Paul Richardson sees his initial, methodical easing into the Seahawks’ offense the same way he views his current, new role with the Super Bowl champions.
“I think I’ve grown a lot, just as far as how this team operates and functions in a real game,” the freakishly fast, rookie second- round draft choice from Colorado said this week, the Seahawks’ first full one since they traded fellow wide receiver Percy Harvin to the New York Jets.
“The progression for me working in to the point I am now was perfect,” Richardson said.
Kevin Norwood sees his sudden ascension into the Seahawks’ plans following the Harvin trade as divine.
Really, truly divine.
“Thank you, Lord,” the fourth-round draft choice this spring from Alabama said when asked for his reaction to last Friday’s deal of Harvin, Seattle’s $11 million wide receiver, for a draft choice.
“Not ‘Thank you, Lord, he’s gone.’ It was just more ‘Thank you, Lord, for the opportunity.’ Once I found out I was like, ‘Wow, they must have a lot of confidence in the receiving corps that they have — and in me.
“So it was, Thank you, Jesus!”
It’s indeed Hallelujah! for the many around the Seahawks who have been waiting to see what the heralded rookies can do.
The newbies coach Pete Carroll says have practiced like starters are actually getting to play like them now. Richardson has moved up to No. 3 behind Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, with Norwood right behind him in fourth in the hierarchy of targets outside for Russell Wilson. Wilson threw for a season-high 313 yards with this new, post-Harvin setup last weekend in the loss at St. Louis.
Richardson, whom the Seahawks value for his eye-blurring speed, had four catches while playing 42 of Seattle’s 71 offensive snaps against the Rams. It was by far his most action of the season. Norwood, renowned for his hands and route running, got his first NFL reception while playing eight snaps.
Richardson in particular is primed for his biggest day yet as a pro on Sunday when the Seahawks (3-3) try end their two-game losing streak at Carolina (3-3-1). The 22-year old who had just one catch and one target in the first five games and was not even active for the fifth one — watching the loss to Dallas in team sweats along with Norwood on the sideline two games ago — will be the third wide receiver in Seattle’s three-receiver formations.
Richardson’s role grew even more Friday when the Seahawks declared kickoff and punt returner Bryan Walters out for Sunday because of a concussion. The wide receiver sustained that when his head banged off the turf while tumbling for a try for a reception either in practice Wednesday or last weekend during the loss at St. Louis.
“Doug Baldwin will be involved in returns. Paul Richardson will be involved in returns,” Carroll said before the team boarded its buses for a ride to the airport that was far more routine that last Friday’s. “All our backups that have been involved in that are ready to go.”
Carroll said Baldwin has been lobbying to do both kickoff and punt returning this week with Walters sidelined. But the coach added Baldwin will do only one.
Richardson has been catching punts out of ball-fed machine in practices for months. He apparently will be the third punt returner Seattle has used in seven games. Earl Thomas did it against Green Bay in last month’s opener — until Carroll thought the All-Pro safety was committing too much of his renowned focus away from defense to excel on punt returns. Walters has 12 returns for a 9.1-yard average with eight fair catches in the last five games.
Baldwin has returned five kickoffs in his four-year career, including two this season. Harvin was the Seahawks’ primary kickoff returner until he got traded last week.
Richardson and Norwood were still shaking their heads Wednesday and Thursday over the stunning deal that sent Harvin to his car in the players’ parking lot behind the Virginia Mason Athletic Center while the two rookies and every other Seahawk walked in the opposite direction to board the buses to the airport and the flight to St. Louis.
“Just like now, I am still shocked. Definitely didn’t see that coming,” Richardson said. “But that’s one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been here, to always be prepared.”
Norwood thought the word of the Harvin trade — which was apparently for insubordination at Harvin refusing to re-enter at least the Dallas game in the fourth quarter more than fights with fellow wide receivers Golden Tate during February’s Super Bowl week and Baldwin in August — was a prank.
“I was very shocked,” Norwood said. “I didn’t even believe the players on the bus when they said Percy was leaving. I was like, ‘No, that’s impossible. Why would they trade their best player, or one of their best players, on offense?”
Then he realized Carroll and general manager John Schneider must trust him and Richardson more than a little bit.
“You know what, that was definitely one of the things I thought of,” Norwood said. “I thought: ‘Wow, that’s Percy Harvin!’ That made me feel like they have trust in me.
“That’s another reason I got so excited. They have trust in Paul and me to make plays.”
That trust has been a long time coming, especially with Norwood. He was out from early August deep into September after agreeing to get a long-standing bone spur in his foot surgically repaired.
As Norwood recovered off the field, Walters, Ricardo Lockette and eventually Richardson passed him on the depth chart. But the fact the Seahawks kept him on the active roster to begin the season despite Norwood having only practiced the first two days of training camp proved Carroll and Schneider valued his big-play ability proved in big-time games at Alabama and his eventual place in this offense.
“The surgery recovery went faster than I thought it would be,” he said. “The only thing that bothered me was trying to work my way back into the rotation.”
He admits he felt passed by in September as the real games began. He was standing and watching for the first time since he redshirted his first year at Alabama in 2009.
“Definitely,” he said, “because I always have this feeling of wanting to — whether it’s people, my team, whatever. As I sat out there, I was like, ‘Man, I can do this. I can do that. I may do this a little differently, do that …’ Just critiquing myself in things that I can get better on, watching the vets in front of me on how I can get better.”
His favorite part of being a Seahawk? Getting to practice in shoulder pads, helmets and sweatpants during the regular season instead of full leg pads.
“I’ve been thinking I can definitely get used to this,” Norwood said, smiling.
He can also, absolutely, get used to this comfy new role in the Seahawks’ offense.
DE Michael Bennett practiced Friday, and Carroll said he will start against the Panthers. Bennett sat out Thursday with a toe injury. … In addition to Walters, six other Seahawks are out for Sunday’s game: LB Bobby Wagner (turf toe that’s going to keep K.J. Wright starting in the middle for a while), C Max Unger (his third consecutive game missed for a sprained foot means Stephen Schilling starts again), CB Byron Maxwell (whose calf strain will give Tharold Simon his second start in his second NFL game), TE Zach Miller (still a ways from returning from ankle surgery; Luke Willson will start again), FB Derrick Coleman (broken foot) and DT Jordan Hill (sprained ankle). … Carroll said usual tailback Robert Turbin will play fullback for the second straight week. … Because of injuries, the Panthers will be starting four undrafted free agents on their offensive line. … Carroll began his post-practice comments Friday with condolences for the city of Marysville after Friday’s shootings at Marysville-Pilchuck High School that left two students dead and four wounded. “Our hearts are out to everybody involved,” Carroll said.