Thursday marked the first Seattle Seahawks OTA session open to the media. Below is a running account of what stood out during practice:
11:39 a.m.: The first player who catches my eye is tight end Jimmy Graham. He's jogging lightly and catching passes from the quarterbacks during the warm-up period. Pete Carroll said the Seahawks are "counting on" Graham to be ready for Week 1.
Meanwhile, on one of the other fields, Bobby Wagner and Kam Chancellor stand side by side and take turns catching balls from defensive coordinator Kris Richard. As "Ante Up" blares from the speakers, Wagner shows the ability to multitask, cracking up Richard with his dance moves in between receptions. No one will ever accuse this team of being too tight.
11:50: There are several players not in attendance. Michael Bennett is one of them. Carroll said that Bennett has been sending him videos of himself working out away from the team. I wonder if Bennett includes his sack dance at the end of each clip? I know I would if I were him.
Left tackle Garry Gilliam had a cyst removed from his knee and will be sidelined for a couple of weeks. K.J. Wright recently became a father. Running back C.J. Prosise is dealing with a hip flexor. Right tackle J'Marcus Webb is dealing with a calf issue. Cornerback DeShawn Shead worked by himself off to the side with an undisclosed issue.
And Chris Clemons opted not to attend.
"This is voluntary. He really knows the definition of that too," Carroll said with a laugh afterwards.
12:05 p.m.: The quarterbacks and offensive linemen go through a fumble drill that's run by offensive line coach Tom Cable. When the ball's on the ground, one player is instructed to dive on it without rolling over. The second player is supposed to immediately cover up the player with the ball and protect him. This is a reminder that football coaches believe in practicing every scenario.
The guess here is that part of the next offensive line meeting will focus on taking it easy on the quarterback during the fumble drill.
12:20: The first-team offensive line from left to right is: Bradley Sowell, Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt, Ifedi and Terry Poole. Britt has officially made the move to center. Sowell and Poole are filling in for Gilliam and Webb.
Ja Rule's "Livin' it up" gets a turn in the song rotation. I'm all for a good throwback, but it might be time to retire that one from the playlist.
With Rawls sidelined, Christine Michael gets the reps at running back with the first team.
12:32: A shotgun snap from Britt flies over Wilson's head. It should go without saying that he's learning a new position, and growing pains are to be expected.
With Bennett not in attendance, rookie Quinton Jefferson seems to be taking all of his snaps, playing defensive end in base with the starters and swinging inside when they move to sub packages. Frank Clark is taking Bruce Irvin's snaps at right defensive end in passing situations.
The Seahawks seem convinced that Brandon Browner can really help them. He's switched from cornerback to safety now and found himself in a number of different spots during practice -- covering tight ends often, blitzing and playing in the back end. Much of Browner's work came as a third safety with the starters in the team's sub packages. In these looks, the Seahawks went with four defensive linemen, one linebacker (Wagner) and six defensive backs. The dime look wasn't part of their arsenal last year, but it might be in 2016.
1:14: Second-year cornerback Tye Smith is one of the players Carroll singled out as having had an impressive offseason. During an 11-on-11 rep, he runs step for step with Tyler Lockett downfield and forces an incompletion. Richard Sherman, who is entering his sixth season in the NFL, appears to have more energy than anyone else on the field. He heads over to the offense's sideline and playfully mocks Lockett.
Graham, who is roughly nine inches taller than Lockett, serves as the wide receiver's muscle and (with a big smile on his face) steps in front of the wide receiver to shield him from Sherman.
Just at that moment, Sherman turns around, notices a near-interception by Simon and sprints back onto the field to celebrate.
Minutes later, he's behind the line of scrimmage chatting with GM John Schneider. Imaginary conversation:
Sherman: "Priority 1 has to be getting Doug Baldwin that extension!"
Schneider: "Thanks for your input, Sherm."
Sherman: "But don't forget about Michael Bennett! That dude balled out last year! Ten sacks! Nineteen TFLs!"
Schneider: "I got it, Sherm."
Sherman: "And don't forget about me! Three straight Pro Bowls, and I haven't missed a game in my entire career!"
Schneider: [Walks away and finds a different place to watch practice].
1:25: That's a wrap. The Seahawks' next OTA session is scheduled for Tuesday.