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Cigar Thoughts, Training Camp: Seahawks outplay Seahawks, beat Seahawks 17-3 in intra-squad scrimmage

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Training Camp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve gotta confess, because following the Seahawks is such an all-consuming pastime for me from August through January*, I check out pretty hard after the season. Rarely do I have any idea who their draft picks are, I don’t keep up with roster churn and, generally couldn’t tell you whether any given player is currently injured or what their contract status is. The offseason is a wonderful time for me to reconnect with my wife, my family and friends, and rediscover the litany of other joys I’m blessed with. Then training camp starts and I push all that bullshit back in the closet ‘til spring.


The Seattle Seahawks kicked off their official pre-season activities last week and if you were hoping for a quiet precursor to the 2017 campaign after the craziness of the last few years then, uh… sorry. The NFL’s resident Cirque du Soleil troupe announced their cacophonous arrival with all the high-flying wildness that we should’ve come to expect by now. Seattle’s first draft pick from three years ago knocked out Seattle’s first draft pick from two years ago with a running haymaker just days after the team announced that its first draft pick from this year was either dead or something resembling it due to an ATV accident that was somehow kept quiet and off social media for the better part of a month. They brought in and didn’t sign Colin Kaepernick. Their locker room apparently hated Russell Wilson all the way until it apparently didn’t. They signed Mufasa to a three-year extension shortly after doing the same for Pumbaa. And they do it all while their demented, plucky circus-master chews his gum approvingly like some kind of maniac.

It’s an act so wild it teeters on dysfunction, a wobbly high-wire performance wavering tenuously between the sublime and the absurd. It’s a collection of Looney Tunes and MonStars that constantly need to be reminded that they’re on the same team now, a wild band of marauders capable of laying waste to anyone provided they don’t slaughter each other first. It is, in short, the perfect recipe for a game of football.

Training camp, done Seahawks style is a got dang party. The DJ is relentless, stacking banger on top of banger while cheerleaders perform and NFL refs officiate. Players sign autographs, fans start chants, and Ciara blesses the whole thing with queenly benediction mere meters from the peasantry. Cameras and concessions are everywhere and the crowd is in October form with August’s weather. If you’ve been, you know I’m not doing the experience justice. If you haven’t it’s worth trying real hard to get to. I was blessed with the opportunity through the supreme dudeness of Coleman Paige, who somehow finagled tickets to the event and thought to bring me along.

Yesterday’s practice was the highlight of camp so far, with the team eschewing a practice full of drills and conditioning for two God-blessed hours of actual football. The first-team offense, as far as it stands given injuries and such, went primarily against the second-team defense while the second-team O went against the third-team D and the third-team O went against the first-team defense. Most of the time. I think. Either way, it was mostly starters vs. backups on both sides of the ball so keep that in mind. Here’s what stood out to me:

*Everyone who’s fortunate enough to get close to a group of NFL players says the same thing, but I’d be doing a disservice to my overall impression of the day if I didn’t mention it: these guys are huge. I only needed to elbow three little kids out of the way to claim a spot on the fence near the endzone closest to the VMAC and the first two players to come near were Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. The duo loomed above the blocking sled, laughing in a language unintelligible to all, save for the gods, before deftly lowering their hips and pouncing into the apparatus.

And it’s not just the sheer volume of space their bodies take up that is so remarkable; it’s the way they can make them move.

Nearby, Eddie Lacy was cramming 250 pounds into 5’11" worth of skin and powerfully thundering through drills like a braided elephant. 6’5" Luke Willson was on the far field running extremely fast, and I don’t just mean for a Canadian, while Nazair Jones and Ethan Pocic, a combined 13’ tall between them, pawed at each other in simulated snaps. Enormous linemen launched into each other like Ibex while K.J. Wright went through his footwork like a man half his size. Everywhere I looked, these Nephilim were putting their god-bodies through their paces, each man somehow larger than the next. All the while Jimmy Graham, a literally perfect human, towered a full helmet everyone like some sort of BFG, except sexy and who flies planes.

*Germain Ifedi was back in full pads for the first time since Frank Clark erased his hard drive with a right hook a few days ago. He didn’t play but he’s supposed to be full-go tomorrow. Bullet dodged.

*Clark, for his part, was at practice as well but not in pads and sauntered around the sidelines with all the swagger you’d expect from a 24-year-old millionaire coming off a 10-sack season. Afterward he signed hats and jerseys and joked with the fans, his adorable daughter cradled in the crook of his arm. "We need you on the field, Frank!" shouted one fan imploringly. "Don’t worry," he responded, charming her with a grin and posing for a selfie with a teenager, "I’m gonna be here for a looong time." He seems to be taking his suspension in stride.

*Russell Wilson was awesome. He’s noticeably smaller than he was last season, but in a good way. By now that dude has greased the grooves so many times his body goes through his motions with an effortlessness that belies the power in the movement. All day he looked calm, often under pressure, as he seared strike after strike into the palms of his receivers, branding their hands with the emblem emblazoned on each ball he threw: Wilson.

Jimmy Graham in stride on a quick cross. Doug Baldwin for 12 yards on a scramble. Jermaine Kearse down the seam for a touchdown. All day Wilson went through his reads and calmly delivered each pass with the precision he mentally rehearsed instead of sleeping last night. Baldwin again, Graham once more. CJ Prosise for 50 yards on a wheel route, JD McKissic in the flat for another touchdown. He completed 15 of his 18 passes for a bundle of yards and two teeders. His incompletions were, in order: a throwaway, a Kearse drop, and safe bailout throw out of bounds on a play when seemingly every offensive lineman got beat. It was as close to perfect as a real QB can be in a fake game.

*The backup QBs looked, well, like backups. Barely. Trevone Boykin obviously moves well but I’ll eat my shoe the day he throws a ball less than 20 yards with any touch on it. I really like Boykin and would love to see him claim that job authoritatively but he was non-great in this one. Per Gregg Bell, he was 6/11 which is fine, but his three drives ended with two punts and an interception. I think they got a first down.

This opened the door for Austin Davis, and I wish I could say he strode through it assertively. Actually, he was pretty not terrible for the first two drives, keeping his passes short and picking up five first downs en route to a punt and a field goal. On his last drive, however, his limitations were plain to see. He throws like he’s underwater, his passes somehow achieving negative velocity. His final toss was a short slant behind McKissic that was tipped and intercepted by Pierre Desir. He finished 8/13 with the pick. The fact that the starting QB was the best player on the field didn’t provide a flattering background for their performances but it doesn’t change the fact that neither instill confidence that the position, as currently constructed, can withstand Wilson’s absence.

*If Wilson was the best player on the field, Graham was the most impressive. Nobody can guard him. Like, you watch him on TV and see all his highlights and you’re like duh, idiot. But then you see him up close and you can’t help but feel pity for these poor boys in the secondary tasked with covering an evolutionarily advanced athlete with bodily proportions that defy the very nature of humanity.

Imagine working your whole life towards the goal of playing in the NFL. For the better part of two decades, you’ve nearly killed yourself in pursuit of a single mission. Along the way you’ve put in days that are too long on joints that are too sore, besting your competition enough to get the chance to seize an opportunity the vast majority of players can only dream of. You did it. Finally. You’ve earned a spot in an NFL training camp. Perform well and that impossible dream becomes a reality. You’re one step away, all you gotta do is… guard Jimmy Graham.

I fear there will be many more who sing the Dirge of Jordan Simone. Graham has spent the entirety of camp dashing NFL dreams like so many beer bottles against a brick wall. He’s literally the tallest guy on the team, is faster in pads than almost everybody despite weighing 270 lbs, with NBA athleticism and Venus flytraps for hands. Good fuckin’ luck, buddy.

