Seahawks Insider Blog

Ruskell unplugged

Here the full transcript this morning's interview with Tim Ruskell, provided courtesy of the Seahawks PR staff. On whether he expects Walter Jones and Patrick Kerney to practice: “I do. We’ll do a limited deal with both Walter and Pat initially. We’ll have a program just to ease them into it. We’re very happy [with] where both those guys are at, to answer your question. But we’ll limit them. Even if there was nothing that they’re coming off of, certainly with Walter and where he’s at [we’d limit him]. I expect, in a very short period of time, that Pat will be going through just about everything.”

On Mike Wahle’s status: “Mike hasn’t had as good of an offseason that way, in terms of coming back from his surgery. Physicals start tomorrow. We’ll reassess at that time, just figure out where he’s at.”On whether Matt Hasselbeck is facing any limitations: “No. That’s been absolutely great. He’s in the best shape of his life, he feels great and strong and ready to go full.”On whether he’s okay with the depth at guard: “Sure. We knew, having had to do the surgery and rehab with [Wahle]…that was kind of the thinking on [Max] Unger, that that would be an important guy to bring in at this time. We’ve kind of thought about that as part of the plan.”On whether Unger would potentially play left guard: “That’s correct.”On how close Unger is to being ready for a starting role: “You know, I think in the next week or so, we’ll have a better [idea]. He seemed really good in minicamp from a mental standpoint, being able to handle what they threw at him. Now, that’ll even be intensified, so can he hang in there with that? Every step of the way so far, it’s been good. But this is different. Now you add the physical part of it, and keeping up mentally as well. You won’t be cut any slack in terms of taking it and doing it right and not making mental mistakes. I think we’ll know after about a week or ten days.”

On whether Unger has the potential to start right away: “Yeah. We believed that when we took him. We did.”On whether he’d consider moving Rob Sims to the left side: “We’ve talked about that. Coach Solari, we had talked about maybe putting Rob back at his more natural position, and having those guys fight for the right guard spot. That could happen. But it depends on what we do with Mike Wahle, so I don’t think we can answer that question fully until tomorrow. But we feel like a lot of those guys have the versatility. They’ve kind of already done it, in terms of mixing and matching at all the interior positions—I’m talking about center as well. So we do have some versatility there, and that’s a good thing. I think you’ll see, during camp, you’ll see them at different positions, absolutely. We know that that’s going to happen.”On whether Unger will get some snaps at center: “He will. You might even see Manny Wrotto get some snaps, which he got last year as well. Mike [Solari] is just a big believer in…we know better than anybody what can happen there. They better be prepared for that. And we kind of take those guys with that in mind, unless it’s just obvious that you’ve got one position and that’s all you’re going to do. So we like that versatility.”

On whether anything was done differently during the offseason to safeguard the players from suffering through a similar injury epidemic: “You know, we talked about it. I think you can never not look at that. We brought in the training staff and the strength staff and said, ‘Hey guys, it seems like we had an inordinate amount of [injuries.] What do you guys think? Is there anything that we would do differently?’ And there have been some tweaks, I think mostly just because Jim [Mora] just has a different program. Every coach has a different program that they want to emphasize or deemphasize. So any of the changes that way, I think, are mostly from that. We’re looking for anything. It just seemed to be out of the realm of coincidence in terms of numbers. We looked at it. Nothing definitive came out of it. If a guy has something, we kind of cut back on that body part in terms of his intensity and his weight training, those kinds of things. But [there weren’t] any wholesale changes in the program, no.”

