RENTON Kam Chancellor’s smile said it before his words did.
“Yeaaaaaaahh!” the soul of the Seahawks’ defense bellowed to me in his low, low voice Friday afternoon on the edge of the practice field.
“It’s great to be out here!”
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The eighth-year veteran was back in his familiar office, doing his most extensive work yet since offseason surgery on both ankles. Number 31 returned to the spot in which he’s started the last six seasons: He was the starting strong safety in position and team drills during Seattle’s seventh and final practice of offseason organized team activities.
The five-time Pro Bowl selection, including last season when he missed four games from October into November with a groin injury, laughed with three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman through drills. Chancellor laughed when he did a leaping hip bump with linebacker Dewey McDonald to celebrate a play. He sprinted through open-field tackling drills.
During a turn-and-cut drill with a tall, tackling dummy set in the middle of the field, Chancellor didn’t avoid the dummy to catch a pass thrown by an assistant coach, as his teammates did. Chancellor smashed the dummy to the ground on his sprint to the ball.
In the scrimmaging, he showed bursts of speed running from the middle of the field to the left sideline to break on a Russell Wilson pass then breakup another one out of the back of the end zone.
Minutes before, on the adjacent field along Lake Washington, another positive for a Seahawks star: Tyler Lockett did his most work I’ve seen through the three OTAs that were open to the media.
The zooming wide receiver and Pro Bowl kick returner did a technical route-running drill with quarterbacks Russell Wilson, Trevone Boykin and Austin Davis. Lockett broke his leg 5 1/2 months ago, in a Christmas Eve game against Arizona. Friday, he was jogging his routes while catching passes along with Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin for about 20 minutes.
Those were the surest signs yet Chancellor and Lockett will be ready for the season opener Sept. 10 at Green Bay -- and in Chancellor’s case for the start of training camp at the end of July.
Lockett may still be limited by then. Then again, by the looks of Friday, perhaps not.
Earl Thomas was not on the field for the 70-minute practice that came before the players scattered for a weekend off prior to next week’s mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday. Thomas had been on the field watching the first two OTAs open to the media. Coach Pete Carroll said last week that Thomas was essentially a full participant in the first two OTA practices, his first on-field work since he broke his leg Dec. 4. Carroll said he has no doubt Thomas will be ready for the start of training camp.
Chancellor is back on that track, too.
He is entering the final year of his contract that many expected to be extended by now.
Teammate Michael Bennett (who was not here for the voluntary OTAs but will come off his Hawaiian Islands for next week’s minicamo) has an opinion on that:
Despite Chancellor being 29, his fruitless holdout in 2015 and injuries that have cost him games in recent seasons, it would be surprising if the Seahawks don’t settle on a new contract with Chancellor before the season begins in September. There might be something of a locker-room revolt, or at least upheaval, if they didn’t.
When I asked him about his contract status following the last game he played, in the locker room at the George Dome after Seattle’s playoff loss at Atlanta in mid-January, Chancellor smiled and said, “Day to day, man.”
Most thought that deal would be done by now. But the Seahawks often reach agreements on extensions for top veteran starters before or at the start of training camp (such as for Russell Wilson two summers ago).
Wilson is the face of the Seahawks. Chancellor has been their soul, especially for its tone-setting defense and its starring secondary for most of the last six years. Carroll and general manager John Schneider have said repeatedly this offseason they want to take care of core guys.
Chancellor is certainly one of those.
In February, Chancellor had what the team characterized as “clean-up” surgeries for bone spurs in his ankles. It’s something he has had done in previous offseasons. He is scheduled for $6.8 million in base pay and $325,008 in per-week roster bonuses during the 2017 season, with a salary-cap charge of $8.125,008. He’s wanted a new deal for two years, and infamously held out for two months into the 2015 regular season in vain to get one.
He was the first player Carroll mentioned in his postgame press conference following the playoff loss at Atlanta as the foundation for the Seahawks’ strong leadership base. He is beloved among teammates for his intensity, his wisdom and his hard-hitting style of play.
Then Seattle drafted Michigan’s Hill in the third round, with an obvious eye toward eventual life after Chancellor -- whenever that may begin. Hill is 6 feet 1 and 216 pounds. He, like Chancellor, is known as an aggressive tackler against the run. And, of course, he’s eight years younger than Chancellor. Hill had been getting first-team work while Chancellor watched earlier OTA practices.
But not Friday’s.
EXTRA POINTS: Was going to have our News Tribune intern Luke Garza report a story on fellow Oklahoma State Cowboy Chris Carson. But the rookie running back was unavailable because he missed practice with a leg injury. ... Dion Jordan was not present. Fellow defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson joined recuperating cornerback DeShawn Shead (knee injury in January) and linebacker Michael Wilhoite as watchers of practice while recovering from injuries. ... The players’ return to the field for Tuesday afternoon’s practice is mandatory. That’s why Bennett will be there.