SEATTLE — Expansion took precedence over hospitality at the University of Washington this spring.
The renovation of Husky Stadium pushed spring football practice to an adjacent field that couldn’t accommodate fans, so the open-door policy that had become a staple of the Steve Sarkisian era slammed shut.
After holding 10 practices in near privacy on a field next to what’s left of Husky Stadium or at nearby Dempsey Indoor, the Huskies move into Memorial Stadium today for an 11 a.m. session at Seattle Center. Fans are encouraged to attend the free practice, which is likely to last about two hours.
“It’s great,” coach Sarkisian said of having a rare practice in front of the fans. “The (weather) forecast looks good. We’re hopeful that we get a good turnout. I know our kids are looking forward to it.”
This marks the third straight year the Huskies have practiced at Memorial Stadium. The team held its annual Purple and Gold scrimmage there two years ago, then held a more traditional practice at the venue last spring. Today’s session will include some scrimmage-like elements but also will have position drills and some special-teams work.
The UW players, who have been rolling out of bed and taking part in morning practices not far from campus, are scheduled to board a bus this morning and make the short trip to downtown Seattle.
“It kind of brings back the high school days of getting on the bus with the pads,” said Justin Glenn, a senior safety from Kamiak High School. “But it’s all fun.”
Glenn was among the players looking forward to today’s practice.
“It just changes up the scenery a little bit,” he said. “It’s always nice to get away and get some more fans out there. It’s a good atmosphere. It gets guys going, and let’s play some football.”
Said quarterback Keith Price: “It’s fun. We’ve been practicing here the whole spring, so it’s good to get something new.”
The Huskies first came up with the idea of practicing downtown during Sarkisian’s second spring season in 2010, and a few thousand fans showed up to watch the annual scrimmage under sunny skies. It’s since become an annual event for UW football to practice at Memorial.
“I kind of like it,” Sarkisian said this week. “It gives us a chance to embrace Seattle. You get downtown, and you get under the Space Needle and play. The environment breaks it up a little bit from spring ball. You get the stands and all that. I know our guys get excited about it, and I think the fans do.”
Linebacker Taz Stevenson (illness) did not practice Friday. … Wide receiver James Johnson practiced but couldn’t finish the session. Sarkisian said afterward that Johnson was fine. … Safety Will Shamburger delivered one of the biggest hits of camp Friday, laying out receiver Josh Perkins while breaking up a pass. A few minutes later, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins got up slowly after a big collision with safety Nate Fellner. Seferian-Jenkins was able to finish practice without any noticeable limitations.