*I was very eager to watch Chris Carson in person, after hearing so much about him all week. To be sure, he looks the part and he moves with a Rawlsian combination of power and suddenness. All afternoon I waited for that to translate into one of the highlights I’d been hearing about but he was bottled up like my repressed emotions every time he touched the ball. That is not, however, necessarily a criticism of Carson. None of the RBs had much room to work with today, with each iteration of defensive line clogging the gaps on just about every run play that was called. Thomas Rawls never got going, neither did Alex Collins. Lacy was the only ballcarrier to find any room and that didn’t come until an 11-yard off-tackle play on the scrimmage’s last drive. CJ Prosise is definitely bigger this year and he didn’t look one bit slower on his long reception.

*The first-team defense looked phenomenal, as one might expect when the most talented defense of this generation spends two hours lined up against camp fodder. The D-line were their usual disruptive selves, although it’s worth noting that the starting O-line held their ground impressively. Naz Jones was particularly notable, as the guy looks totally immovable once engaged. If he needs to fill the Jarran Reed role for a while, he certainly looked capable of it today. The D didn’t let anything get going on the ground and the secondary flew.

*Sherman was tried a couple of times, breaking up a deep ball down the sideline with the other pass sailing errantly out of bounds. The safeties weren’t tested much that I saw, which left Shaquill Griffin seeing plenty of action. Before I go any further, I should note that the 2017 draft pick I’m most geeked about is the stud who ran a 4.38 40 and prefers to go by ‘Quill. I’m happy to report that his performance today validated that excitement.

Play after play he stayed with his receiver like their jerseys were sewn together. He broke up a sideline pass then, shortly afterward, flew into a gap on a toss sweep and fearlessly stood Alex Collins up in the hole. With the coaches instructing players not to finish tackles, it’s tough to say whether Griffin would’ve taken Collins to the ground but it was encouraging to see him attack a running play so aggressively. His greatest highlight, however, was his diving break up of a low pass, deflecting the ball upward where it was snagged inches from the turf by a sprawling Earl Thomas. It was an incredible play by a rookie making the most of his chance to run with the starters while DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane recover from injuries.

*After spending the offseason on his home planet, working out and rehabbing his broken leg in the warmth of his native red sun, Earl Thomas looks all the way back, baby. The athleticism of his interception notwithstanding, he was springing around the field like a cheetah, prompting Sherman to say afterward that Earl’s play "means we’re back, complete." So impressive was ET’s performance that Sherman was even bowing to him on the field. We must protect Earl Thomas with our lives, you guys.

*Kam Chancellor looked happy as hell all day. Afterward, he gave an NFL Network interview to Michael Robinson and couldn’t stop grinning. So glad they paid that man and, from the sounds of it, so is everyone else at the VMAC.

*Michael Bennett looked homelesser than ever but his offsides game is still in peak form, so I’m not worried about him.

*Blair Walsh was as good as you can hope for, knocking both of his field goal attempts straight down the middle. His first was a 30-something yarder on the regular goalposts and his second was a 40-somethinger that perfectly bisected the far narrower practice uprights on the other end of the field. He might be really good again. He might also suck. Who really knows!

*Sounds likely that Malik McDowell is gonna be out a while after all. Still such a weird story. Hope that kid is okay, but it’s time to make our peace with the possibility of him missing the ’17 season.

There were lots of other things that I’m sure were either amazing or awful or, at the very least, noteworthy, but this is what I saw. The Seahawks look as fast and as fierce as ever. It’s probable that they’ll be very good this season but it’s a guarantee that they’ll be entertaining. The temptation is to read into today’s events way too much but what fun is life if you don’t give in to temptation once in a while. The most important thing is that nobody got hurt that I saw. Onward, upward.

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The 2017 season is proud to be sponsored by Famous Smoke Cigars, Fairhaven Floors, and Brandon Nelson Partners. My choice for today is my most recent favorite stogie, the Gispert Churchill, an impossibly smooth smoke with a consistent flavor I’ve rarely experienced in a stick this size. Enter the promo code: FIELDGULLS and receive 15% off orders of $75 or more.