Eric will get back to you with the news of the day soon, but for the early risers, I thought I’d toss out a post offering a little history of Seahawks training camps under new coaching staffs. This is my 22nd camp, meaning I’ve covered six coaches (starting with Chuck Knox) and therefore five staff changes.
Everybody brought new wrinkles, but the start of Pete Carroll’s first camp seems to have the most varied elements. There’s great energy, giving it a bit of a “college” feel. Dennis Erickson’s and Jim Mora’s felt like that, too, though. Carroll brings some real star power, and in some ways is a story above the team. So was Mike Holmgren when he came in.
Carroll should be entertaining to watch, but not necessarily moreso than Knox, who pretty much liked to let it be known that he was the baddest man on the field. It often wasn’t a week into camp before Knox would have a bloody split in his forehead from demonstrating techniques in blocking drills. He didn’t have on pads or a helmet, of course, but that didn’t keep him from sticking his face in there.
One year, fresh off of back surgery, Knox was told by doctors that he could only get back out and coach training camp if he would do so while seated on folding chair. Yeah, right. Knox wouldn’t sit for that. A guy followed his every move with this folding chair, all around the field. But Knox would not sit in it. He also, however, didn’t tell the guy to go away.
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Crazy moment in a Knox camp? Unpopular owner Ken Behring one day came to practice in a helicopter. Right in the middle of practice, players had to scramble off one of the Kirkland fields to make way for Behring’s landing. Unbelievable distraction. I have never seen if a photographer had a picture of the look on Knox’s face at the time, but I’m sure it would have been priceless.
Tom Flores was so understated that it’s hard to remember much about his influence on camps other than his pleasant demeanor and bad football teams.
It might be hard to remember now, but Dennis Erickson took over from Flores and brought some of the same kind of national attention that Carroll has. Erickson not only took Miami to two NCAA national championships, but he was returning home, too. And especially after the Flores years, it was a huge deal.
Erickson had to deal with the unbelievable distraction of the team's possible move to Los Angeles. Erickson’s biggest influence on camps was the move back to Cheney. Although, I’m not sure how much of that was a corporate move to engender state-wide voter support to fund the new stadium. At Cheney in the Erickson years, there was wicked, dry heat, the occasional wind storm that would blow down tents, the early camp injury of a good player or two, and a fairly steady debate over who would be the team’s quarterback.
When Holmgren took over in 1999, it was probably as big a story as Carroll’s arrival has been this year. On the first day he took the field at Cheney, a giant banner with his likeness hung from the outside wall of the fieldhouse. And I’m talking GIANT … like Chairman Mao large. Especially early, Holmgren was pretty volatile on the practice field. He could really get after players … particularly offensive linemen who false started. He typically exploded after the second or third false start of the day and it could trigger his very creative use of the English language.
He broke the tension occasionally with some fun competitions that the players would get into … with a later curfew on the line. One was having “teams” of unlikely suspects having to catch punts. The chunkiest offensive and defensive linemen were usually selected. And one time, special teams coach Bob Casullo was called upon. Let’s just say that Casullo was not exactly one of those Nolan Cromwell or Jim Zorn kind of fitness devotees. But when the punt went easily 10 yards over his head, he quickly retreated, stumbled over a blocking dummy, and somehow pulled in the ball before hitting the turf. It had to be the most unexpected display of athleticism perpetrated on the Cheney practice fields.
Hard to believe but it was only a year ago that we were writing about Jim Mora’s first training camp as Seahawks head coach. He and his staff were definitely enthusiastic and energetic. But within days he lost Walter Jones and a number of receivers. The season was doomed; energy and enthusiasm can't replace Walter Jones.
And through the years, that has been a fairly steady theme for the Seahawks, and a determining early factor in how the season will go. Keeping players healthy through August has been critical. Give Carroll credit for understanding that. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck got to rest during the team’s second practice of camp. Hasselbeck commented on how Carroll has already planned certain practices that veterans will be rested. The entire team has Wednesday off, for instance … a very unusual approach to early training camps.