Richard Sherman was splayed out on the turf, flat on his back, twitching like a dying bug.
No, the three-time All-Pro didn’t get hit. Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin were just trying to make it look like he did.
The three Seahawks spent a couple moments of Tuesday’s final training camp practice with fans in attendance clowning through a WWE wrestling skit. Reserves scrimmaged on the field a few yards behind them. More hip-hop blared from the DJ the team employs to mix tracks from the lakeside corner of the field.
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Sherman played the part of the dude getting “slammed.” Kearse pantomimed runs into the ropes and bouncing back to Sherman for an “Atomic Drop.” Baldwin pretended to drop elbows and jump from a make-believe top rope.
It looked like Vince McMahon was suddenly the Seahawks’ coach.
The couple thousand sunbaked fans loved it. They roared through the stars’ act.
Just another routine afternoon at a Seahawks practice.
There are 3 1/2 weeks until their season opener, and the Seahawks are relishing a vibe even its core creator, the hyperkinetic Pete Carroll, acknowledges is different this preseason. No holdouts. More dedicated. More together. More energetic. More fun.
“This is as good as it gets,” Sherman said of his sixth Seattle preseason. “Just enjoying being out here. It’s a blessing to be out here in a team like ours, an environment, an organization that appreciates its players, that gives them the freedom that lets them dance and do WWE moves at practice — but we still go out there and do our jobs. And that’s what football is about.
“You go to some places and it’s militant. It’s straight by the book. There’s no music. There’s no anything. Just do your job for three hours and get off the field.
“Here, you’re playing with your family — my son gets to see me play. There’s nothing better.”
Asked if he believes that environment is why Seattle has played in two of the past three Super Bowls and is a favorite to make it three out of four this season, Sherman nodded.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “I think there’s nothing more powerful than playing with passion and joy.”
Even in exhibition games. Immediately after Trevone Boykin’s last-play touchdown heave to Tanner McEvoy and Troymaine Pope’s two-point conversion run for the 17-16 win at Kansas City on Saturday, Sherman and Seattle’s veterans wildly sprinted onto the Arrowhead Stadium field. They jumped around with their helmets off.
Sherman saw it as another example of this team being more together than last season’s.
“Just guys in the meetings, just day-to-day,” he said. “Just the appreciation of a guy making a catch and everybody celebrating with him. Appreciation of a guy making a great stop, a great tackle, and everybody enjoys it.
“I mean we just won a preseason game and if you didn’t know any better you would have thought that was the NFC Championship or something, you know?”
Part of the reason this preseason is “as good as it gets” for Seahawks veterans: They are not coming off the crushing emotions of a first Super Bowl win, then a last-second Super Bowl loss this summer, as they were the previous two preseasons. Carroll has acknowledged more than once the hangover effect of prepping for and playing a Super Bowl in February lasts into the next season, as it did last year for this team.
Another reason is simple: These guys are allowed to have fun.
Sherman has only played for the Seahawks since he entered the league in 2011. He lacks first-hand reference to how life is in other camps.
Brandon Williams doesn’t. The ex-Oregon Ducks tight end just arrived this offseason after one season with the Miami Dolphins and three with the Carolina Panthers.
“Yeah, it’s a little different,” deadpanned Williams, a candidate to make the team because of his blocking and standout play on special teams. “It’s definitely more relaxed. Not that it’s easy, but in the way Coach Carroll lets you be yourself. I love it.
“In a lot of organizations, it’s all about business, all the time. No listening to music while you practice. No laughing. Here, we’re playing basketball before meetings. There’s always something fun happening — while you know you still have to get your work done right.”
No one gets his work done more right than Earl Thomas. Like Sherman, Seattle’s free safety is a three-time All-Pro. Unlike Sherman, you won’t find Thomas sprawled out in a WWE skit during practice.
His ferocity is legendary in Seattle’s locker room. In November 2014, the Seahawks were an unsteady 6-4. During a routine pregame walkthrough, Thomas berated defensive line teammates for passing around sunflower seeds. Thomas saw a lack of focus. The huge linemen saw Thomas as out of line. That sparked an argument on the field — then a détente and new unity.
A few days later the Seahawks gave first-place Arizona its second loss in 11 games. It was the first of eight consecutive victories. Seattle soared past the Cardinals to another NFC West title and into its second consecutive Super Bowl.
“It would be impressive to see Earl Thomas practice at the intensity he does every day if I did not know Earl Thomas was Earl Thomas,” Sherman said.
He has started next to Thomas in Seattle secondary for 108 consecutive games.
