Doug Baldwin fighting Richard Sherman. The main event in this chippy month of Seahawks practices.
Monday’s fight, the latest of multiple ones in practice among teammates, was part message-sending, part frustration-venting.
Nothing sends the intended lesson to younger Seahawks about what veterans feel is the required competitiveness better than the new guys seeing a $46 million wide receiver trading blows and facemask grabs with a three-time All-Pro cornerback.
Though overshadowed by Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett’s series of fights with offensive linemen this month, the Baldwin-Sherman scrap during a seven-on-seven passing drill was the mash-up with the highest-profile combatants of this Seahawks year. Of any recent year.
It came immediately after Baldwin had gone past Sherman and All-Pro safety Earl Thomas for a long touchdown catch on a go route down the numbers. Russell Wilson’s pass met last season’s NFL co-leader in TD receptions in stride.
And then it was on. As in, Stanford on Stanford.
Sherman stomped across the line of scrimmage into the mass of offensive players behind that unit’s huddle. He went after Baldwin. Sherman’s arms flailed at the receiver’s helmeted head, his facemask and his shoulder-padded chest. They continued to yell at each other as coaches separated them.
“No, it wasn’t orchestrated,” Baldwin said following Tuesday’s practice, the last one in full pads before Thursday’s third exhibition game against Dallas at CenturyLink Field.
“Obviously, tempers flare. Sherm’s really upset that we keep destroying him in practice.
“He’s upset that the receivers are getting the best out of him and the defensive backs this year. So he takes offense to that.”
Baldwin practiced Tuesday with a dark bruise in the center of his forehead and what appeared to be about four stitches off the side of the bridge of his nose, toward his left eye socket.
“My helmet came down — you can see the bruise up here — came down on my head,” Baldwin said, pointing at the bang.
“Football stuff,” was all he’d say about it.
Asked whether he has fought with Sherman on the field before, back to when they both played for Stanford, Baldwin laughed.
“Oh, of course! I’ve known him for 10 years,” Baldwin said. “Nothing new.”
On Monday, Bennett mentioned a “code” among players that states one should not cross a line of physicality in practices that might endanger a teammate’s health, or as Bennett put it, livelihood.
On Tuesday, in pure offense-versus-defense rivalry fashion, Baldwin rolled his eyes at that.
“I mean, yes, there is a code. But Mike B. doesn’t always necessarily operate by that code, either,” Baldwin said.
“It’s hard to take him serious when he talks about other guys taking food off his kids’ plate when he is driving around here with 10 different cars, you know?”
Baldwin said he isn’t alarmed at all by the Seahawks’ fighting in practices this month. Then he admitted to a reason why.
“Not concerned with it, as long as it doesn’t spill over into our play on Sunday — or, Thursday, this week, I guess you should say,” Baldwin said. “But we always like that level of chippiness, because it brings out the true level of competitiveness in all of us.
“I’ll admit it: I’m kind of an agitator in that, at times. But it’s because we need it. We don’t like it just to be peas and carrots all the time in practice. We want to bring out that competitive nature. We want to see the dog in guys so we can bring out the best in their abilities.
“So, yeah, not too concerned about it. We’ll probably taper it down here a little bit as we get closer to the season, to make sure we are all healthy and focused on the task at hand.”
Asked whether this roster needed him to be that “agitator,” needed more fighting, than previous Seahawks teams, Baldwin said, “No.”
Then he explained why this year’s team might.
“Since we have a lot of young guys in here, we have to set the tone for them,” he said. “Let them know how we operate, the competitive nature of how we go about our business. You know, let them know they have to fight every day they are out here. Let them know they have to fight for playing time, for a rep, for a spot on this roster.”
Beyond the fighting, Baldwin and the starting offense still have work to do in Thursday’s so-called dress rehearsal before the regular season starts Sept. 11 against Miami. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell confirmed Tuesday that Seattle’s starters will play into the third quarter, their most extensive game time of the preseason. The exhibition finale, on Sept. 1 at Oakland, will likely have token appearances, if that, by veteran starters.
Through two preseason games, the Seahawks’ starting offense has played six drives and produced 167 yards on 39 plays (4.3 yards per play) with 11 first downs, one interception, one turnover on downs — and zero points.
“We need to make sure that we’re putting points on the board,” Bevell said. “We’ve had some very nice drives and moved the ball, but we’re not scoring points, so we have to do a better job.”
Thomas Rawls, the replacement for retired Marshawn Lynch as Seattle’s lead running back, and star tight end Jimmy Graham have yet to appear in a preseason game. Rookie third-round pick C.J. Prosise, expected to be the new third-down back, practiced fully on Tuesday for the first time since he strained his hamstring July 30.
Rawls is back to full go in practices with the starters this week and looks like he could play Thursday or next week — though whether he will is another matter. He is 7 1/2 months removed from a broken ankle and torn ligaments.
Graham took Tuesday off from practice after his most involvement since he tore his patellar tendon Nov. 29, though he hasn’t been in team scrimmaging. His status for the opening game remains in doubt.
The offensive line could have new starters at all five positions. Coaches are still trying to determine who the starting tackles will be. It’s between Bradley Sowell, Garry Gilliam and J’Marcus Webb. Webb is back practicing this week and is expected to play Thursday. The first-team right tackle from May until this month missed the first two preseason games with a sprained knee.
Given that Rawls, Graham and Prosise have yet to play and the offensive line is still unsettled, how close to fully ready does Baldwin feel the offense is right now?
“I think we are right there,” he said. “Obviously we’ve got some things to clean up, and that’s why we go through the preseason, to fix some things.
“But, for the most part, we’re getting healthy. We know the system very well, both offensively and defensively, and we are getting to the point now where it’s second nature. We could fall asleep in these meetings and go out and execute pretty well.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle