A couple of years ago, I used a chunk of newspaper space to give Marshawn Lynch a hard time for not showing up to one of these OTA (organized team activity) practices in May.
He’d just gotten a good salary bump from the Seahawks, and he was being paid like a team leader and somebody who had become an embodiment of the team’s identity.
What, after all, did his absence say to the players who showed up?
Silly boy. As is the case with Lynch himself, his absence said nothing.
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As long as Lynch arrived at game time and ran the ball like his dreadlocks were on fire, everything was hunky-dory.
And so it is once again, a time when the story of the day will be how many Seahawks didn’t show for the first OTA practice that the media was allowed to witness.
The practice was officially “voluntary.” But since there’s very little associated with big business that is truly voluntary, we have to define the terms. It’s voluntary in the same sense a coach can voluntarily choose to bench a player and the front office can voluntarily cut somebody.
So, as much as we might want to foresee doom in the fact that Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Lynch, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin were absent for various reasons, the fact remains, training camp doesn’t start until the end of July.
So don’t sweat it quite yet.
When they heard about the absence of Wilson, the quarterback and least-replaceable Seahawk, many fans immediately suspected it was a leveraging ploy in his contract talks.
He’s on his way to Florida, with new tight end Jimmy Graham, to attend services for a dear friend of Graham’s who died. Supposedly, Wilson might also show the same support for defensive end Cliff Avril, whose father just passed.
Cynicism over Wilson’s motives would be easier if the guy had ever missed a practice of any kind. Or even one session of practice. Or even a single snap.
Not only has he never been so much as tardy, he’s also never uttered a peep about his income the past three seasons, when he was the greatest bargain in the league while operating on a rookie contract for a third-round draft pick.
The gesture to accompany Graham was Wilson’s idea, “and I thought it was a good gesture in showing support,” Carroll said.
Put it this way, if Wilson’s contract extension gets done soon or becomes a lingering concern, the fact that he missed an OTA practice will have exactly zero impact on the disposition.
Significant, though, was the appearance of players such as Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman who were not only healthy, but in fine form, as well.
Immediately after Super Bowl 49, Legion of Boomers Chancellor and Sherman were thought to need surgery. They did not. And although free safety Earl Thomas did undergo shoulder surgery, he was out there and running around.
In fact, Chancellor said he thinks the team has had the best offseason he’s ever seen, motivated by the loss in the Super Bowl.
It was the first chance to see the recovery of some players who were lost to injury last season. Across the defensive line, Jordan Hill, Cassius Marsh and Greg Scruggs all returned to action after injuries last season.
As promised, left guard Alvin Bailey has shed a couple dozen pounds, a symbol of his commitment to stepping into a starting role.
And with Lynch gone and Robert Turbin recovering from surgery, third-year running back Christine Michael was getting the chance to show his skills as the featured back.
Another surprise appearance by a Seahawk was defensive tackle Jesse Williams, who has fought back from knee injuries only to be recently diagnosed with kidney cancer. Carroll said he’s prepped for surgery Thursday.
“He’s a battler all the way,” Carroll said. “He’s been up against it; he’s fought some difficult fights, and he’s fighting another one.”
The Seahawks, in recent years, have been so combative in these off-season practices that the league has penalized them. In an effort to tone that down, Carroll had them take off their helmets during team sessions.
Chancellor said the attitude is not about slowing down.
“We’re more focused, more driven and hungry for the first game of the year,” Chancellor said.
Which, we all need to remember, is a long way from late May.