RENTON — A usually reserved James Carpenter smiled and talked for at least five minutes – what must’ve seemed like a lifetime for the shy Seattle offensive lineman – answering questions Thursday.
The University of Alabama product did not work with the team during the offseason while he rehabbed from arthroscopic surgery to clean up his surgically repaired left knee.
But Carpenter had his helmet on Thursday, playing left guard with the second-unit offense, making it through Seattle’s 21/2 hour practice without a setback.
Carpenter declared his surgically repaired knee 100 percent healthy.
“It’s been tough,” Carpenter said. “Injuries are part of the game. But my teammates and coaches have been helping me with it, and I feel pretty good about it right now.”
Carpenter’s conditioning is much improved. This is his first time in his three years with the team that he’s been on the field working in team drills on the first day of training camp.
Carpenter missed one day of training camp practice his rookie season while negotiating his contract, and was on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list for most of 2012 training camp while rehabbing from surgery on his left anterior cruciate ligament.
“Last training camp I wasn’t able to run very much,” Carpenter said. “And this one I can block a 300-pound lineman. So it’s a lot better this time.”
Seattle offensive line coach Tom Cable said the difference in Carpenter’s conditioning from last season to the beginning of training camp this year is noticeable.
“It’s night and day,” Cable said. “Remember, we were just clearing him, and then boom, we’re playing him (last year). He was really, I would say, as close as ready to go five or six weeks ago, so he has had this whole period to condition. And he’s in much better shape.
“Now, that’s just to come to camp. You’ve got to get into football shape, and he’s no different than anybody else now. It was pretty good the first day.”
Carpenter, a first round selection by Seattle in the 2011 draft, is expected to compete with eight-year veteran Paul McQuistan for the starting left guard job.
However, Cable said it’s too soon to discuss the possibility of McQuistan moving over to compete for the starting right guard job with J.R. Sweezy and John Moffitt, should Carpenter continue on a path that leads him to seizing control of the left guard spot.
“I really haven’t thought that through yet,” Cable said. “There will always be versatility in my group, because they all have to play a couple spots. But right now it’s just getting him (Carpenter) back, and getting to him to where he can compete.
“So right now it’s just getting him back in the offense, because he’s really been out of it – other than a few weeks during last season – for a year and a half. So getting him back involved and getting his mind trained right, and then we’ll see where we can go with the football player.”
THOMAS GETS A HAIRCUT
The dreadlocks flowing out of the back of the helmet of Seahawks safety Earl Thomas are no more. He showed up for camp with a close-cropped haircut.
“My hair doesn’t define me,” Thomas said.
And he proved it on the field.
Thomas was his usual speedy, play-making self, which included an interception of a Russell Wilson pass over the middle during team drills, along with a few pass deflections during the morning session.
“Earl looked fast today,” coach Pete Carroll said. “I don’t know if it was that haircut, but he was all over the field today.”
BACKUP QB UP FOR GRABS
Looking like he never left, reserve quarterback Tarvaris Jackson stepped in and handled the two-minute offense on his first day back with the Seahawks.
“That’s a tremendous bonus,” Carroll said. “He can come out here and start competing from Day 1, as opposed to being behind and not understanding the system and all that.”
But Jackson won’t be handed the backup job. Brady Quinn mostly worked with the second unit Thursday, and remains in the mix to compete for the No. 2 job behind Wilson.
Carroll was coy when asked how he will handle repetitions for the backup job.
“Really well,” Carroll said, chuckling.
MOUNTAIN MAN MCGRATH
If you haven’t noticed, Seahawks backup tight end Sean McGrath’s beard has reached epic lengths, with the 25-year-old barely able to buckle his chin strap over his mass of facial hair.
“I’m just letting it ride,” said McGrath, who’s been growing the beard since St. Patrick’s Day. “Maybe it’s just falling off of my head and onto my face. So there’s a little compensation going on there.
“I look at it as, girls wear short shorts because they want to flaunt their legs, so why not flaunt something as beautiful as my facial hair?”
Does McGrath plan to keep the mountain man beard for the regular season?
“I don’t know,” he said. “Well see how it goes.”Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com