“Earl Thomas is kind of like either the Dos Equis guy or Chuck Norris. He’s a guy who is exactly who people think he is, and better than the people who think he’s the best. He’s better than the people who have the highest praise for him — he’s better than that.”
Tuesday was a light practice — no pads, not even helmets — two days before the second preseason game at home against Minnesota. During the team scrimmage, Thomas moved strong safety Kelcie McCray (playing with the starters while Kam Chancellor is out with a groin injury) over just before the snap to the exact place the ensuing play went.
“People don’t get to see him work on a daily basis. They don’t get to see how hard he goes, how hard he practices even when the practice doesn’t matter,” Sherman said. “In walkthroughs he doesn’t let people catch the ball, he doesn’t let people execute their plays. When we’re supposed to let the offense catch it … he just doesn’t live his life that way.
“The only person who can beat Earl Thomas is Earl B. Thomas III. Or maybe the second; his dad might get him.”
Sherman says Thomas even watches practices with supreme intensity.
“Nobody watches practice harder,” Sherman said.
“Practice watches Earl Thomas, Earl Thomas doesn’t watch practice.”
Yet Sherman also claims Thomas has a lighter side, one that would have fit in the WWE skit.
“He has a ton of lighter moments, but I’m not going to allow you to see them because he doesn’t allow you to see them,” Sherman said. “So I have nothing to say about those.”
Richard Sherman with nothing to say about something?
That’s way more unusual for these Seahawks than a pro-wrestling skit among three Pro Bowl stars in the middle of practice.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
Seahawks camp at a glance
WHAT WAS IT: A lighter practice, with no pads or helmets, in warm sun was the final workout of the official training camp. That means players are now free to sleep in their homes or local rentals each night instead of rooming with teammates in the team hotel. It also means fans will no longer be able to watch practices until next summer. But the practicing stays the same for the players, including Wednesday’s walkthrough before Thursday’s second preseason game against Minnesota at CenturyLink Field.
WHO SHINED: No. 1 strongside linebacker candidate Mike Morgan returned from his quick trip to see a specialist in Philadelphia, at the same clinic Marshawn Lynch got treatment for his sports hernia last season. Morgan said it was just to check that everything was OK with a groin issue he’s been having, but that he is fine and will play Thursday. … Eric Pinkins got early practice time at outside linebacker for Morgan Tuesday, then Cassius Marsh did — when Marsh wasn’t playing rush end. … The Seahawks are using this speed-rush set of down linemen when they go to nickel defense: Marsh and Cliff Avril on the ends, Michael Bennett and Frank Clark inside at “tackles.” That could be a headache this season for opposing offensive coordinators — and a potential backache-in-waiting for quarterbacks. … J’Marcus Webb was back practicing after missing six days with a sprained knee. Wearing a brace and heavy tape, he was the second-team right tackle. Garry Gilliam was again the starting right tackle and Bradley Sowell was the left tackle. Expect them to be the starters there again Thursday against the Vikings. … Jordan Hill was back alternating between first- and second-team defensive tackle. And he needed to be. He missed almost two weeks with a groin injury, and rookie second-round pick Jarran Reed moved past him to the starting role. … Tony McDaniel was on the field one day after signing a free-agent contract. He said he was in Leavenworth hiking and kayaking. At 6 feet 7 and 305 pounds, can you imagine how big that kayak was? When his agent saw on McDaniel’s Snapchat account he was in Washington state, he called the Seahawks and asked for a tryout for his client, enticing the team with the fact it didn’t have to pay McDaniel’s airfare to visit because he was already out here. Days later, he was Seattle’s second-team defensive tackle. “It’s amazing how social media is, how you can use social media to help you out,” McDaniel, 31, said. … Wide receiver Antwan Goodley made two nice catches to end practice, the final one for a touchdown. The last time he stood out and ended a practice with a fine catch, he then got hurt and missed a week. … The Seahawks brought back free-agent linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and waived running back Cameron Marshall.
WHO SAT: Strong safety Kam Chancellor rested for the sixth time in seven days because of a groin injury. Expect him back next week, coach Pete Carroll said. … While fellow physically unable to perform list escapee Thomas Rawls got first-team work at running back for the second consecutive day, tight end Jimmy Graham continues his slow progress back from knee surgery. He’s been doing far more watching than on-field drills in the past few practices since he came off the PUP list last week.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “He’s a Badger. Why would you not want to have him here?” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, a former Wisconsin quarterback, on rookie ex-Badger Tanner McEvoy, who caught the touchdown pass on the final play of last weekend’s exhibition win at Kansas City. McEvoy is a longshot to make the team, but his 6-6 size at wide receiver and hitting on special teams are intriguing.