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Five for Fighting: Seahawks finally gain five practicing starters after league year begins

RENTON, Wash. -- "So boring. It was so boring. We hated it."

That was new Seattle Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice's(notes) take on the near week he spent standing around on the practice field -- from his official signing with the team last Friday until he could put on the pads and practice for the first time for head coach Pete Carroll.

Because of specific language in the new collective bargaining agreement, players who had been traded, had resigned with their teams, or restructured their contracts could not practice until the new CBA was ratified. And that couldn't happen until a number of issues were agreed to by both the owners and players after the NFLPA re-certified as a union. Those issued weren't finally agreed to and made official until just before 2:00 p.m. PT on Thursday, which led to a lot of standing around and doing nothing for NFL teams awaiting word on their practice fields that their new players could go.

The Seahawks' practice was moved from 1:30 p.m. back to 1:45, and still there was no word. So, Carroll directed his players to walk over to the area where fans were standing behind a gate just off the field. The players signed autographs and walked back about 10 minutes later.

Still no word. Finally at 2:06 p.m., the news came down, Carroll brought his players in for the pre-practice huddle, and five potential starters -- Rice, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson(notes), left guard Robert Gallery(notes), tight end Zach Miller, and defensive lineman Alan Branch(notes) — finally got to do more than stand on the field in shorts and shirts.

"We thought we were being pranked for a minute, with everybody just standing out there with their pads on," Rice said. "We kept waiting on phone calls from the coach's people, the NFL and also our player reps. Once we finally got the word we got to get our first full-team breakdown, so it was great."

It wasn't just that players couldn't practice; they hadn't receiving any money from new contracts that had not been ratified. In effect, they had been ghost players, who are now "real" in the eyes of the NFL.

"It's been tough — usually you have 15 days before your first preseason game," Miller said. "So, to go in a week … it really compressed everything, and you're really going to have to study a lot. You're going to have to get as many reps as you can, because it's coming quick."

What helps is that the offensive players are familiar with the schemes put together by new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell (who worked with Jackson and Rice in Minnesota) and line coach Tom Cable (who had Gallery and Miller in Oakland).

"I would say that I was definitely comfortable with this scheme," Miller said after a practice in which he showed his ability to break through routes with power and split the seam with surprising speed. Having signed a five-year, $34 million deal with the Seahawks on Wednesday, Miller was under the gun more than anyone else.

"It's good to have people to talk to — I can talk to Coach Cable about questions I have and things like that. It's huge for me … in the NFL, a lot of offenses kind of steal stuff from each other so there's a lot of different names for stuff, different route concepts and things that I've got to learn."

For Jackson, who was named Seattle's new starting quarterback even before he took a single snap with the Seahawks, the wait was especially taxing. "I've been here a week now, and it's been frustrating, being on the sidelines. Now, we finally have a chance to get out there and get used to each other."

Five for Fighting: Seahawks finally gain five practicing starters after league year begins

The unfamiliarity was apparent on several blown snaps and false starts — both lines struggled to keep it together — and there were several dropped passes as a result of the quarterbacks and receivers not being on the same page. However, there were also moments from each of the new players, showing why these acquisitions were important to a Seahawks team that wants to remain competitive while continuing to rebuild.

Jackson showed decent pocket presence, but his M.O. is to roll right and make things happen after the pocket breaks down. He's a legitimate running threat, and he explained why that factor is so important in his new (and old) offense.

"It keeps the defense honest," Jackson said of his ability to run option and boot action behind zone blocking. "[Defenses] can't play a lot of two-man, two high safety.  If they blitz, sometimes you can beat them with the run.  That helps a lot, being that if things don't go right, you can create something else."

Rice ran routes the way he as crisply as you'd expect from game tape, and made it clear that he is among the league's best receivers when it comes to getting vertical over tight coverage. Gallery engaged in some zone slides, and Branch showed good penetration from three-tech and five-tech looks — just as Carroll had anticipated.

All in all, a rocky first day, but an encouraging start from a talent standpoint. "I felt a little rusty.  I had some throws here that I missed," Jackson said of the day. I threw an interception where I threw it a little behind the guy; the ball got tipped in the air.  I missed Mike [Williams] on a go.  I got to get more comfortable with Mike — the placement of the ball, where he wanted them to make a play.  A couple things like that, I feel like. 

"But overall, it wasn't a bad day. We had a couple missed cues 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.  I've never played with any of the guys but Sidney, so of course there's going to some unfamiliarity out there. 

"We're going to get it together, though."

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