RENTON, Wash. – Free agents had to wait out a nearly five-month lockout before they could find their new homes. Then after negotiating and signing contracts last week, those free agents had to wait a little longer to start practicing with their new teams.
So on Thursday, fittingly, they waited a little longer.
Seattle players such as quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, receiver Sidney Rice, guard Robert Gallery, and defensive tackle Alan Branch, all of whom signed last week, and tight end Zach Miller, who signed earlier this week, were not allowed to practice until the league’s new collective bargaining agreement was ratified, which was expected to happen Thursday. But when the Seahawks took the field at about 1:30 p.m., they had not yet received word that the deal was finalized, meaning the new players could participate. So the Seahawks waited.
Then they waited some more.
“We thought we were being pranked for a minute with everybody just standing out there with their pads on,” Rice said.
While they waited, players went over to greet fans seated on the hill next to the practice field, something they’d normally do after a practice. Others stood around or tossed a ball back and forth. For some reason, receiver Mike Williams worked on his long snapping.
Then, at 2:06 p.m. Pete Carroll was able to gather his team and start its first practice with a handful of new faces, not to mention free agents such as Brandon Mebane and Kelly Jennings who had re-signed with Seattle but also had to wait.
“They said, ‘Just put your pads on and come on the field,’ Jackson said. “And I came on the field and just kind of forgot that I was supposed to be on the sideline. But they kind of pulled me off to the side and told me we had to wait for the phone call. Then a guy from the Seahawks got the phone call and they were like, ‘No, we still can’t go, we got to get the phone call ourselves.’ So we waited about 40 minutes probably, 45 minutes. And they finally got it done and we were ready to get out here so we could get things done.”
And after a lengthy lockout, plus an extra week of waiting, a delay wasn’t so bad, the new players said.
“It wasn’t that odd considering what’s happened the last six months,” Miller said. “It wasn’t that surprising to have to wait a few more minutes to go.”
Jackson, whom Carroll has already named the starting quarterback, admitted he was a bit rusty in his first practice with the Seahawks, but he also showed off an impressive arm and ability to throw on the run, two of the traits that the Seahawks like in the former Minnesota quarterback. Jackson looked particularly comfortable throwing to Rice, his teammate for four seasons with the Vikings.
“I’m kind of familiar with him,” Jackson said. “But the thing about me is I’m just trying to get to know the rest of the guys and try to get more comfortable with them so they can get more comfortable with me so we can be on the same page and we can get this offense clicking and work.”
The biggest problem Jackson had in his first practice was taking snaps from a new center. Jackson fumbled a few snaps, including one sequence when he fumbled a snap, then a handoff exchange, then another snap on three straight plays. He was also intercepted once, throwing a pass that was intended for tight end John Carlson, but instead hit off of linebacker Aaron Curry before being hauled in by safety Kam Chancellor.
“I felt a little rusty,” Jackson said. “I had some throws that I missed… But overall, it wasn’t a bad day, but we had a couple miscues on offense as far as the snap count and guys getting off and stuff like that. We’re going to get that done, it’s just the first day, first time we’ve been out there together.”
A little rust aside, Jackson was happy to begin the next chapter in his NFL career, one that features him as a starter, not the guy stuck behind Brett Favre.
“It feels good,” he said. “It feels good to be out here today. I’m wanted here. It was a different situation in Minnesota. I learned a lot there. That situation made me a better person as well as a better player and I’m going to take that experience and just try to learn from it, just take it and run with it.”
Six likely starters practiced for the first time, and with the first preseason game happening in only a week, those free agents will have a lot of catching up to do before the team heads to San Diego next week.
Lineman Brock agrees
The Seahawks agreed to terms on a one-year deal with defensive end Raheem Brock, who last year finished second on the team in sacks.
Brock, 33, recorded a career-high nine sacks in his first year with the Seahawks. He added two more sacks in the playoffs, as well as a pair of forced fumbles. In Seattle’s final regular-season game, Brock had 2.5 sacks and was arguably the team’s best defensive player.