After missing three games with a concussion, Huard tries to make his case as the Seahawks’ quarterback of the future
By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
KIRKLAND — The first time Brock Huard got an NFL start, he was so wired that he broke receiver Derrick Mayes’ finger with a pass during warmups. Earlier this week, after returning to practice for the first time in a month, Huard’s adrenaline was running high again, so much so that coach Mike Holmgren quipped, "He was like a freshman trying to make the team in high school."
Getting up for this afternoon’s game against the Denver Broncos won’t be a problem for Huard, who has missed the last three contests due to the aftereffects of a concussion. The formidable task may be channeling those emotions.
"I’ve got to try to control that as much as I can," Huard said last week.
This afternoon, Huard’s emotions will be especially important. To stake his claim as the Seahawks’ quarterback of the future, Huard needs to prove he can deliver under pressure. And he only has five games to do it.
After suffering a concussion during the first half of a 31-3 loss to the Oakland Raiders, Huard has lost valuable playing time during the last three games, and Holmgren hinted two weeks ago that he may have also lost a chance to enter training camp of 2001 as the starting quarterback.
Holmgren later softened his stance, but his message was clear: Huard has a lot to prove in his limited remaining opportunities.
"He’s got all the quote-unquote measurables," Holmgren said Friday. "Now, as with everybody that plays that position, you have to see how his judgment is, how he reacts to stress and pressure. That separates quarterbacks. It just does. And that’s what we have to learn. As far as measurables, he’s got what it takes."
Huard understands what is at stake over the final five games of the season, but he’s trying not to bog himself down with thoughts of the future.
"I’m not out to prove anything," said Huard, who has completed 46 of 81 passes for 492 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in four appearances this season. "I don’t have things written on my mirrors: ‘I’ve got to prove this and do this.’ Obviously, I’ve just got to play the game. I’ve got to get experience, get in the action. I’ve got to let what we do on (the practice) field carry over to what we do on the game field, and make things happen."
After a quiet rookie season in 1999, Huard has had quite an eventful past four months. He won the job of Jon Kitna’s backup at training camp, then replaced Kitna as the starter five weeks into the season. In his third start, Huard got knocked out by a blow to the side of the head from Oakland’s Regan Upshaw. Huard did not practice again until Monday of last week, and in some ways he’s back at Square One.
"He just sees this as an opportunity," quarterbacks coach Mike Sheppard said. "Mike (Holmgren) has given him a chance to show that he can be the quarterback of the future. Now he wants to take full advantage of that.
"You can never time those things. It never works out the way you want it to, not when you’re coaching or playing. So whenever it does happen, when you happen to hit that right opportunity, you just have to be prepared."
Being prepared is only one of Huard’s priorities. Because the concussion was so severe, he was not allowed to exercise for three weeks and was out of shape when he returned to practice last week. Furthermore, there will undoubtedly be some rust because of his playing layoff, while stepping back into the line of fire after a serious concussion might also be difficult.
"Mentally, I feel great," Huard said. "It’s just a matter of getting my body and my mechanics working, getting in shape, getting my arm ready to go, then dialing them up Sunday and making it happen."
Coming back from a concussion is easier said than done. Tight end Itula Mili said he suffered a mild one three weeks ago and had anxiety about going back onto the field.
"I was kind of afraid to go back in," Mili said. "When you get dinged like that and lose your coordination and balance, that scares you even more. That’s everything. If you can’t stay on your feet, you might as well just stay on the bench. That’s how I felt. I felt like a little kid again, just trying to learn how to walk."
Mili said it might take Huard a while to get used to playing again, but he doesn’t expect it to be a long adjustment.
"Having those games under his belt gives him a little edge," Mili said. "Now when he comes in, it won’t take a game, maybe it will take a play or two. Then he’ll swing into it again."
Huard better. Because the clock on this season is ticking.
"I’m not really approaching it like that," Huard said. "You can’t. I can’t entertain those thoughts. Your focus has got to be so sharp on what you’re doing, and on your assignments. If you start daydreaming and thinking about the future and what-about-this and what-about-that, that’s where you really get in trouble."
Said Sheppard: "He’s kind of a controlled geared up. He gets real excited to play, and yet he doesn’t get so excited that he’s not aware of what he’s doing. Will he throw a ball or two too hard early because his adrenaline’s pumping? Maybe. But in terms of thinking and knowing what to do, he has great control."
Control is the key. Because pressure is what the position is all about.
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