KIRKLAND – For almost 10 months, Chris Davis had been looking forward to the day when team doctors would clear him to practice with his Seattle Seahawks teammates.
Following a season-ending knee injury he suffered last September, Davis could barely stand waiting for the first time he could finally take the field and compete for playing time.
That day was supposed to come last week. But, thanks to a minor hamstring injury that Davis suffered just before minicamp opened, it didn’t.
So in recent days the second-year fullback is standing on the sideline again, watching his teammates get better.
“If it isn’t one thing,” Davis said while shaking his head, “it’s always another.”
Davis will have to wait until training camp to get back on the field, so in the meantime he’ll have to reflect on the season that never was. And he’s not alone.
During a 2003 season in which the Seahawks could thank their rookie class for much of their success, not everyone was in on the fun.
Davis, tackle Wayne Hunter, quarterback Seneca Wallace and wide receiver Taco Wallace are still waiting to make an impact.
While Marcus Trufant and Ken Hamlin grabbed headlines, Josh Brown took over as field goal kicker, and Rashad Moore stepped into the starting lineup due to a rash of injuries, some of the Seahawks’ 2003 rookies could only watch – and wait.
“It was frustrating,” said Hunter, a third-round draft pick from the University of Hawaii. “You come from college, where you’re the man, and then you come to this level, where I got no playing time while backing up Walter Jones. So it was a little frustrating. But I expected it. It was a learning experience.”
The good news for Hunter is that he won’t be backing up Jones this year. Hunter was moved from left to right tackle, where he’ll back up Chris Terry.
The bad news is that Hunter could be in for another long wait.
Although Terry has had a history of transgressions – he was suspended for the first four games of the 2003 season for undisclosed reasons – the sixth-year player is unlikely to lose his job for performance reasons. So no matter how hard Hunter works, he probably won’t earn a starting spot unless Terry gets hurt or suspended.
“I really don’t have a choice,” Hunter said of spending another season on the sidelines. “I’ll just have to treat this year like I treated last year. I just have to keep learning. I just have to work on my patience, and my time will come.”
At least Hunter has seen practice time. Davis, a fifth-round draft pick from Syracuse, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during the 2003 season opener, and he hasn’t played or practiced since.
He impressed the coaches so much at training camp that the Seahawks kept three fullbacks on the roster – Davis, Heath Evans and starter Mack Strong. But any excitement about potential quickly faded when Davis tore his knee.
Instead of making the kind of impact Trufant, Hamlin, Brown and Moore made as rookies, Davis was rendered useless while spending his rookie year on injured reserve.
“You’re watching the guys you came in with improving every day,” he said. “I could see it on the practice field, guys getting better and reacting faster. And I’m just standing over there getting rusty.
“I haven’t played football in 10 months. So that’s been on my mind a lot. I don’t want to come in and look bad and get replaced.”
The Wallaces also waited most of 2003, although Taco got added to the roster for the season finale and saw some playing time on special teams. With names like Matt Hasselbeck, Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson ahead of them, neither Wallace is looking at much more playing time this season. And both will be in for a fight just to make the roster.
So, for the second year in a row, many of Seattle’s 2003 rookies might have to be patient in 2004. Hunter, for one, doesn’t see patience as one of his virtues.
“I’d like to think so, but other people would probably say no,” he said. “I’m working on it, though.”