RENTON, Wash. — The allure of Christine Michael’s potential was there the day the Seattle Seahawks surprised most by using a second-round pick on a running back when the position appeared to not be a priority.
He was fast. Blazing fast, especially in the open field, with an element of power in the way he ran at Texas A&M.
And then it never showed during the Seahawks’ Super Bowl run. Michael was rarely more than a spectator on Sundays as he struggled making the transition from the college game to the pros.
“He’s got great speed and quickness, but he’s had to learn to be patient and the discipline it takes to play in this offense and in this league. Not doing things almost right, doing things right,” Seattle running backs coach Sherman Smith said. “I think that’s the thing he’s learning now. Patience and discipline and doing stuff the right way.”
With Marshawn Lynch holding out from Seahawks training camp, the opportunity is there for Michael and third-year back Robert Turbin to prove they can be more than capable backups to one of the top runners in football.
The duo was already going to receive the bulk of the workload during the preseason, trying to keep Lynch rested and ready for the start of the regular season.
But with Lynch unhappy about his contract and absent from camp, Turbin and Michael are now taking on even more of the load.
“I think it’s a benefit for the team too to see these guys doing it and get more confidence in them knowing that if Marshawn were hurt they could go in and play,” Smith said. “I think it helps the reps and helps the team’s confidence also.”
Seattle has a pretty good idea what Turbin can provide. He’s shown to be a capable spot backup for Lynch the past two seasons when given a chance.
Turbin has size similar to Lynch, but the question would be his ability to carry the ball every down. Only once in his career has Turbin had more than 11 carries in a game.
Turbin is healthier now than at almost any other point last season. He played through a bothersome knee that required minor surgery in the offseason.
“For one, I’m healthy this year. So that’s definitely a plus. I just think understanding the game and defense and scheme and understanding what we’re trying to do as an offense and our philosophy and what we want to do,” Turbin said.
“It’s definitely helped watching other backs and watching Marshawn and studying film and how other teams run similar offense that we do and getting better from that.”
Michael is the unknown, which only percolates the interest from Seattle’s fans. Sports talk radio spent much of the offseason debating what Michael could bring to Seattle’s offense after he was active for only four games last season and got a total of 18 carries.
Since the Super Bowl, Michael has shown he’s taking the game more serious than his rookie season. Simple things such as taking proper notes and watching the right amount of film have become part of his routine.
Coach Pete Carroll has raved about Michael’s transformation since the first offseason workouts when he was getting the bulk of the reps while Lynch was absent from the voluntary sessions.
“It’s different from the collegiate level. They expect you to get it and get it right away here. They drafted you for a reason and you’ve got to come in and prove yourself,” Michael said. “What you did in college doesn’t matter when you come on this level, everybody is good. You’ve just got to get better. You have to stick out more than the next person.”
NOTES: Lynch was placed on the “reserved/did not report” list Saturday, giving Seattle an extra roster spot. The Seahawks signed LB Brandon Denmark and FS Steven Terrell and waived/injured DT Dewayne Cherrington. ... WR Percy Harvin sat Saturday, part of Seattle’s plan to rest him periodically during camp. ... RT Michael Bowie, competing for the starting job, also sat out Saturday after “tweaking” his shoulder on Friday.
Kearse has gone from undrafted to lock for Seattle
Jermaine Kearse sat quietly at the podium for 15 minutes while to his left sat Kobe Bryant and Richard Sherman, and on his right was Grammy winning hip-hop artist Macklemore, all answering questions.
Not once was Kearse asked a question during his appearance at the recent charity event, even if the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver was the only one to have scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
“They kept naming everyone and they skipped me. That was messed up,” Kearse joked on Sunday.
Once an undrafted free agent and seeming longshot to make the Seahawks roster, Kearse might now fall into the category of being a lock when the final 53-man roster is submitted at the end of the preseason. It’s a rise from being overlooked coming out of college to becoming established in the NFL that has become a familiar story for the Seahawks.
Kearse’s numbers do not scream of being a lock. He has 25 career catches in two seasons. But his knack for making important plays and contributing on special teams has his spot seeming secure.
“I just try and take every year as a new year in just trying to make the team again,” Kearse said. “I don’t like getting complacent.”
Looking back on last season, Kearse made two of the biggest catches — bookends — during Seattle’s Super Bowl run.
The first came in the season opener at Carolina, when he hauled in a leaping 43-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson that gave Seattle the lead in the fourth quarter of the 12-7 victory. Then came his 35-yard touchdown catch in the NFC championship game against San Francisco on a fourth-quarter, fourth-down play that gave Seattle the lead for good.
The Super Bowl was just the capper. Kearse had a season-high four receptions and a spinning, tackle-breaking 23-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the blowout victory over Denver. Kearse was already receiving an expanded role last season, but when Sidney Rice went down midseason with a torn ACL, the amount he needed to contribute increased.
“Sid even came up to me after that, he came up to me and said, ‘This is your opportunity. Go out there and do the best that you can, make your plays when they come to you,’ and that shows you the type of group that we have. Especially with Sid, he was one of my really good friends, not just a teammate. Just to have that conversation with him and for him to tell me to go out there and ball. I took that in and tried to do the best that I could.”
Rice’s retirement the day before the start of training camp took many by surprise. But how Kearse played last season lessened the concern.
“At the end of the day, the other guys are stepping up and looking tremendous right now,” Wilson said. “To have a tall receiver like Sidney definitely does help. His catching range is unbelievable, but I definitely believe Jermaine Kearse is going to be able to replace that ... and be able to make that step.”
This is a big season for Kearse’s future and he seems to understand the possibility. This is the final year of his first contract and Kearse can be a restricted free agent next offseason. He just saw teammate Doug Baldwin, also undrafted out of college, sign a three-year extension for up to $13 million.
“I think it’s just trying to set myself up for bigger things. I’m just trying to be the best I can,” Kearse said. “A lot of people try and label me as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. I’m trying to take it further than that.”
NOTES: WR Kevin Norwood missed his second straight practice with a sore foot. Rookie DT Jimmy Staten could also be out a while after suffering a pulled hamstring, coach Pete Carroll said. ... RB Christine Michael “banged” his shoulder during practice Sunday and was pulled out, but Carroll said he should be good to practice Tuesday. ... WR Percy Harvin returned to practice after resting on Saturday.