RENTON – If you’re looking for Sidney Rice to provide some bulletin-board material, don’t bother.
The 24-year-old receiver was all gum drops and rainbows in talking about his former team, the Minnesota Vikings, who by coincidence will be the opponent in his first game with the Seattle Seahawks. The Vikings travel to Seattle for Saturday’s second exhibition game for both teams, at CenturyLink Field.
“It’s football,” he said. “No matter who’s on the other side, I’m a Seahawk now. And I’m going to war with those guys and the 12th Man this week. So that’s all that matters.”
Rice said he still talks frequently with former teammates Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, along with Minnesota receivers coach George Stewart.
And so far on the practice field for Seattle he’s been as good as advertised, making several highlight reel catches during training camp, and drawing praise from both players and coaches for his play.
“I think he’s just loaded with those kinds of plays,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s really, really talented. And he loves to compete in practice, which just fits so beautifully with the way we approach it. He’s embracing this opportunity to show who he is, and how he fits in and how we can count on him.”
Seahawks receivers coach Kippy Brown said that Rice has elevated the overall play of the receiver group.
“It’s been great working with him,” Brown said. “This is not Sidney’s first rodeo. He’s been there. This guy has made plays in this league, and been on good football teams. And he knows how to play.”
One of the players who has benefited from Rice’s arrival is on the defensive side of the ball – veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant. The two have regularly squared off in one-on-one and team drills during training camp, and Trufant is beginning to win his share of the battles.
The heightened competition appears to have elevated Trufant’s play, because he held his own against athletic San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson last week.
“I feel like going against Tru is only going to get me better, and visa-versa” Rice said. “Around here we like to compete, day in and day out. And we want to give each other 110 percent when we line up across from each other, and we look forward to it everyday.”
TAKE A LAP
Fans watching practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center (VMAC) may notice something odd when the referees throw a flag and call offside – an offensive linemen taking off toward the goal post, and another player taking his place in the huddle.
The old-school tradition seen regularly at Pop Warner practices is another rule established by offensive line coach Tom Cable, who wants his players to understand the importance of discipline.
And so far it’s worked. Seattle had one false start penalty against San Diego in the team’s first exhibition game.
“It’s just an accountability thing,” said offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus. “It just lets you know that if you jump offside we can’t have that. We can’t be moving the ball backwards.”
And the offensive linemen aren’t the only ones running. Receiver Patrick Williams and tight end Anthony McCoy were among the offensive players told to hit the goal post on Monday.”
“That’s not supposed to happen,” Rice said. “First of all, as a receiver you don’t go on the snap count, you go on the movement of the ball, so you should be looking at the ball. So you best believe those guys get theirs too.”
The defense is quick to point out when offensive players jump offside, giving the offending player a steady dose of verbal taunting as they run past them.
“The offense already gets away with enough stuff,” said defensive end Raheem Brock. “So if they jump offside and they have to run – oh well.”
Polumbus said he’s ready to replace Russell Okung, who is recovering from an ankle injury. It’s old hat for Polumbus, who started five games at left tackle last season while Okung fought back from two high ankle sprains. “Unfortunately for Russell it was a little bit of déj vu,” Polumbus said. “We went down this road a little bit last year, so I got an opportunity to play some last year. So this is my role right now, and when my number is called I’ve got to be ready to go.” Wide receiver Mike Williams (toe) and defensive end Red Bryant (knee) fully participated in practice Sunday. The Sea-hawks signed free agent running back Vai Taua out of Nevada, and re-signed second-year linebacker Michael Johnson. To make room for those players, Seattle released running back Chase Reynolds and released for the second time defensive lineman Ladi Ajiboye.
A FEW MINUTES WITH
JERON JOHNSON, SAFETY
The hard-hitting safety out of Boise State was expected to be a middle-round prospect in this year’s draft, but instead went undrafted and signed with the Seattle Seahawks as a rookie free agent.
Johnson, 21, entered Seattle’s safety competition with something to prove. So far, he has proved he belongs, posting a tackle for a loss and two pass deflections in a 24-17 win over San Diego, including a pass deflection late to seal the victory.
“I’ve always had a lot of motivation when it comes to football, with people saying what I can and can’t do,” he said. “So not being drafted is definitely motivation.”
Johnson was a four-year starter at Boise State, leading the Broncos in tackles his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.
“I’m a physical player,” he said. “I think I play off my instincts for the most part, but I know my assignments.
“I’m a confident player. As a DB you’ve got to have confidence. You’re put on an island a lot. And if something goes wrong, it’s more than likely going to be put on a DB. So you’ve got to have confidence in your secondary.
“I’m making some mistakes here and there, but I’ve got to eliminate my mistakes and make more plays, and continue to get better. I’m striving to be one of he best players I can possibly be. And I’m just working hard right now.”
THE BIG BOYS
Even though Boise State experienced plenty of success in recent years, Johnson thinks the school doesn’t get a lot of respect compared to some of the BCS schools, for instance USC, Alabama and Florida.
So he sees his time in Seattle as an opportunity to show that guys from the smaller schools can play with the big boys.
“Coming out of high school, I really wasn’t being recruited too much, so going to Boise State you were doubted week in and week out,” he said. “So that definitely came over to the NFL for me.”
Johnson is part of a young safety group. With veterans Lawyer Milloy and Jordan Babineaux no longer with the team, Kam Chancellor is now the senior member of the group at 23 years old, while 22-year-old Earl Thomas has the most extensive playing time.
So Johnson understands there is an opportunity to make the roster if he plays well.
“If they do something wrong, or if they do something right I’m looking at it both ways,” he said. “And I’m just trying to learn from both of them.”
Eric D. Williams, staff writer