Seahawks' Butler relying on more than speed this season
ERIC D. WILLIAMS; Staff writer
RENTON – At one point this offseason, the light switch clicked on for Deon Butler and he realized something – he can be an impact player in the NFL.
So far, during the first two weeks of the Seattle Seahawks’ training camp, the fleet-footed, second-year receiver out of Penn State has been on a mission to prove that to the coaching staff.
Just ask coach Pete Carroll.
“He’s had a really good camp,” Carroll said on Sunday. “He’s probably been the most improved receiver, most improved guy, maybe, at his position other than maybe Red Bryant.
“He’s just made a lot of progress. He made another big play today. He’s got terrific speed. But still to make tough catches like that with guys going up, that’s the kind of stuff you like to see out of our guys.”
Name a type of catch and Butler has likely made it so far in camp. Leaping grab over a defender in the end zone? Check. Crossing route and taking a big hit? Yep. Deep comeback, straddling the sideline with two feet in-bounds? No problem.
The Seahawks gave up their fifth- and seventh-round picks as well as a third-round pick in 2010 in a trade with Philadelphia to move up in the third round to draft Butler in 2009. A four-year starter in college, Butler ran an eye-popping, 4.28 40-yard dash during his pro day, and was brought in to stretch the field for Seattle in the passing game.
He finished as his school’s all-time leader in receptions with 179, eclipsing former Seahawk Bobby Engram’s record.
Butler had flashes of brilliance during the 2009 season, including a 32-yard reception on the final drive against San Francisco, setting up a game-winning, 30-yard Olindo Mare field goal in a 20-17 win over the 49ers.
But Butler finished with only 15 receptions during his rookie season, and had trouble consistently creating separation against some of the better defensive backs.
His slight size was an issue, along with his inexperience running routes. Listed at 5-foot-10, 182 pounds, but more likely 5 to 10 pounds lighter, Butler says it’s a battle to keep weight on during camp.
“Me and Kelly Jennings talk every day in the training room,” Butler said. “We’re like ‘Dude, we just can’t do it. We’re maxed out.’ Probably during the season both of us play like at 178-ish.”
So far, Butler is looking like a more polished route-runner, and he’s done a better job of using leverage and body lean to create separation in one-on-one situations.
“Definitely going through a full season and seeing it for myself and realizing what it is has helped me,” Butler said. “(That) and just continuing every day with guys like Deion (Branch) and T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) and other guys that have been through it before, and following their leadership and guidance on how to set up guys on routes and different ways of doing it.
“So just kind of learning from them every day and going on my experience from last year, it’s all coming together now.”
Probably the most important player impressed with Butler so far is the person delivering the ball, starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
“He’s obviously very fast, and they’ve given him the opportunity to come inside and play inside,” Hasselbeck said. “Growing up he was probably always the fastest guy on his team ... so he probably played more outside. So, he’s getting an opportunity to show that he’s not one-dimensional, that he can do a couple things.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks/
Players chippy after day off
After taking a day off on Monday, Seattle Seahawks players returned to the practice fields at the VMAC a little feisty on Tuesday.
Several minor scuffles broke out during the two-hour practice, including one involving quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
No one was seriously injured in any of the incidents, but coach Pete Carroll called all of the players in to address the issue at the end of practice, calling it a teachable moment.
“It’s not OK, but it’s understood that it’s going to happen sometimes,” Carroll said. “And we just have to learn how to manage it, and make sure we make good decisions when you do get riled up, and other guys make good decision to keep guys from going too far and put themselves in situations where guys get penalties or even get into trouble.”
Hasselbeck got involved after defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, who has been at the center of several scrapes so far in camp, tried to wrench offensive guard Mike Gibson’s helmet off after the whistle.
Gibson did not return to practice, and Carroll said he suffered a blow to the head.
Hasselbeck was attempting to pull Gibson back to the huddle and appeared to get his hand scraped in the process.
“It was a bad place to be,” Hasselbeck said afterward. “Rule No. 1, we say it all the time, protect the team. We had some Rule 1 violators today, and that’s not good.”
Along with linebacker Aaron Curry (concussion), tight end John Carlson (oblique) and center Chris Spencer (knee) returned to practice on Tuesday.
Eric D. Williams, staff writer