On whether the intensity and number of OTAs and minicamps were designed to make sure that everyone was ready to go on day one of training camp: “Yeah, but we’ll do the same thing next year. That’s Jim. That’s just his program. We had the extra camp because when you get a new head coach, you get an extra camp. That’s just Jim. That’s the way he’ll do things. Everybody does it different.”On whether he’s satisfied with what was accomplished during the offseason: “I am. Two brand new schemes. There was a lot of mental work to be done, and then it had to transfer into reps for what they had learned mentally. They threw a lot at these guys. There were times when it was slow, and they weren’t grasping it, and then they got better. That’s what you want from that. And then the other part of it was, we knew doing it that way, we were going to end camp earlier, so they had a longer period of recovery this year than we’ve had in the past. That was the tradeoff. It started earlier, we did more sessions, and now we had a longer period of recovery. The players were happy with that. I think that will bode well.”On how he feels about the changes that have been made to the roster this offseason: “I feel great about them, and the reason I say that is, we had a plan. Sometimes you have a plan and it doesn’t quite go that way, but we wanted to take a serious look at the defensive line and make sure we were okay in terms of our depth, and getting stronger in the middle, and developing those guys that we had taken—the Lawrence Jacksons of the world—and we feel like we did that. That, coupled with the fact that we’ve got Kerney back in the fold and he looks like he’s ready to go and have a good year, we feel good about it. That was the plan. We made some moves with [Cory] Redding and [Colin] Cole, and so far, so good.

"So we feel good about that. TJ [Houshmandzadeh] just kind of came about, and he fit a hole that we felt like we had, so that was good. Even more so than the bodies and the talent level, we feel like we’ve added leadership with all those guys I just mentioned to you. And maybe that was a bigger hole than we gave it credit for. I’ve always been a big believer in, you have to have a leader in each meeting room, somebody that everybody looks to, to set the pace. I don’t know that we’ve always had that here. I think on our ’05 team, we had more than our share that year, and maybe had a void of that the past couple years. But we feel like that was a hole that we filled very well. I’m as excited about that as the talent those guys bring. So, yeah, I’m happy with how it went, and then you add the draft. All those guys have looked good. There’s a chance that every one of our draft picks could make the team. That doesn’t happen all the time. ‘They are what we thought they were,’ to quote a phrase. So far, so good. We’ll see how camp goes. We brought in some good young players with some talent.”

On how he would define what he wants from Redding: “Yeah, that’s a great question, because I don’t know that that’s been defined. I think that’s a good thing, because he can play our three technique inside, and that’s kind of where he made his [name] when he had the good year that he had a couple years ago in Detroit. We know he can play outside, certainly at the base end position, because of how stout he is and how he gets up the field. He reminds me of [Chuck] Darby in the way that players gravitate toward him, the natural leadership ability. So we get that as well. I just think he’s going to be a great addition for that group no matter where we play him. He’ll play a ton. Even if he doesn’t start, he’ll play a ton because of what he can do versatility-wise.”

On whether he’s having a tough time deciding who should be starting at both WR and DL: “Yeah, and we don’t get hung up on that in terms of contributing. That’s a good problem to have. Cory will play a bunch. He’ll help us.”

On his expectations of Houshmandzadeh: “Certainly I wouldn’t set any numbers. I just want him to come in and help us move the ball and score touchdowns. If he catches 20 and we win, that’s great, you know what I mean? We just think he’s a piece of the puzzle. We know he brings toughness and veteran leadership to the football team in a position where we need that. The chemistry between he and Matt has been great so far. I think that will continue. It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. We want him to come in and help us win, and be a productive teammate, and move the ball down the field and score.”

