By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — Before the first practice of training camp had finished last week, the first fight of camp was already in the books.
Defensive end Lawrence Jackson smacked offensive tackle Ray Willis in the head last Friday, and a brief scuffle ensued. And while Seahawks coach Jim Mora said he’s not in favor of fights in camp, a defense that shows some attitude, that displays a little nastiness, probably isn’t a bad thing in the coach’s eyes.
Seattle’s defense ranked 30th last year, allowing 378 yards per game. And while there were some injuries, most notably to defensive end Patrick Kerney, the defense was not nearly as banged up as the offense. Yet the defense still struggled mightily in the face of high expectations.
Starting with training camp, the Seahawks defense is trying to show last year won’t be repeated.
“Every time you step on the field you have something to prove,” said middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu. “I don’t care if you’re undefeated or you haven’t won a game. You’re out there playing for respect. Obviously we lost a little last year, and we’re not happy about it, so we’re going to go out there and get it back.”
And if getting that means angering a teammate on the other side of the ball this month, then so be it, says the defense.
“That’s what defense is,” said Jackson. “I don’t care how nice of a person you are, you have to be a little different to play defense. We try to keep it clean, but it’s football. You never know that’s going to happen. It happens all across the league, it’s no big deal.”
While fights in practice have little consequence barring an injury, emotions have to be controlled during games.
“Having aggression and being able to control that aggression and still play hard, that’s everything,” said defensive tackle Colin Cole. “You want to play hard and be aggressive, but you have to be smart at the same time.”
Mora points to newly acquired players like Cole and Cory Redding — a guy who turns every pass-rushing drill into a display of violence — as players who can help give the defense a bit of a necessary mean streak.
“We’ve made a concerted effort in the draft and free agency to find guys that have a strong physical presence,” Mora said.
And while Cole doesn’t plan on getting in anybody’s face to demand changes, he hopes the way he plays can rub off on his teammates.
“I don’t think I have to light a fire under anybody’s butt,” he said. “Everybody knows what the goals are and everybody knows what their job is. If there’s an attitude that I have and I bring to this, it’s that there’s a tenacity about my play and there’s an aggressiveness about my play, and I’m sure everybody feeds off of each other.”
Defensive players say they’re taking extra effort this training camp to make sure everyone on the field — not just on their side of the ball — is playing with the right attitude. That’s why safety Deon Grant is constantly chattering whether he’s on the field or on the sideline, why he’s not afraid to get under the skin of an opposing receiver or quarterback.
“It’s all about attitude,” Grant said. “That’s the main thing. We’re putting that out there every time offense, defense or special teams steps on the field, it’s going to be about attitude. And if we see anybody slacking on that, we’ve got to step up. Whatever leaders are on the field or on the sideline, we need to be vocal and let them know that it’s all about attitude and they aren’t showing it right now.
Mora knows that attitude isn’t something than can be forced, however.
“I don’t know that you go through three weeks of training camp and just create nastiness,” he said. “Either guys have it or they don’t. A team has it or they don’t have it.”
In 2009, the Seahawks hope they have it.
Crossing the lake
The Seahawks are holding an open practice at 6:44 p.m. at Husky Stadium. Unlike the open practices at the team’s practice facility, fans do not need to have registered to attend. This practice, as well as the team’s Aug. 18 practice at Husky Stadium, is open to the public.
Left tackle Walter Jones (back spasms), receiver Deion Branch (knee) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (back), were all out again today. Defensive end Michael Bennett (shoulder) and linebacker Lance Laury (knee) were both absent for the first time this training camp as well.
A team spokesman said that Branch, who is coming off of knee surgery, is simply being given some rest because of a bit of soreness. At the end of Thursday’s practice, Branch jogged off the field at a pretty brisk pace with no sign of a limp.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblogs