Though it was only a minicamp practice in June, Wednesday’s showed why the Seahawks are still so interested in Tharold Simon.
The fourth-year cornerback practiced with the first-team defense opposite Richard Sherman. During a passing scrimmage in helmets and no pads, Simon sprinted to the ball near the sideline, making up 5 yards or so while the ball was in the air. He arrived in time to knock it from wide receiver Antwan Goodley.
That’s what Seattle has been looking for from the long (6-foot-3), lanky Simon since the team drafted him in the fifth round in 2013 out of LSU.
What happened next in Wednesday’s scrimmage is part of why Simon has yet to seize a starting role in three years.
He wasn’t content with merely making that sterling play against Goodley. Simon then woofed long and hard at the second-year receiver.
Now Sherman isn’t exactly shy about trash talking on the field. But he had seen this kind of unnecessary from Simon before. Such as the time in St. Louis during the 2014 season, when Simon got two 15-yard penalties on one drive.
Seattle’s three-time All-Pro cornerback was the first to jump in to break up Simon’s face-off with Goodley. Sherman sternly mentored Simon, nixing any more of the woofin’.
The previous weeks exemplified the other part of why the Seahawks are still waiting for Simon to emerge and consistently display his obvious physical skills.
Simon was wearing a bucket hat on the sidelines watching at least two of the previous six practices during organized training activities (OTAs) that ended last week, at least the last two of three OTA practices the media was allowed to cover.
Two foot injuries and eventual surgery ruined his 2013 rookie season, which Simon spent on injured reserve. Then, he started five games and played in 10 in 2014, plus two playoff games and Super Bowl 49.
He allowed two touchdown passes by New England’s Tom Brady in that February 2015 championship game. That was after Jeremy Lane broke his arm and tore knee ligaments while making an interception in the first quarter, forcing Simon in at cornerback.
Despite the Patriots’ decisive targeting of him in the sport’s biggest game, Simon was confident heading into last season. Then he dislocated his toe two days before the 2015 opener. He played in the second game at Green Bay last September, but the toe kept dislocating on the foot opposite the one that gave him trouble in a similar way in 2013. By early October, Simon was back on Seattle’s injured-reserve list for the second time in three NFL years.
Now, 2015 free-agent signee Cary Williams is failed and long gone. The healthy-again Lane is an option to move moving from cornerback inside to nickel back on obvious passing downs this fall. And Simon is getting yet another chance to seize a starting job.
As his play on Wednesday plus Sherman setting him straight showed, the Seahawks are keenly interested in Simon succeeding this time.
This is what else I saw Wednesday in the second of three practices in this only mandatory minicamp of the offseason, the last on-field work as a team before training camp begins at the end of July:
▪ Michael Bennett was joking and having a good time hanging out with fellow defensive linemen while wearing a knit beanie and gold Nikes. The Pro Bowl defensive end is in this mandatory minicamp after skipping all voluntary team work this offseason, but he’s watching drills this week to rest a nagging ankle pain.
▪ My News Tribune colleague Dave Boling was with me as usual at practice, then talked to Bennett’s fellow defensive end Cliff Avril. Boling wrote this on Avril, whom he calls an overlooked star and “All-Pro humaniatrian” for his work in impoverished Haiti this offseason.
▪ Brandon Browner broke up a pass on the sideline in a physical play with wide receiver Kasen Williams. The entire, original “Legion of Boom” secondary from 2013 then celebrated Browner’s play by jumping up and down on each other -- Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Browner in an impromptu mosh pit.
▪ WR Paul Richardson did not practice a day after coach Pete Carroll said something got “tight” in Richardson’s leg. He played in just one game last season after a long recovery from knee reconstruction, then a hamstring injury upon his return for one game in November.
▪ TE Jimmy Graham (patellar-tendon knee surgery from November injury) and RB Thomas Rawls (broken ankle, torn ligaments in December) continue to be in uniform without helmets watching and doing little more than stretching during offseason practices.
▪ C.J. Prosise is back from a hip flexor that kept him out of OTAs. And the rookie third-round pick from Notre Dame is already showing why the Seahawks selected him to be Fred Jackson’s replacement as the third-down running back. Prosise made multiple nice catches Wednesday, including a one-handed one he pulled into his body in full stride on a pass down the middle. He was a wide receiver at Notre Dame until last year, when injuries for the Irish at running back made him change positions.
▪ Rookie tight end Nick Vannett is getting time with the first-team offense in the running and passing games with Luke Willson while Graham remains out likely until near or past the opening game Sept. 11 versus Miami.
▪ Trovon Reed, a 6-foot, 191-pound cornerback in his second year out of Auburn whom Seattle signed as a free agent last year, is getting noticed -- and not just because he’s wearing nuclear-green gloves with matching spikes. He’s making aggressive plays on the ball in the air while on the second-team defense, drawing Thomas, Sherman and other veterans off the sidelines to congratulate him between snaps.
▪ Coordinator Darrell Bevell agrees with the rest of us that potentially having an entirely new offensive line -- five guys all in spots they’ve never played for in Seattle -- is the biggest factor in the offense for 2016.
“That’s a huge factor...It all starts with the protection,” Bevell said.
He said Justin Britt, the former starting right tackle and left guard, is doing well at center -- particularly with the basic-yet-all-important task of snapping the ball back to quarterback Russell Wilson. Bevell says Britt is smart and getting better at making the pre-snap line calls.
Britt was the No. 1 center again Wednesday. Patrick Lewis, the starter over the last half of last season plus two playoff games, was again on the second team.
▪ The only offensive lineman to wear his practice jersey with the sleeves pulled up to his shoulders is the smallest one, rookie center Joey Hunt (listed at 6-2 and 299 pounds). Hunt alternated some with Lewis on the second-team offense.
▪ Mary Lou Mulflur, coach of the national-champion University of Washington women’s golf team, watched practice with UW women’s soccer coaches Lesle Gallimore and Amy Griffin. They, plus UW women’s golf performance coach David Elaimy, were guests of Carroll’s Wednesday.
Mulflur’s Huskies winning their first national title last month reminded me of one of my favorite stories from my time as UW’s director of writing: Mulflur’s golfers visiting surgeons at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle to refine their mental game. I wrote it three years ago, and it became the basis for the mental toughness Mulflur and Elaimy told me Wednesday was the reason for the Huskies winning it all last month.