune