Probably before the notary even had time to stamp his contract, Dennis Erickson began placing his imprint on the Seattle Seahawks. He called Cortez Kennedy and asked him to relay an important message to his teammates.
Get ready to work, he said.
Setting the example with endless workdays since his mid-January hiring, Erickson has established a pattern of what is an acceptable level of energy for current Seahawks.
Each day this week, for instance, an average of 30 Hawks have spent time working out in the team’s weight room.
Asked how many players would break a sweat there this time of year during previous off-seasons, one Seahawk administrator speculated, “oh, five or six, maybe.”
A 500-percent increase in training should not only bolster team strength, but also help the Hawks avoid, in immeasurable ways, the injuries that have crippled recent hopes.
“You can’t make them come in,” Erickson said of off-season participation.
But you can make it mandatory without it actually being mandatory, can’t you?
“Exactly,” he said.
Impressively, two included in those extra training sessions are Kennedy and fellow defensive tackle Sam Adams, two who have never been physically well-defined. Unless the definition is: sorta round with bounteous keisters.
Of Erickson’s predecessors, Chuck Knox coaxed unwavering loyalty out of his veterans, but sometimes at the expense of young talent; and Tom Flores was a marvelous man with a legacy of success, who often functioned in the absence of a discernible pulse.
What Erickson brings now, to a franchise that hasn’t won a playoff game in a decade, is the understanding that a team is not created by simply putting a bunch of guys in matching jerseys. It’s stitched together with common goals and shared hardships - like thankless off-season training.
Quarterback Rick Mirer, too, has been “working hard, spending a lot of time watching video,” Erickson said. “(Coach) Rich Olson and I have spent a lot of time with him, which is good, because we’re going to do quite a few different things on offense than they’ve done here in the past.”
Like use the forward pass.
To do that, though, the Hawks need more than just Brian Blades as a receiver - a shortage that Erickson reiterated as his primary concern.
“We’ve got to get somebody through the draft and somebody through free agency,” he said. “We’ve tried and come up short. Flipper (Anderson of the Rams) was the one we really wanted, but we couldn’t afford him.”
Erickson, who said he hasn’t slowed since the day he was hired, personally worked out the draft’s three top receivers - UCLA’s J.J. Stokes, Ohio State’s Joey Galloway and Colorado’s Michael Westbrook.
And while not on the road grading prospects, he’s been coping with the whims of the free-agent market, which has left him trying to put together a puzzle with ever-changing pieces.
“It’s happening everyplace, and I had some kind of an idea it would hit us, but until it actually happens, you don’t realize the extent of it,” Erickson said. “I knew we were going to lose some of them - and some of them we lost on purpose.
“But we hoped we could keep at least one of the two linebackers (Rod Stephens and Rufus Porter); that was the biggest disappointment. But then, we got Winston Moss (from the Raiders) and we think he’s going to be one of the better ones in the league.”
Erickson has also dramatically upgraded the back-up quarterback spot, adding John Friesz, whom he recruited to Idaho years ago, to replace Dan McGwire, who was not only statuesque in his height (6-foot-8), but also in his mobility.
“John’s played in the league and started last year (for the Redskins),” Erickson said. “He was the best (quarterback) they had there, they just made a youth movement. So, he knows me and I know him and I’ve seen what he’s done; he can win for you. And he’s very much a team guy who can help Rick with understanding what we’re doing.”
The offensive and defensive packages have already been plotted, with Erickson altering his terminology to more closely resemble the existing Seahawks language.
And the one-back attack that he rode to two national championships at Miami will, by necessity, evolve toward a two-back set, Erickson said.
Those are simply details, though.
The biggest differences will be in attitude. And the 2,500 fans who have applied for season tickets in the wake of Erickson’s hiring will notice it immediately.
An enduring image of last year’s Seahawks was a season-finale that featured some of the Hawks visibly going belly-up on Flores, loafing on the field.
It was an embarrassing lack of personal pride.
The sort of thing Dennis Erickson will not tolerate.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Dave Boling The Spokesman-Review
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.