Seahawks Insider

Camp Carroll

Post by Dave Boling / The News Tribune on Aug. 1, 2010 at 6:51 am with 10 Comments »
August 1, 2010 6:51 am

Eric will get back to you with the news of the day soon, but for the early risers, I thought I’d toss out a post offering a little history of Seahawks training camps under new coaching staffs. This is my 22nd camp, meaning I’ve covered six coaches (starting with Chuck Knox) and therefore five staff changes.

Everybody brought new wrinkles, but the start of Pete Carroll’s first camp seems to have the most varied elements. There’s great energy, giving it a bit of a “college” feel. Dennis Erickson’s and Jim Mora’s felt like that, too, though. Carroll brings some real star power, and in some ways is a story above the team. So was Mike Holmgren when he came in.

Carroll should be entertaining to watch, but not necessarily moreso than Knox, who pretty much liked to let it be known that he was the baddest man on the field. It often wasn’t a week into camp before Knox would have a bloody split in his forehead from demonstrating techniques in blocking drills. He didn’t have on pads or a helmet, of course, but that didn’t keep him from sticking his face in there.

One year, fresh off of back surgery, Knox was told by doctors that he could only get back out and coach training camp if he would do so while seated on folding chair. Yeah, right. Knox wouldn’t sit for that. A guy followed his every move with this folding chair, all around the field. But Knox would not sit in it. He also, however, didn’t tell the guy to go away.

Crazy moment in a Knox camp? Unpopular owner Ken Behring one day came to practice in a helicopter. Right in the middle of practice, players had to scramble off one of the Kirkland fields to make way for Behring’s landing. Unbelievable distraction. I have never seen if a photographer had a picture of the look on Knox’s face at the time, but I’m sure it would have been priceless.

Tom Flores was so understated that it’s hard to remember much about his influence on camps other than his pleasant demeanor and bad football teams.

It might be hard to remember now, but Dennis Erickson took over from Flores and brought some of the same kind of national attention that Carroll has. Erickson not only took Miami to two NCAA national championships, but he was returning home, too. And especially after the Flores years, it was a huge deal.

Erickson had to deal with the unbelievable distraction of the team’s possible move to Los Angeles. Erickson’s biggest influence on camps was the move back to Cheney. Although, I’m not sure how much of that was a corporate move to engender state-wide voter support to fund the new stadium. At Cheney in the Erickson years, there was wicked, dry heat, the occasional wind storm that would blow down tents, the early camp injury of a good player or two, and a fairly steady debate over who would be the team’s quarterback.

When Holmgren took over in 1999, it was probably as big a story as Carroll’s arrival has been this year. On the first day he took the field at Cheney, a giant banner with his likeness hung from the outside wall of the fieldhouse. And I’m talking GIANT … like Chairman Mao large. Especially early, Holmgren was pretty volatile on the practice field. He could really get after players … particularly offensive linemen who false started. He typically exploded after the second or third false start of the day and it could trigger his very creative use of the English language.

He broke the tension occasionally with some fun competitions that the players would get into … with a later curfew on the line. One was having “teams” of unlikely suspects having to catch punts. The chunkiest offensive and defensive linemen were usually selected. And one time, special teams coach Bob Casullo was called upon. Let’s just say that Casullo was not exactly one of those Nolan Cromwell or Jim Zorn kind of fitness devotees. But when the punt went easily 10 yards over his head, he quickly retreated, stumbled over a blocking dummy, and somehow pulled in the ball before hitting the turf. It had to be the most unexpected display of athleticism perpetrated on the Cheney practice fields.

Hard to believe but it was only a year ago that we were writing about Jim Mora’s first training camp as Seahawks head coach. He and his staff were definitely enthusiastic and energetic. But within days he lost Walter Jones and a number of receivers. The season was doomed; energy and enthusiasm can’t replace Walter Jones.

And through the years, that has been a fairly steady theme for the Seahawks, and a determining early factor in how the season will go. Keeping players healthy through August has been critical. Give Carroll credit for understanding that. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck got to rest during the team’s second practice of camp. Hasselbeck commented on how Carroll has already planned certain practices that veterans will be rested. The entire team has Wednesday off, for instance … a very unusual approach to early training camps.

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. Great read, and I really like the approach Coach Carrol has taken with the vets, I don’t want a season filled with injury’s which has been the case the last couple of years.

