RENTON — For one day, Pete Carroll wasn’t hopping around with the vigor and excitement that was so apparent a season ago.
Apparently even the Seattle Seahawks head coach needed to ease his way into training camp on Thursday after a whirlwind start to free agency that saw the Seahawks land quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, offensive lineman Robert Gallery and wide receiver Sidney Rice, and bid adieu to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck after a decade in Seattle.
The Seahawks opened camp on Thursday with a pair of walkthrough practices. But along with Carroll’s reserved demeanor, two other voices were noticeably absent: those of Hasselbeck and safety Lawyer Milloy.
Hasselbeck is now in Tennessee after agreeing to a deal with the Titans, while Milloy is a free agent who has yet to sign with a team. All the drama during the first few days following the end of the NFL lockout has left Seattle’s players struggling to keep up with the action.
“It’s amazing how fast this happened for sure. I was expecting anything to happen at this position. Obviously Matt’s not here anymore, but now we’re out here on the practice field and throwing the ball around,” Seattle QB Charlie Whitehurst said. “I didn’t really know what to expect, was open to anything.”
With Hasselbeck now gone, most of the focus on Day 1 turned to Whitehurst, who for at least another week is the only quarterback in camp with any NFL experience as a starter — all of two games. The Seahawks have agreed to terms with Jackson, but he can’t sign his deal with Seattle until Friday afternoon and can’t participate in any practices until Aug. 4 — just a week before Seattle’s first preseason game at San Diego.
Jackson eventually may have the upper hand on Whitehurst in understanding Seattle’s offense and largely due to the lockout. New Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell was previously in Minnesota, where he worked with Jackson, and while Whitehurst was working out on his own in Atlanta during the offseason, he wasn’t able to learn much of Bevell’s passing system.
“It’s definitely new. We’re just starting in the playbook now, but I like some of the things we do. We’re going to try and run the football here, no doubt about it. We will be able to do that,” Whitehurst said. “The play actions, the drop-back’s, all that stuff. I think we’re going to throw it short, throw it long, and do a bunch of stuff. I’m confident I can do anything he asks me to do.”
Those catching passes from Whitehurst were already noticing a sharper focus.
“I’ve always said what I thought about Charlie and what he can be for our team. I understand they brought Tarvaris (Jackson) in and he has a relationship with the coordinator, but I still think Charlie has a fair shot,” receiver Mike Williams said. “You can tell that he’s put the work in with his footwork. Some throws, at this time last year he would have thrown for interceptions, but he’s throwing the ball out of bounds instead now. You can just see that he’s tuned in, that’s he’s a little more focused.”
It was hard to miss Carroll’s enthusiasm during his first training camp with the Seahawks last summer. And while the music still pumped through the speakers on Thursday, Carroll seemed to take a step back for at least the first practices.
Seattle will need to find a veteran voice with Hasselbeck now headed for Tennessee to mentor Jake Locker and Milloy still deciding on his future. No one on Seattle’s first camp roster Thursday had more than cornerback Marcus Trufant and defensive tackle Colin Cole’s nine years of experience.
“Ever since I’ve been here I’ve been seeing that No. 8 in the locker room. It’s going to be different but, like I said, it’s a part of the game and you have to be able to roll with it, you have to be able to move on,” the 30-year-old Trufant said. “Of course you love him, but at the same time you have to keep making it happen.”
Seattle also moved forward with getting its draft class in order, with seven of the nine picks signed and on the field Thursday, including fourth-round receiver Kris Durham and fifth-round defensive back Mark LeGree.
But the Seahawks’ two most important picks from the April draft remained unsigned as neither third-round pick John Moffitt or first-round pick James Carpenter have joined camp. The pair are the projected starters on the right side of the offensive line — Carpenter at tackle and Moffitt at guard — with Max Unger at center, Gallery at left guard and last year’s first-round pick, Russell Okung, at left tackle.
“I think everybody has been waiting awhile to get back out here,” Williams said. “You know with the lockout and this small window of free agency there’s going to be a lot of changes and a lot of overnight changes. We’ll just move forward.”