Combine kicks off important offseason for Seahawks
ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer
Indianapolis – Back at the NFL scouting combine for the first time in over a decade, Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he’s enjoying the intense evaluation process leading up to April’s draft.
“I love every aspect of it because this is where we figure it out,” Carroll said Saturday while talking to a group of reporters who regularly cover the team. “This is where we add to the whole equation of figuring out who our team is. Every aspect of this, every step of this has something to do with how we put our team together. I think this is great. I like what we’re doing.”
Carroll and general manager John Schneider understand they have their work cut out for them with the free agency period set to begin in five days and the draft only two months out.
A major decision still looming is what to do with aging offensive tackle Walter Jones. Jones recently hinted at retiring. Carroll said Jones is in Seattle, and he plans to meet with him next week to talk about his future. Carroll said he met with Jones’ agent in Indianapolis this week.
Carroll said he would welcome Jones back if he chooses to try to get back on the field next season. Jones has missed Seattle’s past 20 games after microfracture knee surgery in December 2008.
“If he’s of the right mind and he’s ready to go for it, then yeah we respect the heck out of that decision,” Carroll said. “But it kind of goes back to him now and how he’s feeling, and what the doctors are telling him and all of that kind of stuff. He’s been working at it a long time. He’s kind of the expert on this one, and we’re waiting to see how he feels.
“But if he was going to come back and he was mindfully ready to do it, of course we’d be excited about that.”
The Seahawks chose to place the team’s franchise tag on Olindo Mare, tagging a one-year, $2.8 million tender on the 36-year-old kicker, a decision Schneider called a no-brainer after witnessing the lucrative deal kicker Sebastian Janikowski received from the Oakland Raiders.
Now Seattle will turn its attention to free agency and the possibility of soon-to-be unrestricted free agent wide receiver Nate Burleson returning to the fold.
Burleson said he would like to remain with Seattle, and Schneider said the team is keeping the door open.
“We like Nate and we’re going to stay in touch with him the whole way,” Schneider said. “And that was expressed to him.”
Added Carroll: “We’d love to have him back.”
Schneider said the team has no plans to release receiver Deion Branch, who will make $5.47 million in 2010 if he stays with the Seahawks under his current contract.
However, Seattle has not ruled out possibly trading Branch.
With two first-round picks in this year’s draft – No. 6 and No. 14 overall – the Seahawks have an opportunity to add two important pieces to help them improve the overall talent on their roster.
A major consideration will be addressing the future at quarterback, where 34-year-old incumbent Matt Hasselbeck is entering the final year of his contract.
Carroll, Schneider and the rest of the franchise’s scouting staff will take a long look at top quarterbacks – Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen – in case one of those players is available when the Seahawks select in the first round.
“We’re lucky to have Matt coming back with us and playing for us,” Carroll said. “We hope to help him get back to the best playing level that he’s been at in the past. And the position group in general, we have to look at it.
“But we have to also project what’s going to happen next. And that’s what this draft is going to deal with, and what the next draft is going to deal with, and every year we’ll be talking quarterbacks forever. You can’t afford not to. And so that conversation is a big one for us, as many of the positions are.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437
NOTES FROM THE NFL SCOUTING COMBINE
QBS IN THE CROSSHAIRS
All of the focus was on the quarterbacks, who talked to reporters in the media center on Saturday, with the top two – Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford and Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen – garnering most of the attention.
Bradford appeared poised and confident on the podium answering questions. He said his injured shoulder checked out fine during medical evaluations, and he plans to be at full strength to throw March 25, his pro day at Oklahoma.
“I feel like with another month’s work, by the time my pro day gets here, I’ll be able to make all the throws I was able to make before, with probably some more arm strength I had before I got hurt,” he said.
The soft-spoken Bradford thinks leadership is one his strengths as a quarterback.
“If you ask any of my teammates here that played with me at Oklahoma, they’ll tell you that I was one of the leaders on our team at Oklahoma,” he said. “I can be vocal. I think a lot of people questioned that. They don’t see our practices. They don’t see what I do in the locker room. I am vocal. I’ll get after guys when I need to.
“I also like to lead by example. That’s something I believe in. If you don’t practice what you preach, then no one’s going to follow you. I believe I have all the different leadership styles that you need to be a good leader.”
Leadership is something that also has been a question mark for Clausen, who said he’s out to disprove the perception that he lacks leadership skills.
“A lot of people don’t really know me as a person,” the Notre Dame product said. “That’s why I was so excited to come here, talk to all the coaches and the GMs (general managers) and owners – so they get a feel for me as a person.”
With the Seahawks possibly looking at selecting a quarterback early in the draft, Clausen talked about his relationship with new Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, who recruited him while at USC but lost out to Notre Dame.
“I definitely know Coach Carroll very, very well,” Clausen said Saturday. “I love Coach Carroll and I loved everything about SC. But Notre Dame was the best fit for me.”
Carroll also has his recollections of recruiting Clausen.
“I watched all of his film every year and know the family and all of that and recruited him all the way through the process,” Carroll said. “And it came down to – he won’t say it – but Mark Sanchez or Notre Dame. And so he made a great choice for himself and did the best he could with it.”
Like Bradford, Clausen will not work out at the combine, and is scheduled to throw at his April 9 pro day at Notre Dame.
CAMPBELL MAKES HIS MARK
A chiseled 6-foot-6 and 314 pounds, Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell wowed NFL scouts with his athletic performance. Campbell bench pressed 225 pounds 34 times, ran a 40-yard dash in 4.85 seconds – the best for offensive linemen – and topped out at 32 inches in his vertical jump. Campbell’s performance likely earned him consideration as a first-round pick.
“I’d definitely be disappointed with myself not getting it. I’m a competitor. I want to be No. 1. So that’s what I’m going to strive for.” – Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh on his desire to be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Eric D. Williams, staff writer