RENTON — Pete Carroll knew Golden Tate had it once he showed up at his team’s training camp three years ago – instant playmaking ability.
“He has extraordinary athletic sense,” Carroll said. “He really does. He has marvelous sense and it’s why he’s an all-around athlete. He can play golf and baseball—he played baseball in college, you know. He’s just a very gifted natural athlete.”
The talent was there, but the Seahawks finally figured out how to integrate Tate into the offense in the 2012 season, when he finished with career highs in receptions (45), receiving yards (688) and touchdowns (7).
Tate finished with six receptions of 38 yards or more in 2012.
Now, Tate is looking to build on that, trying to develop into a complete receiver, while adding punt return duties to his résumé.
“My confidence is up,” Tate said. “I feel like the trust from (quarterback) Russell (Wilson) and this organization is up a lot more. I think my route running has gotten a lot better. And I feel like overall, just the impact on this team that I make is more than it was last year, and hopefully each year, and each game, it continues to build.”
What makes Tate special is his elusiveness. Tate has an innate ability to make people miss in the open field – something he says comes naturally to him.
“I guess I’m blessed in that area with what God gave me,” Tate said. “I’ve always been able to read angles on players. I feel like I’m a really, really quick guy. So when someone is in the middle of their stride, I can cut back because my steps are shorter.”
Fellow receiver Sidney Rice says Tate also puts in work to create those plays.
“He never wants to go down,” Rice said. “Sometimes I beg him to get down, especially on punts, he’s always trying to spin out of it. But that’s something he works on every day if you watch him in practice. He’ll catch a ball, chop his feet and spin around – do all this crazy stuff. So it’s like second nature to him now.”
Carroll said he is looking forward to seeing Tate, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 42nd round of the 2007 baseball draft and was a college baseball player at Notre Dame, get some touches in the punt game. Tate finished with four punt returns for 48 yards, including a long of 22, against Carolina last week.
“He has great sense for bouncing off guys and making guys miss and all that,” Carroll said. “His (space) awareness is really unique and I think you can see that. It’s a great position for him to be playing back there. He’s going to be really good there.”
Going up against one of the best defenses in the NFL with San Francisco coming to town, Tate could be a frequent target for Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson. The 49ers have one of the best defensive fronts in the league, led by defensive tackle Justin Smith.
But the back end of San Francisco’s defense was susceptible to the big play last week against the Packers. The 49ers allowed Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers to throw for 333 yards and three touchdowns, including five passing plays of 20-plus yards.
“I think it’s going to come down to which (team) makes the least amount of mistakes, and who executes the best,” Tate said.
Seahawks defensive tackle Tony McDaniel can’t seem to shake a nagging groin injury that’s bothered him since training camp.
He was the only new player on the injury report for the Seahawks on Thursday.
Also, cornerback Brandon Browner did not make it back on the field, as Carroll anticipated earlier this week. It appears a hamstring injury could keep Seattle’s starting cornerback out again. The Seahawks could use the physical Browner on the field to slow Anquan Boldin. Walter Thurmond would start if Browner can’t play.
Other players who did not practice included defensive tackle Jordan Hill (biceps) and safety Jeron Johnson (hamstring). Brandon Mebane returned to practice as a limited participant.
Full participants for the Seahawks included tight end Luke Willson (oblique), defensive end Chris Clemons (knee), defensive end Cliff Avril (hamstring), offensive lineman Michael Bowie (shoulder) and receiver Sidney Rice (knee).