RENTON This “mountain of man” took a jet then a car to get to his first Seahawks practice.
He might as well have arrived on a white horse.
No one was outwardly proclaiming Duane Brown a savior on his first work day as Seattle’s new left tackle. But that’s pretty much what this team wants, needs--expects--from the three-time Pro Bowl blocker and 2012 All-Pro.
Beginning now. As in, Sunday against Washington at CenturyLink Field.
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“I’m counting on immediate impact,” coach Pete Carroll said, adding that, yes, Brown will be Seattle’s starting left tackle this weekend against Washington.
As if there was any doubt.
That was before Brown’s first full Seahawks practice had even started.
Three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman said the Seahawks trading for Brown, one week after they signed future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Dwight Freeney and eight weeks after they traded for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, shows him management thinks Seattle’s Super Bowl time is now.
“I think it’s really cool,” Sherman said. “I think it really shows what our front office thinks of our team right now. ... I think they think that this is our window. This is our chance, to take it by the reigns. And they are doing everything they can to put us in position to be successful and make this a championship team.
“Any perceived weaknesses they are doing their best to shore up. I think they are doing a phenomenal job.”
Amid all this expectation and meaning, Brown was just trying to find which exit off 405 to take to get to work. He’d spent all 10 of his NFL seasons in Houston--until he got a phone call at his home Monday, hours after he and the Texans returned home from playing in their 41-38 loss at Seattle.
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, just a lot of excitement for me,” he said. “It’s been awesome, just getting acclimated to everything.”
“But it’s good. I’m happy. I’m very happy to be there. A lot of great relationships I have with guys on the team here. A great organization with a great tradition. I’m going to bring what I can bring to the table, to help us win.”
The first impression of the new number 76 (former number 76 Germain Ifedi is now 65)?
And he’s quick--both on his feet and in his mind.
Carroll marveled that during the morning walk-through practice, about an hour or so after he began his first work day at Seahawks headquarters, Brown was flawless on 50 snaps as the instant starter at left tackle. If that doesn’t sound like a big deal, remember the Seahawks rarely have had half that many snaps in a game in which someone hasn’t done something wrong or gone the wrong way.
The same held true through his first full practice Wednesday afternoon. Offensive line coach Tom Cable said the younger blockers--meaning, everyone player other than Brown--watched their new master at his craft for the first time and could accurately say, “This is what you are trying to get to.”
“Duane, I mean, he came in here today, and you couldn’t even tell that he hasn’t been in the system,” offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said.
That’s the upside to Brown being 32 and in his 10th NFL season.
The downside? He’s 32 and in his 10th NFL season. So the Seahawks won’t have this godsend forever.
But they have him now, when they need him to go where they want to be this season. That is, to stabilize the line and thus the offense so Seattle can keep playing through January into February’s Super Bowl.
Brown learned Monday while he was home in Texas that he’d been traded with a fifth-round draft choice in 2018 from Houston to Seattle for a third-round pick next year and second-round selection in 2019. He got the news hours after he’d return from playing 68 of 71 snaps in his Texans season debut at CenturyLink Field for his now-new team, after holding out all summer through Houston’s first six games because he was unhappy about his contract.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Monday when he struck the deal: “We want him to finish his career here.”
That suggests a team-friendly extension beyond 2018, back-loaded with later cap charges and front-loaded with bonus cash for this year and next. Brown is due $4,976,470 for the final nine games of this regular season. That’s the prorated amount remaining on Brown’s $9.4 million salary for 2017. He is scheduled to earn a non-guaranteed $9.75 million in 2018, the final year of his contract Seattle inherited from Houston.
Brown had only been in Seattle for less than a day. Yet he already agrees with Schneider’s desire. If the Seahawks got him an extension through, say, even by one year through the 2019 season he’d be 34 years old and 12 years into his NFL career by then.
“Absolutely. Absolutely,” Brown said. “Like I said, I’ve had relationships with guys here before I got here and I told them just on the outside looking in how much I respected this place, and respected the locker room. It’s like a real, real brotherhood here. They have a lot of fun, win a lot of games. And on the outside looking in, I saw that and I loved it.
