Strange to see Doug Baldwin, once the hottest firebrand on a roster of ruthless competitors, stand at an interview podium and speak with the lyricism of a poet.
The Seahawks’ record-setting receiver, who pulled in 14 touchdown passes in 2015, was previously known as “Angry Doug Baldwin” for the unrelenting combativeness that drove him.
Now he’s the team’s receiver/laureate.
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After the Seahawks’ final organized team activity practice on Thursday, Baldwin tactfully deflected questions about a possible contract extension going into the final year of his current 3-year deal. And when offered the opportunity to gloat at his doubters over his breakout effort last season, he chose merely to look forward.
Don’t let the mild demeanor fool anybody about that still-hot nugget of motivation he carries around.
“It’s just a process that a young man has to go through,” he said. “I’m growing up; I’m 27 years old now, about to be 28 (in September).”
General manager John Schneider called Baldwin one of the Seahawks’ “heartbeat” guys. No wonder. He practices with a ferocity notable even on the Seahawks.
And in a five-game stretch late last season, he caught 11 touchdown passes. His total of 14 TD catches was only one shy of the number he accumulated in the first four seasons of his career.
Asked if this maturity in any way quells his competitiveness, Baldwin looked inside.
“(When) I try to figure out what truly motivates me, it’s my love for the game, he said. “I’ve been playing this game since I was 6 years old. Even at times when it gets grueling and you get out on this field and you smell the grass and feel the air, there’s nothing like it.
“I’m just thankful and blessed for the opportunities I get to come out here every day, so I’m not going to take that for granted. That edge will never go away until they force me to hang up my cleats.”
Fellow veteran receiver Jermaine Kearse, Baldwin said, is the friend who helps keep him balanced. And he also is guided by a sense of responsibility he has as a team leader.
“Before I became a leader, I thought success was all about building myself up,” Baldwin said. “But then I realized success was all about building others up. That’s where I am now, focused on helping the other guys as much as I can, giving them the tools they need to be successful just like Sidney Rice did for me when I first came in.”
The key for the 2016 Seahawks, Baldwin said, is to recapture their work ethic, which continues to be a daily process.
Pressed again about his contract, Baldwin again politely declined to engage.
“There’s nothing to figure out,” he said. “I’m playing football each day as it comes by. If I focus on the task at hand, all the other stuff will take care of itself.”
CLARK SLIMMED DOWN
One defender who is showing even better speed and comfort with his assignments is second-year defensive end Frank Clark. Clark said he lost 15-20 pounds and is now down to 260.
“I felt like I needed to drop a little weight,” he said. “I wanted to get back to those quicker days — more speed, get off the edge faster.”
Some had speculated that Clark might be shifted into the strongside linebacker role occupied by departed Bruce Irvin, but Clark said he’s still going to be a defensive end/pass-rush specialist.
VETS MISS LAST OTA
Given this was the final day of voluntary OTA workouts, a number of veteran Seahawks were absent, including Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner and Cliff Avril.
The Hawks return Tuesday for the three-day mandatory minicamp that will be their final workouts until training camp opens somewhere near the start of August. The date has not been released.