Seahawks' top rookie pick Germain Ifedi not apologizing, not backing down
Michael Bennett got incensed. Again.
For the third consecutive practice while full-go in shoulder pads, the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl defensive end was screaming and charging at an offensive lineman following a play.
And for the third consecutive training-camp day, the object of his fire was Germain Ifedi.
Seattle’s top rookie draft choice had done it again. This time, the 31st-overall pick in May from Texas A&M went after Bennett on Thursday well after the fellow former Aggie had angrily pushed at center Justin Britt at the end of a scrimmage play.
Players and coaches intervened. Dozens of them. Eventually, an assistant led Bennett out of the fray toward the sideline. Fellow starting defensive lineman Jordan Hill took over from there, putting his arm around the steaming Bennett and calmly escorting him away from the action. Bennett didn’t participate in the final 20 minutes of practice.
Seattle’s Pro Bowl defensive end, was effectively put in time out.
Yet another way the 22-year-old Ifedi has changed the tenor of this entire training camp from previous, less-intense ones.
Pete Carroll’s perpetual sunniness just about burst when the coach was asked if he was OK with how Ifedi has not only not backed down to anyone, but pushed the envelope with veterans who have obviously tested the huge, new guy this first week. The mainstays haven’t been able to speed past him in pass-rush drills. And with his size, there’s nobody who’s been able to push him back or overpower him ... at all.
“I love the way he’s approached the game,” Carroll said. “We’re going to see. I think he’s the real thing, in terms of tough and physical and cares and all that.
“It’s going to be a bit before he can get his football together, but it’s going to happen. And I want him to be just the guy that he is.”
Carroll preaches competition in every aspect daily, and this camp certainly has provided that in its first week. It is a much more intense, scrappy environment than it was at this time last year. In August 2015 tempo-setting safety Kam Chancellor was in a messy, protracted holdout, fellow defensive leaders Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman were healing injuries and the entire team was still in some form of shock from losing the Super Bowl to New England on its final offensive play from the 1-yard line.
Now here’s Ifedi, a 6-foot-5, 325-pound rock of nastiness. If he isn’t pushing veteran defenders with his 36-inch arms and condor-like, 85-inch wingspan after plays, he is pushing the limits of tact and respect.
Deference? Ifedi graduated on time in four years at Texas A&M, but he apparently doesn’t know the meaning of that word.
“He knows I won’t back down, the team knows I won’t back down,” Ifedi said. “That’s why they drafted me.”
Exactly. Seahawks’ coaches aren’t blowing whistles at the end of plays of which Ifedi is in the middle. They aren’t just enjoying the tone the rookie is setting, they are nearly reveling in it.
No Seahawk has done more for himself, his reputation, his status on the team so far than Ifedi. He’s been the baddest dude on the field — and it really hasn’t been close among the other 89 players on the roster.
When Seahawks veteran offensive line coach Tom Cable tried out Ifedi this spring before the draft, Cable told him: “You have all the ability in the world.”
Then, after Seattle drafted Ifedi, Cable said the rookie was “a guy that can be a cornerstone player for you.”
All this makes the early camp star wonder what all the excitement is about.
“I just play my game,” he said, without expression. “That’s what they told me. Play my game.
“You’re out there competing. You want to be a guy that’s known as a competitor. You don’t want to be known as somebody that, just because something happens, you’re going to back down. You want to compete no matter what, and that’s the message around here: compete.”
Ah, yes, competition. It could reportedly soon include four-time All-Pro guard Jahri Evans. NFL Network reported Thursday the Seahawks are hosting the 10-year veteran for a visit on Friday.
That will likely be a tryout. Evans, 32, who declined a pay cut from New Orleans in the offseason, has started 153 games in the past decade for the Saints at right guard. Yet Ifedi also played right tackle at Texas A&M, and the ability to play both guard and tackle was another asset that attracted the Seahawks.
Cable, and each member of his offensive line, knows the coach’s way is to collect the five best blockers for his starting unit, then sort out which positions they will play after that.
Ifedi already looks to be one of those top five.
He certainly has been the baddest so far.
Being the baddest man on the field is the reputation Ifedi had at Texas A&M, too. And, yes, that’s why he’s here.
“He’s been a guy they consider, for lack of a better term, the policeman in the locker room,” said Matt Berry, the Seahawks’ director of college scouting who joined Cable for that pre-draft workout of Ifedi. “They have a lot of different characters down at A&M. You guys have seen guys getting in trouble and stuff. He’s the guy that cleans up the locker room. They trust him to be a team leader. He’s a juice guy for them.
