Charlie Whitehurst understands he has some work to do to step out of the immense shadow cast by former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.
“I’ve got some huge shoes to fill,” Whitehurst said as the Seahawks opened training camp with a pair of walkthroughs Thursday at team headquarters. “The only way I know to approach this is to come out here and work.
“I know his legacy here. Nobody is going to forget that, but you try and make your own.”
With his competition, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, not due to arrive and sign his contract until today, Whitehurst handled all of the first-team reps, and he appeared confident and assertive calling plays and running the huddle.
And that did not go unnoticed by the team’s leading receiver last year, Mike Williams.
“Charlie is the only quarterback with real command of the huddle right now,” Williams said. “For him to take the lead and get guys where they need to be, you can just see that it’s important to him. He’s not going to stand by the side and let Tarvaris come in here and have the job.
“The theme of the program is competing. I’ve got a lot of faith in Charlie, and he’ll do what he can to get that spot. We’ll see what happens.”
Whitehurst shared quarterback reps with undrafted rookie free agents Zac Lee and Josh Portis.
Like Whitehurst and Williams, receiver Ben Obomanu has had to work his way up the depth chart, earning a starting job last year. So he understands the pressure that Whitehurst faces in seizing this opportunity – because it might be the only one he gets.
“You may not know if you get another chance again,” Obomanu said. “So I think it’s important that he’s prepared, make the most out of it and control what you can control, but not to put too much pressure on yourself as if it’s your last opportunity.”
Along with a relatively new face running the first-team huddle, several new faces were among the 75 players on hand for Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s second training camp.
They included seven of the team’s nine draft picks. Only first-round pick James Carpenter and third-rounder John Moffitt remain unsigned.
The Seahawks also brought in 21 undrafted rookie free agents to help fill in the gaps until veteran free agents such as Jackson, Sidney Rice and Robert Gallery show up this weekend and are allowed to participate fully in practice Aug. 4.
But for the rookies, Thursday provided an opportunity to get their feet wet and experience what it’s like playing in the NFL.
“It’s a dream come true,” said fifth-round pick Mark LeGree. “It’s finally hit me now that I’m here in the facility with all these coaches and all of these pros. I feel like a pro now, and I’m not going to let this chance slip by. I’m going to make the most of it.”
For Whitehurst, his focus is getting up to speed on his third different offense in three years.
Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell runs a West Coast offense, similar to what Jeremy Bates ran last year, but some of the terminology and overall philosophy is different.
When Jackson gets here, he will have a head start because he already knows Bevell’s offense from his time in Minnesota.
“It’s definitely new,” Whitehurst said. “We’re just starting in the playbook now, but I like some of the things we do. We’re going to try and run the football here, no doubt about it. We’ll be able to do that. I think we’re going to throw it short, throw it long and do a bunch of stuff. I’m confident I can do anything he asks me to do.”
And while Hasselbeck is not here, Whitehurst can still lean on his experience behind Seattle’s all-time passing leader from last season.
“He’s a true pro,” Whitehurst said. “He was prepared, he competed, he was a good leader and he was obviously a heck of a player for a long time.”