On what he saw in Mora in Atlanta that made him want to hire him in Seattle, and whether his impressions of Mora being a great coach have been reconfirmed: “Yes. The year that we went to the championship game [in Atlanta], I just noticed how the players gravitated to him. He’s an energy guy, right? Teams take on the personality of their coach, and it became that. And that year, we didn’t really know what we were going to be. We were coming off a poor season. That’s exactly what the team needed. Jim and I, we talk all the time. We’re just aligned philosophically in terms of how to build a team and what’s important. That was important in that decision, in terms of having him become our head coach. All that feels good. Has it been reaffirmed? Yes, it has. We are on the same page. We were on the same page in terms of the holes that we had to fill in terms of the coaching staff, what kind of guys we were looking for, and I thought that went well. That’s been good from player feedback. So what I thought would happen in terms of how this is going to work—that has happened. He would tell you the same thing.”On whether he had consciously been building a larger defensive line: “Not so much for the outside, but inside, yes. Cole, that was a primary reason for bringing him in, just having a guy who’s not going to move from that point. Anything he gives you beyond that, that’s gravy, but you’re not going to run right at that point, so you can base everything on the run game off of that as your pillar. That’s really what he is, and that’s what he did for Green Bay, even in the limited role that they used him. It was important to our new coaching staff that they have that pillar inside, and that’s what he brings. I don’t think we’re going to be disappointed from what he’s shown us so far.”On whether Cole frees up Brandon Mebane to play different roles: “We wanted to free up Brandon to play our three technique position, which really is, in effect, a guy that has to get up the field. He’s not so responsible to just stay there and take on the double team and hold a point at the point of attack, as much as get up the field and disrupt, not necessarily to make sacks or get TFLs, but to disrupt what they’re trying to do with their blocking scheme. He’s so excited about that. If you hand out gold stars for offseasons, you might have to start there with what he’s done this offseason.”

On not being concerned about Mebane’s sack numbers this year: “In 2005, as you guys know, when we got the ten sacks from Rocky [Bernard], that was important. Now, that’s not what we were asking him to do, but that was an offshoot of getting the pressure from the outside. Those guys did such a good job in their games. So it’s a bonus, but if he can disrupt and make the quarterback pull the ball down and have to run outside the pocket, he’s done his job. If he can stop a pulling guard from coming across his area and going to get the linebacker, he’s done his job—things that maybe don’t give you a stat, but they’re effective in disrupting the play. That’s what we’re asking him to do. That fits right into what Brandon is, because he is, despite his size, a get-across-the-line guy. He’s as lean and mean a fighting machine as he’s ever been. We’ll see how that manifests itself.”On drafting Mebane to be a run stopper and less of a get-up-the-field player: “Well, no, that’s not accurate. His numbers weren’t big in college, but as far as the initial quickness…Really, it was his last two games of his senior season. Guys that went in there early to draft Brandon, to look at him in the last year [thought], ‘Okay, looks like a guy.’ But he just kept getting better and better. It was a new position for him and then—I think it was [against] Cal and USC—he just was a sacking machine. Disruptive. If you didn’t go scout late, you didn’t see that. That’s kind of what caught our eye: this guy was more than that, more than just a run stuff guy.”

On whether they’ll keep two kickers on the roster again: “You know, we’re thinking about three this year. [Laughs.] No. It just kind of happened that way. We like Brandon [Coutu]. We think he can kick in the National Football League. [Keeping two kickers] won’t happen again this year. We’ll go with one guy and it’ll be a nice battle to watch. They’ve both done well so far. Part of the reason for holding onto him last year is that we were getting interest from other teams, so we thought maybe, at some point, prior to the trade deadline…It just didn’t happen. And then, with the injuries, we had enough room to keep him and it didn’t hurt us. So we just kept him, and said, ‘Okay, we’ll have this competition go for another year.’ He’s a good kicker. He was 7 for 7 last year in the preseason. Teams noticed. There was a lot of chatter. Nothing really manifested itself in terms of a trade, but we’re still getting calls on the guy. So he’s either going to be our kicker or we’ll make a move, but we’re not going to have two kickers this year. I’m going to go on record and say that.”On whether the new offensive system fits the running backs better than previously: “It seems that way. So far, so good, even down to Justin Forsett. What Greg [Knapp] likes, with the zone blocking scheme, is you don’t want a guy to dance and wait and see. It’s too late by then. This scheme calls you to make your decision, one cut, and then go. That’s where it’s going to be. That’s where the lane’s going to be, and that’s where the offensive linemen are lining up their blocks for. So he’s stressed it with these guys and they’ve kind of taken to it. It’s looked good so far, and not every one of them had experience in doing that. So we’ll see what happens when they’re actually being tackled as opposed to the guy touching him with a hand. But that’s what he wants. He’ll demand that. They know it. It’s in their minds. So far, so good. But I couldn’t really answer that for sure until we see them get into pads and get into some of these games.”

On how many first round draft choices are still unsigned around the league and whether he’s hopeful about having Aaron Curry signed by tomorrow: “We’ve been nonstop talking to those guys for the last two days. We did get our second-rounder done. That happened late yesterday, so Max is on board. It’s just down to Curry now. We’re optimistic. We’ve worked with Mike Sullivan many times on many deals. We go back to Trent’s original deal in Tampa. We know Mike well. We know how he operates. We think it’s not going to be so much how the structure is and the other little things that you put in a contract. It’ll come down to, what’s the main core of the deal? There aren’t a lot of precedents to go by right now. We’ll discount the quarterback deals, and they’ll say, ‘Nope, there it is.’ Therein lies the rub of where the deal will get done. But we’re optimistic. It’s been good talks so far. We absolutely want him in by tomorrow to get going. We don’t want to miss a day. Here’s a guy that we’re projecting to start, and that would hurt him. So, we’re optimistic. We’re going to go nonstop. We’re going to try to get it done, even without these other deals in. It is kind of a unique year that way.”

On whether the NFL will ever be like the NBA, where players are ranked and slotted: “That’s what everybody’s talking about. We’re in the midst of a negotiation. I’m sure that’s going to hit the table. I would be for that. You know how the veteran players feel about that. I’m optimistic that some form of that will happen, because it seems to work. It just seems a little out of whack right now.”

On why this year is unique with negotiations: “Well, there’s different rules for the uncapped year, for next year. There’s just different rules that have been put into place to try to stop this from happening when they were originally put in. And so it’s just made it very difficult, when you talk about the ‘30% rule,’ where you can’t increase your salaries more than 30% year to year, so you can’t stuff a lot of money on the back end…those kind of rules have just made it very difficult for us—those teams in the top ten. It’s just very restrictive. It just has made it that much harder. There’s just a feeling of panic, and then there’s the quarterback deals. So, a lot of factors are adding to these not getting done.”

On whether it will be a domino effect with first-rounders’ signings: “Yes, you’ll start to see that. When a guy has a ceiling that’s a few picks ahead of him, and there’s a guy below him, then at least you have your range. And if you have your range, then you can negotiate off of that.”

On whether Curry can catch up if he ends up missing a few days of training camp because he did so much during minicamps: “Yeah. We’d hate for him to miss days, but yes, at least we have that. He has the base in. It’s just that we’re asking so much of the guy, right? We’re going to want him to do a rush package, he’s going to be asked to be in there for coverage. We’re asking a lot of this guy. So we really don’t want him to miss anything if we can help it. We’ll just deal with it, whatever it is. We’re not going to panic, and we’re not going to do a lesser deal because of that. We’ll try to keep the coaches away from our door because we know what they’re going to tell us, but we just have to do what’s right by the team.”

On whether the trend in the NFL of having one big and one smaller running back is an effective approach: “It is effective. I think it is the way to go. Those guys take such a pounding. No one gets hit more than the running backs. It just makes sense. The Giants basically rotated three guys. Those guys were all healthy by the end of the season last year, so I think there’s something to that. Now, if you have just some fantastic franchise superstar, you’re going to have to run that guy the bulk of the time. We’ve seen that as well. What we have is running back by committee. I believe what the coaches are saying is that Julius [Jones] will get the bulk of the carries, but those other guys have their roles as well. We’ve been kind of surprised in a good way at how well Justin has done in the scheme. So if that continues through this part of training camp, we even have another piece of the puzzle. But we’re comfortable with what we have. We like the scheme. Greg’s been very good with whoever his personnel has been, in terms of running the football. He just kind of knows how to do that, and Mike Solari’s on board with that. We’re excited to see how that all comes to pass.”

On whether he’s comfortable with the depth at running back: “I am comfortable with the depth. What makes me comfortable with the depth is what we’ve seen from Justin. He’s done a nice job. And even Devin Moore, he’s such a fast kid even though he’s not big. He’s taken to the one-step-and-go concept as well.”

On what he would tell fans to watch for at practice: “I’d tell him what you would probably tell him: Yeah, it’s fun to watch the 11-on-11 passing game, running game or team, but the individual drills where you have the one-on-one with the receivers or the pass rush one-on-one…Those are pretty exciting. And that’s where the battles are won and lost in terms of playing time in the preseason. You’ve got to show something there. It’s really a gut check. You got to play with heart, and it’s tough, and it’s hot, and it’s all those things. Those are the battles that maybe fans don’t usually concentrate on. And the vantage point they’re going to have with being up on the berm and being close to the field, I would recommend that they take a look at that.”

On whether the players will have a little more adrenaline playing in front of the fans: “This is the first place that I’ve been to a camp where we didn’t have fans, if we remember back to Kirkland. And even in Cheney, they were pretty far away. It didn’t seem [to have] that intimate feel. We did have that in Atlanta…It does [get the adrenaline pumping]. It gets everybody juiced up. You don’t want to look foolish, right? You don’t want to drop the ball, you don’t want to fall down when you’re trying to make a tackle. So I think it just heightens the intensity and makes it fun. So we’re looking forward to it. We think it’s going to be a great thing. Part of the reason we built this building and came back to Seattle was a chance to get our fans to be able to watch training camp prior to the season, get the excitement going. We’re living that now.”On whether there are any true position battles on defense: “Linebacker should go the way we think, and we like our depth there with what DD [Lewis] gives us in terms of being able to play all the positions. I think you’re going to see the real battles on the defensive line. All those guys are going to make it and contribute, but who’s going to be the front the line, and who’s going to be back, and who’s going to rotate in? I think we’re going to see some battles at safety. The way [Jordan] Babineaux played in the minicamp with [Brian] Russell and Deon Grant, it’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out and how that works out. Josh Wilson, you guys know what a competitor Josh Wilson is. He’s not going to accept that he’s not the starter, and really when you play our nickel, you are the starter, but you can’t tell Josh that. That’ll be a great battle. Linebacker, if everybody stays healthy, [knocks on the table,] that should fall the way we’re talking, but the battles in the line and the secondary I think will be pretty good.”

On whether Babineaux will battle both safeties for a starting spot: “He and B. Russell are fighting for time. That’s the way it was in the minicamp. We like the way Courtney Greene looked. He’s a real physical guy. We want to get more physical across the board, especially in the secondary. So I think we’re going to see some good battles develop quickly.”

On whether the change in scheme has helped Babineaux: “I think it changes more with the corners than the safeties. The great thing about Babs is, he is a bit of a ‘tweener,’ so he already has the corner experience. We know he can do that. He can be physical and play some man-to-man stuff on their slot receiver. He’s proven that he can do that. And then, at safety, he’s such an aware guy. He has great range and good ball skills. We’re finally telling him, ‘You got one position, go get it,’ rather than playing him all over the place. That’s probably been a detriment for him. It’ll be interesting to see how…there’s a maturity that’s happened with Jordan. That’s good to see. I think it’s manifested itself with his play on the field.”

On position battles on offense: “Offensive line is going to be good. We’ll see how Max develops. If I was handing out stars to Brandon, I would also hand out stars for Rob Sims and [Chris] Spencer, the way their offseasons have gone and how bad they want it. So I’d like to see those guys solidify themselves and have the years we think they can have. There’ll be good battles along the offensive line. I think, for the fourth and fifth receiver spots, with the way Deon Butler looked, and the way Logan Payne and Mike Hass and Courtney Taylor and Ben [Obomanu] gravitated to the system, those are going to be some great battles there as well, and something you’ll want to focus on.”

On whether they’d keep Deon Grant at strong safety and allow Babineaux to battle for the free safety position: “You know, the way we play it, they’re kind of interchangeable. They’ll be listed that way, but it really is [based on] what side of the field [they’re on.]”