You already knew Earl Thomas wouldn't be here.
But what's this with Frank Clark and Byron Maxwell also skipping these Seahawks organized team activities on the practice field this week?
“Yes, he is taking (the term literally)," coach Pete Carroll said Thursday when I asked about Clark, the defensive end, and the word "voluntary" for these OTAs that continue through the next two weeks.
"It is voluntary. He is doing exactly that.”
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And Maxwell, the veteran cornerback who this month re-signed for one year and $2 million, with a $500,000 signing bonus?
"It’s called 'voluntary,'" Carroll said, again.
As for Thomas, the coach said he has talked to his three-time All-Pro safety recently. Thomas hasn't been around the team since the players dispersed for the offseason days after the New Year's Eve loss to Arizona ended Seattle's 2017 without a playoff appearance for the first time in six years. Thomas has stayed away from all of the offeseason workout program the team began five weeks ago.
"We have communicated," Carroll said somewhat coyly.
This remains no big whoop, Thomas not being here for voluntary practices in helmets, shirts and shorts in May, four months before the season begins. Michael Bennett, Marshawn Lynch and other Seahawks veterans have skipped these workouts in previous springs.
A more ominous absence will be if Thomas also blows off the Seahawks' lone mandatory workouts of the offseason, the veteran minicamp June 12-14. The Seahawks can fine him up to $84,435 per the league's collective bargaining agreement if he skips all three days of that minicamp.
Asked if he anticipated Thomas being at team headquarters for the June minicamp, Carroll said: "I would think so, yeah. That’s when everybody has got to come, is minicamp.”
That wasn't exactly an unequivocal "yes, absolutely, I've talked to him and he'll be there."
So the Seahawks will see.
Thomas is staying away with the Seahawks knowing he wants a new contract at top of the league pay scale for all safeties beyond his current deal that end after the 2018 season. That won't truly become an concern unless he isn't present for the start of training camp. That's on July 26. General manager John Schneider has said Thomas' representatives have assured him Thomas will not hold out into the coming season.
Clark's absence comes at a curious time, on the eve of the final year of his rookie contract. His leverage? He's the only proven pass rusher returning to the noticeably changed and thin defensive line. That's the retirement of Cliff Avril because of his neck injury and the Seahawks trade of fellow Pro Bowl end Bennett to Philadelphia in March.
Clark had a traumatic offseason. He lost his father and three other family members to a house fire in Cleveland in February.
That was all off the field. Here's what was observed on the field:
- The most striking thing is how much the defense has changed. With Thomas and Kam Chancellor not here, Cliff Avril retired and Richard Sherman plus Michael Bennett sent away, linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright were the only "name" guys on that side of the field. “It’s sad," wide receiver Doug Baldwin said, almost wistfully. He says without Sherman, his good friend and former Stanford teammate, “It’s quieter.”
- At least for now, Shaquill Griffin has moved from right cornerback, where he started as a rookie last season, to left. Sherman had locked that down the previous seven seasons, until Seattle waived him in March and San Francisco signed him. "We’re just working guys out," Carroll said of Griffin at left cornerback. "We’re trying to figure out what everybody can do and we’re moving people around in all spots, basically.”
- With Maxwell skipping, Neiko Thorpe was at right cornerback. So was Justin Coleman, last season's nickel back. Mike Tyson, the 2017 rookie special-teams player, was at left cornerback on the second team and also nickel. The Seahawks have a long way to go to determine starting cornerbacks, but the plan that seems to be forming is Maxwell on the right side, where he excelled in his first go-around with the Seahawks five years ago, and Griffin on the left.
- With Thomas not here the starting safeties were Bradley McDougald at free and second-year man Delano Hill at strong safety. Hill is practicing there while Chancellor is seemingly nowhere near returning to the team after his neck injury in November.