“To be here and be a part of it now, there’s no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t want to be here the rest of my career.”
Brown is listed at 6 feet 4 and 315 pounds, but with his shoulder pads and helmet on he looks more like 6-5, 350--or, as Schneider put it Monday: “He looks like a big door. ... a mountain of a man, a man’s man.”
Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor played with Brown for one season at Virginia Tech, and both are from Virginia.
Chancellor’s first word to describe his former Hokies teammate? The same as mine.
“Big,” he said.
“Physical. Athletic. Freakish guy,” Chancellor. “And also a great person, as well.
“Just a freakish athlete.”
Chancellor said Brown was on the punt team during their one season together at Virginia Tech. As the wing. An off-the-line sprinter who ran 40-plus yards to tackle punt returners.
“Yeah, a wing,” Chancellor said. “Big and huge, running down on punt team making plays. That was something that I always remember.
“And if the quarterback threw an interception, I’d see him running guys down. I just remember those highlights from college. ... He was just athletic. He is gifted like that.”
Chancellor said Brown also played basketball around campus. Could he shoot?
“He was down low,” Chancellor said.
“He was dunking, and everything. He’s athletic, man.”
The Seahawks don’t need Brown to be a wing on its punt team or to be dunking on Chancellor or Carroll in the hoops games the offense plays against the defense and sometimes coaches before and between meetings.
What they need is for him to be his Pro Bowl self on what’s been the league’s youngest, lowest-paid and perhaps poorest-performing offensive line the last two seasons. He replaces Rees Odhiambo, the 2016 draft choice who started the first six games at left tackle as the fill-in for George Fant. Fant, who was a college basketball power forward at Western Kentucky 2 1/2 years ago, was the starting left tackle last season and into this August, until his season-ending knee injury and surgery.
Odhiambo now goes back to being a swing backup at tackle and guard. And Brown goes into the lineup as the biggest in-season trade acquisition for Seattle since Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo in October 2010.
Brown said his experience his first few seasons in the NFL in trendsetting line coach Alex Gibbs’ zone-blocking system is already paying off on his first day in Seattle. Cable sees Gibbs as a guru, and says his blocking system and Gibbs’ are “almost identical.”
“Helps tremendously. I was in that system for my first six years in Houston, so I am very familiar with it,” Brown said. “It’s just all about learning the terminology, starting to jell with the guys I’m playing beside and getting a feel for how they play. It’s a lot of recall that I have in this system, with helps me out, a lot.”
What’s Brown’s first impression of Seattle?
”Just the atmosphere of it,” he said. “There’s just a lot of fun being had--but also very, very businesslike. Very fast-paced, in getting things going. But a lot of fun being had, which is great. I love it.”
He was particularly wowed by the 69,000 screamers inside CenturyLink Field last Sunday that once again had the press box shaking and the stadium rocking at the Seahawks’ comeback win over Brown and his Texans.
“Extremely excited. Actually, that was my first time ever playing in Seattle in my career, but you heard so much about the fan base here and about the 12s and about playing in that stadium and environment and the havoc it can cause for opposing teams,” Brown said. “To be a part of it for the first time, it was very eye-opening from the first play on, like they were so loud, so into it, but it was a fun atmosphere. Even just as a competitor being in it, you were just like ‘Wow, this is awesome!’ And you kind of just sit back and absorb it.
“Now to be out there week-in and week-out for home games, I’m going to love it.”
Now that it’s over, now that he’s back from the holdout, gone from Houston and suddenly a key to the Seahawks reaching a third Super Bowl in five seasons, was staying out for the first two months of the season worth it?
“Yeah, it’s worked out pretty good for me, I have to say,” Brown said, with a grin. “I thought I did some great things in my career and I thought we had some great years there in Houston, but to come here and immediately be a part of a contender and a chance to win, it’s worked out amazing.
“I couldn’t ask for anything better.”