Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks learning Penny may be worth more, still unsure when Earl Thomas might show up

The Seahawks found out rookie running back and top draft choice Rashaad Penny is more than just a runner.

They learned second pick Rasheem Green is a defensive lineman unusually polished for just coming out of college.

They believe their experiment of converting their fifth-round pick Tre Flowers from Oklahoma State safety to NFL cornerback is going to work, with patience.

Speaking of patience: They aren't sure when they are going to see Earl Thomas again, though they still expect it to be in time for the 2018 season.

That is what Pete Carroll said he and his Seahawks learned during their three-day rookie minicamp that ended Sunday at team headquarters.

The veterans return to the field Monday to continue the second phase of voluntary offseason workouts. Thomas might turn out only for the mandatory parts of this spring and summer.

The team's lone veteran minicamp is June 12-14 and training camp begins the last week of July. The three-time All-Pro safety has skipped the first three weeks of voluntary workouts while wanting a rich extension on his contract that ends after this year.

“We’ll find out. We've got to communicate," Carroll said.

"Phase two doesn’t look like it’s suiting him right now."

That's a unique way to say, yeah, Thomas is skipping all these workouts, while he can't get fined.

Thomas said at his sixth Pro Bowl in January he may hold out into the season if he doesn't get a new deal by then. Last month at his annual charity dinner in Bellevue, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Thomas' representatives told him in March that Thomas will not hold out this season.

"And so we’ll see what’s happening," Carroll said. "Phase three is around the corner for us, so we’ll see. We got one more week of phase two. Earl had a fantastic offseason, and I know he knows how to get in shape.

"Veterans sometimes look at those rules and they see 'voluntary,' and they see it differently than other guys. So, we’ll see.”

What the Seahawks saw this weekend in the no-pads, lots-of-passing practices of rookie minicamp was their 27th-overall pick can be more than the national rushing leader he was last season at San Diego State. Even without shoulder pads, Penny looked taller than his listed 5 feet 11. Sunday during scrimmaging he lined up outside and caught passes on slant routes like a 220-pound wide receiver.

"He caught the ball beautifully, really," Carroll said. "He can do whatever we need to do in the throwing game. Schotty (new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer) did a nice job of mixing some stuff in so we could see him doing different route concepts, so we had a real good variety of things that we looked at in and out of the backfield. With a couple of exceptions, he did a really good job. So that’s a real good sign."

Rookie first-round draft choice Rashaad Penny (20) has a broken finger and was in Philadelphia Wednesday morning for hand surgery, league source confirmed to The News Tribune. The running back is expected to miss up to a month. Joshua Bessex/The News Tribune Joshua Bessex/The News Tribune

The next step for Penny to challenge second-year man Chris Carson, who is returning from a broken leg that ended his rooking season in October.

"We’re gonna work real hard with his pass protection and make sure that he’s up to speed there," Carroll said of Penny. "We’d like to see if we can make him available to us on all three downs. Kind of like we use Chris."

That's Penny's goal, to be more than just a ball carrier.

“That’s what I’ve been working for," he said. "I know this head coach and GM trust me, so it’s all up to me to come out here and bring the effort and juice and definitely compete."

The Seahawks believe the learning curve for Green as a hybrid inside-outside defensive tackle and end will be shorter than they anticipated when they drafted him in the third round. They were pleased to see the coaching Green got at USC has made Green more advanced than most college defensive linemen entering the NFL.

Carroll credits a former assistant coach at UW and the Seahawks for that.

"Rasheem Green looked like he’s been coached for a long time," Carroll said. "As a matter of fact, his coach, (USC defensive line coach) Kenechi Udeze, who had been with us and is an old Trojan and all that, has done a terrific job with him. You can just see his awareness and just his feel for things showed up already. Using his hands and timing and some stuff that he did was good."

Flowers looks like a Seahawks cornerback. His 35-inch arms make him look taller than 6-3 (the same height as Richard Sherman, by the way). Flowers said the only work before this weekend he'd gotten at cornerback was in high school in San Antonio, and in some bowl practices last season at Oklahoma State.

He got a three-day, crash course from Carroll in the fundamentals of his unique, step-kick technique all Seahawks cornerbacks must master to play. Carroll remarked his intricate, one-on-one tutoring of Flowers reminded him of decades ago when he was a defensive backs coach.

The step-kick technique requires patience, both to learn and in execution. It's aim is not to jam opposing receivers at the snap, as most mistakenly believe Seattle's press coverage is, but to step and kick in the direction the receiver is starting his route to gain preferable position on him after the snap.

Carroll calls that need for patience the most challenging part of Flowers' transition to cornerback.

“It’s believing in the discipline it takes to do it, and really finding that patience it takes to sit on the line of scrimmage and not be jittery and all of that," Carroll, a former college defensive back, said. "Guys think that they are supposed to go up there and beat the heck out of wide receivers and that’s what they think bump-and-run is. There is so much more to it than that. It’s the discipline it takes over time to develop the patience is really what the challenge is, if they are equipped.

"He’s got all of the tools that you’re looking for. He’s real long. He’s feet are really quick and light and he’s got terrific speed. And he’s already shown all of the abilities to make the plays by playing safety for all of those years, the tackles, the hits and the plays on the ball and all of that. That’s not even a concern of mine. Can he take to the discipline of it? Will he sit there and understand how it works?

"He showed like he really understood right off the bat. So it was a very good demonstration of what the future could hold. I was really pleased with that.”

Flowers had his girlfriend Breshae Monroe and their 1-year-old daughter Bailee, plus his mother Crystal and his father Rodney, back from a life-threatening motorcycle accident 2 1/2 years ago, with him in the Seattle area this weekend. They helped him feel good about these first Seahawks days at cornerback and with the step-kick technique.

"First day was a little rough," Flowers said. "Second day I feel like I got better. I’m going to keep getting better every day.”


Former University of Washington and Mississippi transfer wide receiver Damore'ea Stringfellow impressed as one of 46 tryout players in the minicamp this weekend.

The 6-foot-2, 218-pound wide receiver has a chance to be one of the few unsigned guys signed to the offseason roster and invited back to OTAs or minicamp.

"He had a good camp. He did a nice job," Carroll said. "He looked like he fit and made a real good statement to give himself a chance here."

EXTRA POINT: The Seahawks begin (officially voluntary) organized team activities including the veterans May 21. Those OTA days are also May 24, 29-30, June 1, 4, 5, 6 and 7.