- Spend 10 minutes at practice and you can't help but notice Brian Schottenheimer is ultra involved. Seattle's new offensive coordinator began practice by bopping up and down and all around while the players stretched. The former play caller for the Jets and Rams that Carroll hired this winter to replace fired Darrell Bevell walked up to every offensive player, totaling about four dozen, and shook each man's hand while they stretched. Late in the 85-minute practice Thursday, Schottenheimer gathered all the offensive players around him before a two-minute-drill scrimmage against the defense and ended his talk by roaring to his guys to go get 'em. He could be heard from 50 yards away and over the rap music blaring from the nearby speakers. And he is constantly coaching the footwork and nuances of quarterbacking to six-year starter Russell Wilson. "Schotty is a really impressive coach," Carroll said. "He’s very hands-on. He’s very active. He’s in total command whether it’s installing the offense or he’s coaching the quarterback. He is very active, very energetic, so there is no space between something happening and Russell getting critiqued, and Russell has really responded to it. I think he enjoys the challenge of it. Schotty is challenging him to keep moving and keep growing as a quarterback. You look at all the years that he’s been playing, but still there’s always been more growth."
- Among those watching and not participating Thursday in the no-pads scrimmaging: new right guard D.J. Fluker (sore left knee, Carroll said, adding this is no time to push any discomfort); kicker Sebastian Janikowski (Carroll says the newly signed, 18-year veteran from the Raiders has a sore hip); defensive end Dion Jordan; right tackle Germain Ifedi; offensive tackle George Fant; offensive tackle Isaiah Battle; tight end Nick Vannett.
- The starting offensive line was Duane Brown at left tackle, Ethan Pocic at left guard, Justin Britt at center, Jordan Roos subbing for Fluker at right guard and third-year free agent Willie Beavers for Ifedi at right tackle.
- Running back Chris Carson looks sleek, strong and healthy coming back from his broken leg and ankle surgery that ended his season Oct. 1, when he was a rookie seventh-round draft pick. Of course, no one was hitting Carson. And a lot of guys looked sleek and fast running with no pads on. Rookie first-round pick Rashaad Penny was the clear No. 2 running back, with C.J. Prosise catching more passes out of the backfield than running the ball.
- The four returners practicing catches "kicks" out of a JUGS machine, in order of appearance:
- With Clark gone, rookie sixth-round pick Jacob Martin was a starting defensive end. The defensive line was barely recognizable, though that's what transition and change does to a unit. The tackles were offseason free-agent signing Tom Johnson plus 2016 second-round pick Jarred Reed, who is suddenly one of the longer-tenured Seahawks up front. The first end opposite Martin was Branden Jackson. Rookie second-round pick Rasheem Green was on the second-team D-line.
- Green is wearing No. 94. That's the jersey the team had assigned to top rookie pick Malik McDowell last year at this time, before his ATV accident and him practicing at all in 2017. That tells plenty about what the Seahawks think of McDowell's future with them. Carroll barely acknowledged a question about when the team might see McDowell again.
- The strongside linebacker Thursday next to Wagner and Wright: new arrival Barkevious Mingo. He may be more than a pass rusher for the Seahawks this year.
- Ed Dickson, signed to a three-year deal a free agent from Carolina in March, was the first tight end. With Vannett out, 2017 undrafted rookie and former University of Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes caught a touchdown pass from Wilson on an inside route during a red-zone drill.
- Punter Jon Ryan, the most-tenured Seahawks (since 2008) mostly watched as rookie punter and fifth-round pick Michael Dickson was doing Ryan's usual job of holding for place kicks. Jason Myers, the former Jacksonville Jaguar whom Seattle signed in January, kicked the field goals with Janikowski sore. Undrafted rookie Tanner Carew from Oregon was the long snapper.
- Wide receiver David Moore, a seventh-round pick from lower-division East Central University in Oklahoma, got long looks with the first-team offense.
- Wide receiver Doug Baldwin put a head-and-shoulder fake on Tyson from the slot on a goal-line fade route to the outside that buckled Tyson's knees.
- Teammates, including and usually led by Baldwin, teasingly yelled "Unliiiiiiiiiiimited!" in sing-song voices after particularly exquisite throws by Wilson. That's in reference to Wilson's recent online alter-ego, "Mr. Unlimited." Wilson good-naturedly teased himself about it. Yes, he realizes he brought it upon himself. "We've been having fun with it. It's been fun: 'Unliiiiiiiimited,'" Wilson said. "It's just a joke, really. Just being silly. We were talking, me and Janet, my PT, and I don't know how it came up but we just started laughing about this idea of being unlimited. Just a thought process. So, anyways, we'll run with it. We'll have some fun with it. Go Hawks! I'll see you guys."