Seahawks notebook: Fill-in centers are struggling

  • Mon Jul 28th, 2008 11:22pm
  • Sports

By Scott M. Johnson Herald Writer

KIRKLAND — Shuffling offensive lineman this time of year is pretty standard fare for NFL teams.

But the Seattle Seahawks’ situation at center has been an adventure in itself.

With starter Chris Spencer and veteran backup Chris Gray sidelined by injuries, the remaining centers have struggled to keep things moving along.

“We’re having a very difficult time snapping the ball,” coach Mike Holmgren said after Monday’s morning practice. “If you don’t snap the ball, it’s hard to run the play. But we will get better at that particular thing.”

Spencer has been slow to return from offseason shoulder surgery, while Gray is sidelined by a back injury that he suffered Saturday afternoon. Holmgren said both players are still about five days away from returning to the field, so converted centers Steve Vallos and Mansfield Wrotto will continue to fill in.

Vallos, who was drafted as a tackle in 2007, is working with the No. 1 offense. He started playing the position for the first time last September, when he was a member of the Seahawks’ practice squad.

Guard Mansfield Wrotto has been working at center with the No. 2 offense, although with mixed results. He’s had trouble completing the exchange with the quarterbacks, often drawing the ire of Holmgren.

Help is on the way, just not anytime soon.

Spencer has taken longer than expected to recover from shoulder surgery that he underwent shortly after the 2007 season.

At a minicamp last month, Holmgren talked about how important it was for Spencer to be back at the start of camp.

“I need to see him on the field,” Holmgren said on June 12. “He’s an important guy for us, the center. Right now he hasn’t done much and he has a lot of ground to make up.

“I love him as a football player, but everybody’s counting on him to come back. He’s one of those guys coming into training camp that I hope he’s ready to go, physically and mentally.”

Spencer has the physical ability to be a longtime starter in the NFL, but the Seahawks are looking for more veteran savvy out of the fourth-year player. Because Seattle has a new offensive line coach in Mike Solari, Spencer could use all the practice he can get.

Mr. Eligible: Safety Deon Grant was featured in a recent issue of a Seattle magazine that was doing a piece on the city’s most eligible singles. Part of the magazine’s profile included a photo spread of Grant in a suit.

The 29-year-old Grant shrugged off the attention, saying he wasn’t overly surprised when the magazine called earlier this summer.

“It was nothing to be surprised about,” he said Monday. “It was an article in a magazine about being single, and I’m single.”

Grant has never been married, but he has an 8-year-old daughter, De’yon, who lives in Atlanta. Deon Grant spends most of his offseason with De’yon, and he plans to fly his daughter in for a handful of Seahawks games this fall.

As for finding the future Mrs. Right, Grant said he doesn’t have any timetable for marriage.

Asked whether he has gotten much response from potential dates after the profile, Grant said: “I’m not even focused on that right now.”

Dual-threat Duckett: Holmgren said that running back T.J. Duckett will see time at both halfback and fullback this season. The 254-pound Duckett has spent his entire career as a halfback.

When was the last time he played fullback?

“Never in my life,” Duckett said.

The Seahawks signed Duckett to a five-year, $14 million contract in March, when they were looking for help at tailback. A few days later, they added Julius Jones by way of a similar deal.

Despite his inexperience at the fullback position, Duckett said he’s willing to learn.

“You do what you’ve got to do to help the team,” he said. “Whatever the opportunity is, you’ve got to go out and perform it.”

Kerney sidelined: Defensive end Patrick Kerney has been slow to recover from a calf injury, so the Seahawks are keeping him off the practice field for now.

“They’re going to shut him down and let him heal,” Holmgren said.

Kerney is able to walk without a limp, but the Seahawks want to keep him off the practice field as a precaution.

Quick slants: Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck continues to practice after hurting his foot in a Sunday practice. Holmgren downplayed the injury, saying that someone stepped on the quarterback’s foot. “He’s fine,” Holmgren said, rolling his eyes for effect. … Wide receiver Courtney Taylor strained his hamstring midway through Monday morning’s practice. He did not participate in the special teams practice on Monday afternoon. …Linebacker Wesly Mallard and running back Justin Forsett, with undisclosed injuries, joined Taylor on the sidelines for the afternoon practice. … Wide receiver Michael Bumpus, a rookie from Washington State University, really struggled while trying to catch punts Monday afternoon. The Seahawks are using several different players as punt returners, but the job will eventually fall to either Nate Burleson or Josh Wilson. … Linebacker Julian Peterson celebrated his 30th birthday on Monday.