It was feel-good day at Seahawks training camp -- for Pete Carroll, for Marshawn Lynch, for Justin Britt and Stephen Schilling.
Just about everyone by A.J. Jefferson.
Carroll said following the approximately hour and 45-minute practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center that Lynch is in as good a shape as he's seen the star running back, and that "he's getting a lot closer" to appearing in a game. Lynch, listed at 5 feet 11 and 215 pounds (Carroll refused to say what he really weighs), is in his second full week of practice after holding out for the start of training camp over his contract.
This morning Lynch got his most work yet this month with the first team, getting numerous carries and catches passes from Russell Wilson in the flat. At the end of one run up the middle in the helmets, shoulder-pads and shorts practice Lynch gracefully spun away from some defenders. That caused the packed hillside of a couple thousands fans to roar amid many screams of "Marshawn!!!"
"This is the first week he's going to get a chance to really compete," Carroll said.
It's been a productive four days for Lynch. Last Wednesday Carroll said Lynch, who was among many Seahawks that did not make last week's trip to Denver, had a long way to go to get back to playing shape.
When I asked the coach today how many exhibition games he optimally wants to see Lynch play, Carroll said Lynch obviously doesn't need to carry the ball much, but he does need to play in come practice games. As to when that will happen for the first time this preseason -- say, Friday at home against San Diego -- Carroll said he will make that determination later this week.
This video is Carroll's recap of the game at Denver, and what is behind the move of Stephen Schilling from guard to first-team center this week with Max Unger limited until at least Tuesday by a groin injury:
--Jefferson, who had an interception and knocked down two passes in a span of six play during the second half of Thursday's exhibition opener at Denver, is in a walking boot over his lower left leg. Carroll said the former Minnesota Viking and Cleveland Brown has a "substantial" ankle sprain. So his momentum from the impressive Seattle debut has ended.
--Unger, who missed the game at Denver, did some snapping individual position drills. Then the starter watched Schilling -- a guard until now for the Seahawks -- take the snaps as the first-team center in team scrimmaging. Carroll says Unger's groin injury is improving and that he expects him to practice more fully on Tuesday.
Schilling, the former Charger and Michigan Wolverine, told me he was the center from week three through the end of last season on the Chargers' practice squad, after San Diego re-signed him. Line coach Tom Cable and Carroll both said they see Schilling as a viable option to backup Unger at center. If Schilling can prove that, the native of Bellevue High School in the Seattle suburbs has a great chance to make the roster. Versatility is the key for backups, especially linemen, to stick.
With Schilling at center, Cable said Lemuel Jeanpierre will move to guard this week. Jeanpierre played the first half at Denver in Unger's absence.
--Cable and Carroll both praised rookie second-round pick Justin Britt for a job well done in Denver against pass-rush menace DeMarcus Ware and others. Britt said he was "overly aroused" for the first drive against the Broncos in his first NFL game but was far more focused and controlled in the second drive that came after a 45-minute lightning delay. It showed; Britt and the makeshift line protected Wilson much better, and Seattle got its only touchdown of the night.
--Russell Okung (foot) and James Carpenter (hamstring) returned to the starting left side of the line for practice again, as they did last week before not playing in Denver. It looks like both will play Friday against the Chargers.
--WR Kevin Norwood is going to be out a while, Carroll said. The rookie fourth-round pick was in a walking boot watching practice. Last Tuesday he had surgery to remove bone spurs in his left foot.
--Carroll was asked about what was thought to be a three-man competition for the third tight-end job. The coach responded with only one name, praising Cooper Helfet for doing "a fantastic job." The third-year free agent from Duke made a sparkling, one-handed catch with his extended left paw on a pass downfield by Wilson during a red-zone drill against the starting defense.
--Carroll also had high praise for LB Mike Morgan, saying the fourth-year veteran from USC looks as good as the former Trojans coach has seen him. Carroll gives Morgan high marks for being able to play all three linebacker positions and for his work on special teams. Again, that's the way to make this team as a backup -- versatility in multiple positions and grunt work on special teams.
--Carroll says LB Malcolm Smith, Super Bowl MVP, is close to coming back from offseason ankle surgery but that fellow starting Bobby Wagner (hamstring) is still a ways away. Carroll said he doesn't believe Wagner, the starting inside linebacker, is in jeopardy to miss the Sept. 4 opener against Green Bay, though. Undrafted rookie Brock Coyle continues to get kudos from Carroll for replacing Wagner as the starter in the middle.