RENTON – As is the case in most NFL training camps, the Seahawks coaches are trying to instill in their players the message of toughness, of spartan discipline, of playing through pain and shared hardship.
We may wonder if the message has the same impact when the coach’s shouts are drowned out by the sound of seaplanes overhead, or jet skis whizzing past, or smooth jazz wafting in from a sailboat, or the soothing Lake Washington waves tumbling into the nearby docks and pilings.
Former coaches Jack Patera and Chuck Knox might be revolted by Camp Waikiki at the Seahawks’ new beachfront headquarters, but the new place offers something special for Seahawks fans, too:
The chance to watch training camp practices.
After having been shut out from such endeavors when camp was in Kirkland, or having to drive across the state when it was in Cheney, fans will be able to watch the Hawks in their natural habitat starting Monday.
Attendance is restricted to some 1,500, not every practice is open to the public, and the tickets – which were available online – are now gone.
But those who were quick mouse-clickers will be able to stand or sit on a berm that runs parallel to the fields and looks toward Lake Washington.
What should they watch? What should be their focus ... the pair of bald eagles that nested this spring above the far end zone?
“I’d tell them ... yeah, it’s fun to watch the 11-on-11 passing game, running game or team, but the individual drills, where you have the one-on-one with receivers or the pass-rush one-on-one ... those are pretty exciting,” said general manager Tim Ruskell. “That’s where the battles are won and lost in terms of playing time in the preseason. It’s really a gut check.
“With the vantage point they’re going to have, with being up on the berm and being close to the field, I would recommend they take a look at (those).”
The benefit of the open practice is not only for fans, Ruskell said. It’s a little bit of a rush for the players, too.
“It gets everybody juiced up,” he said.
“You don’t want to look foolish, right? You don’t want to drop the ball; you don’t want to fall down when you’re trying to make a tackle. I just think it heightens the intensity and makes it fun.”
Part of the reason for relocating from the Northwest University headquarters in Kirkland, and the training camp facilities at Eastern Washington University, was so that fans might be able to attend practices, Ruskell said.
Coach Jim Mora speculated that of the 1,500 fans, probably 3,000 eyes will be following quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
“But watch drills and some of the fundamental things that we do that aren’t team-related, that are individual-related. I think that’ll be fun for people to watch,” Mora said.
As he thought more about it, Mora decided that fans don’t have to feel as if they must show up and learn something about the game ... they can just relax and have fun.
“Shoot, just come and enjoy yourselves ... I mean, what a great setting,” 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.”
He offered that fans might want to “bring ear muffs for your kids,” hinting that the language can get a bit salty in the heat of battle.
“But we’ll try to watch that as best we can,” he added.
Mora loved the open practices when he was an assistant coach with San Francisco, and said there was an obvious response by the players.
New Seahawk Colin Cole, formerly with Green Bay, said Packers training camp practices always drew 15,000-20,000 fans.
“It reminds you who you are doing this for ... for the fans,” Cole said. “It reminds you who is supporting you. The more the fans are involved with what we do here, the more they’ll feel a part of the Seahawk franchise, and then it all starts to feel like we’re working together toward something, toward that 12th Man tradition.”
As a defensive tackle, Cole said the fans always cheer the offense ... the long pass, the big run. But he’s used to that.
What he’s not used to is the incredible view of the lake from the practice field.
Tempted to jump in the lake after a warm practice?
“Not me, I wouldn’t call myself one of the best swimmers in the world, so I wouldn’t risk it,” Cole said.
“But there’s some nice breezes that come in off the lake.”
And it’s a long way from Green Bay.
“Right ... we may have had 20,000 fans watching practice,” he said.
“But we didn’t have anything like this view.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440