By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — Last season, David Hawthorne was on the field in place of Lofa Tatupu, filling in at middle linebacker for the Pro-Bowler whose season ended early with a torn pectoral muscle.
This spring, Hawthorne is again working with the Seahawks’ first-team defense, only now he is playing alongside the veteran linebacker who mentored him from the sideline last season.
Hawthorne, a middle linebacker during his college career at Texas Christian and in his first two seasons a Seahawk, is learning a new position this offseason, playing weakside linebacker in place of Leroy Hill, who has been away from the team since being arrested and charged with domestic violence last month. And while Hawthorne doesn’t know if the move will be permanent — the Seahawks have made no definitive statements when it comes to Hill’s future — for now he is enjoying the switch.
“Every time I go out there and get more reps, it gets more comfortable,” said Hawthorne, who came into the league as an undrafted free agent two seasons ago. “Mike (middle linebacker) is all I’ve played, but once I got out there and started working a little bit, I started feeling at home out there.”
Hawthorne was mostly known as a hard hitter on special teams before last season, but ended up being one of the few bright spots during last year’s 5-11 campaign. Filling in for Tatupu who first went out with an ankle injury, then later the torn pectoral, Hawthorne started 11 games, recording a team-high 117 tackles and three interceptions, which also matched a team high.
He hopes to continue that success in 2010, even if it comes at a position he hasn’t played in a while.
“In high school I played it, that was about it,” he said of outside linebacker. “It’s been awhile … Any opportunity I have to get on the field, I’ll take it. It definitely gives you value when you can branch out and learn more than one position. It’s also easier to grasp the defense when you know two positions. I think it’s a good experience for me.”
Tatupu came into the league with Hill, who he says is like a brother, but he has also enjoyed watching Hawthorne transition to a new position.
“It’s a smooth transition for a guy who is moving into a spot that he’s never played before,” Tatupu said. “That Will (weakside) spot, what he’s finding out now, it’s easy to know, it’s harder to play. The Mike is hard to know, but easier to play. With all the thinking he was required to do last year as a Mike, it’s been a smooth transition for him. I’ve seen a lot of other guys try to switch positions and not do it as well.”
Sean Locklear, the team’s likely starter at right tackle, was not at Monday’s voluntary practice, and while Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he was not sure why Locklear wasn’t there, it appears he had a good reason. According to the website for the Overlake Service League, a Bellevue-based charity, Locklear was the celebrity chair for a charity golf tournament Monday.
Tate living with ups and downs
Receiver Golden Tate had the day’s most spectacular play, out-leaping three defenders for a long catch, but also admits he is struggling at times, making mental errors while adjusting to NFL life.
For now, his coaches can live with the mistakes. “He made a couple of boneheaded blunders today, just went the wrong way on routes, but at this time, that’s totally acceptable,” Carroll said. “… He’s done a lot of cool stuff so far. He’s a long ways from being able to play, because he just doesn’t know what he’s doing yet.”
Vet WRs expected back at camp
T.J. Houshmandzadeh (sports hernia) and Deion Branch (knee) have both been held out of preseason workouts while recovering from surgeries, but Carroll said he expects both to be ready when the team starts training camp at the end of July.
“We are hoping it’s going to work that work out that way,” Carroll said. “… TJ should be back a little sooner than Deion but we are counting on them to get back for camp.”
Losman happy to be back
Quarterback J.P. Losman practiced with the team for the first time since signing last week, and is happy to be back in the league after spending last season with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the United Football League.
“I’m very fortunate for this opportunity, I’m very excited,” he said. “… They’re letting everybody come out here and compete, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Losman was a first-round pick in 2004, and started 33 games with the Buffalo Bills over four seasons.
“He has a major league arm,” Carroll said. “He’s got a terrific arm.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog