For some time, Seattle Seahawks fans had reason to wonder if their team was falling behind while NFC West rivals held player-organized practices.
Whether or not players can benefit from a football standpoint, the camaraderie would have to help. At the very least, the failure to draw meaningful numbers of players to workouts would leave a negative impression.
Those perceptions changed last week when about 40 players gathered for practices at the University of Washington.
It was no surprise to learn that Matt Hasselbeck played a role in running the practices. He's the quarterback, after all, and he's been with the organization longer than any other current player. He also has experience in the offense Seattle will install for the 2011 season.
The fact that running back Justin Forsett took the lead in organizing the practices? Consider it affirmation of Forsett's status as a team-oriented player whose reach goes beyond the seven starts he has made since joining the team as the 233rd player chosen in the 2008 NFL draft.
I caught up with Forsett recently and spoke with him about the lockout, why he felt practices were important, the direction of the offense and more.
What has the lockout been like for you?
Justin Forsett: It’s been tough. I've just been working out. Kind of like the same thing over and over again every day. You can’t go over plays, so you are just working out. It's like every day is "Groundhog Day." I've been going to different locations. I went back to [Berkeley,] California and worked out there last month. I've been in San Diego to get a little better weather. And then back up here.
Organizing these practices seems like a credit to you. What have you done?
Justin Forsett: It started a couple weeks ago. I just had a feeling that we need to get the guys together and get some chemistry so it would be an easier transition to whenever we go back to football. I called Matt first to see what he thought. He was for it. I knew if I had him on board, a lot of guys would want to work out. He is the only one who really knows the playbook, having been under (new coordinator) Darrell Bevell before. We get a chance to listen to some of the terminology and get a jump start on that. After that, I sent out some emails. I got in touch with agents for rookies. I went through Twitter and Facebook. The response was really good. Guys flew in from all over.
Why was it important to you?
Justin Forsett: It’s been such a long time since we've been together. I've been doing the same thing over and over. I really wanted to get back to the team and be around the guys and get a jump start, build some chemistry. Get a chance to be with Matt. I was working with Matt up here before I went out of state. Getting the guys together again was important.
What do you know about this offense?
Justin Forsett: It is still West Coast, just with different terminology on certain things. Calling formations different. It's basically the same, with little tweaks here and there. There are ways we can tie things together. It is very similar to [Mike] Holmgren’s terminology.
Did you get to meet with coaches during the brief window when the lockout was lifted?
Justin Forsett: I was not in town. The only thing I got was I got to talk to my running backs coach. He was just seeing where I was at. I was getting ready to come back up and try to get in and get a playbook, but it was so fast, I didn’t get a chance to come back and take notes.
The draft made it clear this team is going to emphasize the ground game.
Justin Forsett: I think we definitely want to establish ourselves in the run game because it is definitely needed. We had a lot of different transactions and injuries last year. We want to be better and establish ourselves as a premier running team. We need balance.
The labor situation has gotten personal at times. How is it with you?
Justin Forsett: I’ve definitely been hearing some things, but right now, it’s up in the courts and a business thing right now. I'm trying to not take it too personal with the stuff that has been said. My job is to go out and make sure I’m ready for when we do get back.