  2. Dukeshire says:

    Dave, that was great! Thanks. I do remember the Erickson hiring quite well and it was a big deal. But it always felt shallow to me. Like Flores before him and the perception that his success was with Madden’s teams, Erickson too won with Jimmy Johnson’s teams. At least that was the feeling. And then to hear him in interviews with his thick tonged, kind of drunky slur instilled zero confidence. It’s a wonder (and credit to him actually) they had any success during that time with Behring (jackass) as owner.

    And you hit on something else; injuries. Seattle has a long tradition of coming out of camp dinged up. The early Holmgren years it seemed especially bad.

    Dave, off the top, has training camp on the wet side of the Cascades ever produced a winning season? I can’t think of one. Thanks again.

  3. Awesome write up.

  4. That was a lovely recital. Somehow I picture a desolate ranch house with an wretched old cuss perched in an rackety rocker slowly moving to and fro. Staring into the vast emptiness out yonder he clicks the send button as a gun slinger triggers a pistol.

    Luckily you left off Jack Petera or I might believe your age to be that of Dukeshire ;)

    Ol’ Ground Chuck brought that winning formula in from day one. I wonder how things would have been had Dave Krieg not walked on from Milton College. Extended years watching Jim Zorn scramble? I likely would not be a Hawk die hard. Although some of the players who adlib behind the LOS have been considered the best of all time (Barry Sanders, Randle Cunningham) they drove me bonkers. Imagine as OC calling a dive on 2nd and short only to come away with 3rd and long cause the RB had gone 129 yards East and West.

    Anyhow, that was some good stuff. But didn’t the helicopter entry include Brian ‘the Boz’ Bozworth or was that two separate occasions?

  5. Dave Boling says:

    No, Boz wasn’t on that trip. But in another training camp tale, I once almost got nailed by a wad of rolled-up athletic tape fired by Bosworth. He was coming off the field after what he felt was a bad practice. He was ripping the tape off his wrists and rolling it up. A photographer standing next to me was snapping pictures of him. Boz evidently didn’t like it and he really winged a tape-ball at him. But he missed the photographer and the thing went whizzing past my head as I was looking down at my notebook. Nice guy. If he’d hit me I could have had him arrested for assault with deadly adhesive.

  6. lol… could have been worse.. he might have used his jock as a sling shot! Guess thats what we get for being ‘Athletic Supporters’… doh

  7. PHXHawk says:

    Dave-
    “Assault with deadly adhesive”? I doubt that charge would have stuck. Fun article. For more nostalgia, check out Dennis Erickson on Wikipedia . I went there because I knew he had turned a lot of programs around (before bailing on them), but the article has lots of interesting NW connections.

  8. snydro22 says:

    Nothing will ever beat training camp at Cheney. I miss it.

  9. Dukeshire says:

    I’m with you there. There was a connection to the team / players you could get that can’t be replicated.

  10. snydro22 says:

    Two quick Cheney stories from my last year going in 2005 (moved to Texas after the Super Bowl loss, though not for that reason lol) -

    Tobeck came out in street clothes through a back door of the campus and stood amongst the crowd of autograph seekers.. I let him have his fun for a few minutes before walking over and quietly saying, “Can you sign this?” He looked surprised but obliged discreetly, and I think he was still unsure if I knew who he was.. I said, “Thanks, Tobeck” and walked away.. He smiled big and said, “Very good” and pointed at me as I walked off..

    Another thing we laughed about was Josh Brown soliciting his own autograph.. After the public scrimmage there was a row of people lining a path to the practice fields, and while most of the players made their way down the row signing frantically along the way, Josh Brown stood near a telephone pole and politely asked me and my buddy if we wanted his autograph as we stood there too.. It was cool, but a little awkward. I actually remember feeling bad for him, but then I remembered his salary..

    Oh, and I chased LeRoy Hill on his bike after a practice.. I had studied the faces of the new guys like I always do.. I chased him down screaming, LeRoy!! He was shocked I knew his name! That was awesome.. And then he threw me down some stairs..

    I remember the first time big Walt grabbed a ball out of my hands to sign, I thought he was going to crush my hand. I was standing on a curb (and I’m 6′ 4 245 lb) and he towered over me, with enormous hands.. I was waiting for Tom Hanks to pop out from around the corner and lead him back to his cell..

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