Thomas Rawls and Paul Richardson were two of the most noteworthy items I saw in the fifth practice of Seahawks organized team activities on Wednesday here in Renton.
Rawls is nowhere near returning to fully practicing. But he is far removed from the broken ankle and torn ligaments he got in the win at Baltimore in early December. Coach Pete Carroll said last week the team wasn’t sure the new lead running back now that Marshawn Lynch has retired will be ready for training camp that begins at the end of July. But the team “is kind of counting on” Rawls to start the season when Seattle hosts Miami in the opener on Sept. 11.
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Richardson has made one catch in the last 17 months, since he had reconstructive knee surgery then a season-ending hamstring injury from the only game he played last season. That was in late November. He’s been zipping around the field in the two practices the media’s been permitted to watch in these two of three OTA weeks. Richardson moved inside on a scramble adjustment and Russell Wilson threw across his body from the left to the middle of the end zone for a touchdown in a red-zone drill Wednesday.
▪ With Rawls still out for a while and rookie third-round draft choice C.J. Prosise out for the second week because of a hip-flexor injury, rookie fifth-round pick Alex Collins got first-team snaps at running back with Christine Michael. Collins, a 1,000-yard rusher in three consecutive seasons at Arkansas, continued to show fast early learning. He picked up a blitz and allowed former Skyline High School star Jake Heaps to throw a touchdown pass to ex-UW Husky Kevin Smith in the same red-zone drill Wednesday. Wilson ran to celebrate the play with Smith, who spun the ball in the turf and then tapped his wrist -- a reminder of the wide receiver’s celebrations last season.
▪ The starting offensive line was the same it was last week to begin OTAs: Justin Britt was the first-team center with 2015 starter Patrick Lewis the clear No. 2 so far (Kristjan Sokoli got some time at center Tuesday, offensive line coach Tom Cable said). Germain Ifedi remained the starting right guard. The left guard was rookie Rees Odhiambo. Bradley Sowell was at left tackle and Terry Poole was the right tackle.
J’Marcus Webb, the presumed right tackle Seattle signed from Oakland in March, did some individual step drills but otherwise watched. Cable said Webb had a “pretty severe calf strain” and may get on the field next week for the final three OTAs, if then.
Garry Gilliam watched practice one week after surgery to remove a cyst in his knee. He was wearing a black sleeve over most of his left leg.
Britt and Cable talked at length after practice about the former starting right tackle and left guard’s switch to center. Cable said the thinking behind the move, which came immediately after the draft at the start of last month, was about getting the five best guys on the field. When I asked the line coach if Britt was getting first-team reps now because the Seahawks know what they have in Lewis, Cable said “you know that’s not how we do things,” meaning based on prior performance. Every season is a new season, Cable said, and Lewis will be competing with Britt, rookie draft pick Joey Hunt and Sokoli for the job.
He also said they aren’t proving much yet, because this isn’t real football in jerseys and shorts, not even in helmets.
Cable lauded Britt for his intelligence in knowing the offense and for his skill in communicating calls to his fellow linemen.
Britt says he “loves” the move, and that he knows the offense “inside and out.” He’ll do whatever, he said, to be one of the five linemen who start on Sundays. Britt said he has been talking extensively to former Seahawks center Lemuel Jeanpierre about playing the position. He and Jeanpierre have been good friends since he helped Britt learn the offense in two weeks when Britt was a rookie on his way to starting in the Super Bowl in the 2014 season.
“The more you can do,” Britt said.
That is an apt summary for not only Britt’s job security, but that of every player not already a superstar in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL.
▪ Veteran starting linebacker K.J. Wright angrily stomped across the line of scrimmage after Ifedi following one scrimmage play, before teammates intervened. Things calmed down without much happening beyond fronting. Carroll went over to Wright on the sideline to talk to him for a minute after it.
Cable dismissed it as the first brotherly quarrel not worthy of any more discussion.
▪ Cable is impressed with how quickly Ifedi is grasping Seattle’s playbook. The 31st-overall pick last month from Texas A&M led the installation teaching to the rest of the linemen last week. Cable said that’s the first time a rookie has done that in the first week of OTAs in his six years with the Seahawks.
Here is more of Cable:
▪ Richard Sherman talked after practice, and mentioned how things seem back “to normal” on the Seahawks’ defense this spring. He and Earl Thomas aren’t coming off major injuries as they were last offseason, and Brandon Browner is back for the first time since leaving after the 2013 season.
Sherman also talked about being the father to two kids now.
▪ Thomas, ever the competitor, came off the sidelines to disrupt a pass route by Madden in the open field. Carroll jogged down the sidelines to throw his own flag for that trick.
Yes, it was June 1, with no pads or helmets.
▪ Just when folks starting saying how deep the Seahawks’ secondary now is, Tharold Simon was in a bucket hat watching the practice instead of participating in it. The cornerback has had his first two NFL seasons with Seattle end with injury. Carroll wasn’t available to the media after practice to comment on why Simon was sitting out. Carroll isn’t scheduled to speak again until the final OTA session open to the media, June 9.
▪ Undrafted rookie Tre Madden from USC also got some first-team snaps and running back.
▪ Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett was still away in his quiet protest of his contract he vows again will not include training camp or the season. Fellow veteran defensive end Chris Clemons also remained absent from the voluntary OTAs.