“If something’s going on in practice, he’s the one that handles it. His mentality, competitive makeup and the fact that he graduated in four years … He (was) a registered junior this year, so he already graduated. He’s got his life together.
“We’re getting a man, which is a really cool thing.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
Seahawks camp at a glance
WHAT IT WAS: The fifth practice of training camp was the most summer day yet. Warm sun. No clouds. The Blue Angles roaring overhead with practice maneuvers for this weekend’s Seafair celebration on Lake Washington. And the 2,500 or so fans that packed the hillside got to see a two-hour practice in full pads and full intensity.
WHO SHINED: It was Tharold Simon’s first day to be the No. 1 right cornerback. Previous days DeShawn Shead had that job. On the first play of red-zone scrimmaging, Simon mauled wide receiver Jermaine Kearse in the end zone while Russell Wilson’s fade pass to him was in flight for a pass-interference foul. Simon’s drawbacks in his first three NFL seasons have been penalties and injuries. … New left tackle Garry Gilliam showed good quickness and athleticism in repelling Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett to begin a pass-rush drill. On their next matchup, Bennett used one of the league’s fastest hand-swim moves to easily get past Gilliam. … Undrafted rookie DT Brandin Bryant showed a mean streak. He bulled into rookie third-round pick Rees Odhiambo, knocked him down — then continued driving into him while he was on the turf. When Odhiambo pushed back, Bryant through a punch that did not connect. Unwise, a bare hand to a helmeted head. … Mike Morgan was the No. 1 strong-side linebacker, after Eric Pinkins was recently. Cassius Marsh alternated from that spot to defensive end, the spot he played at UCLA and in his first two Seahawks seasons. Defensive coordinator Kris Richard said the competition to replace departed Bruce Irvin could go five or six players deep.
WHO SAT: Coach Pete Carroll said tight end Jimmy Graham and new lead running back Thomas Rawls are “really close” to practicing for the first time since they got hurt Nov. 29 and Dec. 13, respectively. “We’re evaluating. Both those guys are pushing really hard, we’re really about going almost day-to-day with those guys now,” Carroll said. “We’re getting really close.” … Doug Baldwin missed his second consecutive practice. Carroll said his top wide receiver got “the back of his leg stepped on” Monday. Baldwin watched practice on Tuesday after getting electrical-stimulation treatment on the area around his right calf. “He’ll be fine,” the coach said. … Strong safety Kam Chancellor sat out with what Carroll said was “a little groin thing that isn’t going to be an issue.” Reminder, this was August 4. The games don’t get real for another five weeks. Caution is the overriding theme here. … Defensive end Frank Clark missed practice again. “Yeah, his calf is just tight and he cramped up a little bit the first day at the end of practice (Saturday), and it just kind of stayed sore,” Carroll said. “So we’re just watching him and making sure he’s okay.” … Seventh-round draft choice Zac Brooks joined fellow rookie running back C.J. Prosise watching. Brooks has a sore hamstring. Prosise (hamstring) may be able to return next week. … Brandon Cottom, on the inside track to replace departed Derrick Coleman and Will Tukuafu as the primary fullback, has what Carroll said might be a serious Achilles tendon injury. Cottom’s foot stuck in the turf during a passing drill early in practice. With running back thinning — undrafted rookie Tre Madden was in an arm sling with a shoulder injury — the Seahawks returned former University of Washington defensive tackle Taniela Tupou to fullback. … Just after Cottom left wincing, free-agent tight end Ronnie Shields went off on the back of a motorized cart. Carroll thinks that could be an Achilles injury also; those usually don’t heal quickly. … Rookie free-agent defensive end Montese Overton left practice with a calf injury. … Backup middle linebacker Brock Coyle has an oblique strain.
WHO CAME, LEFT: Rookie free agent Nolan Frese from the University of Houston is the lone kick snapper on the roster after Thursday’s release of Drew Ferris. … Seattle also put now-former defensive end Chris Clemons on the reserve/retired list. He told coaches last week he was done playing. … To fill those roster spots the Seahawks signed strong safety Keenan Lambert and running back Cameron Marshall. Lambert is Chancellor’s brother from Virginia; he was in Seattle’s training camp last season.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “You can’t be a nice guy. If you are nice out on the field you won’t be around very long.” — Right guard and early camp star Germain Ifedi, the team’s top rookie draft choice, on standing up to and pushing back at Bennett and other veterans while showing his nastiness so far.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle