Phil Bates played fullback briefly last year in the preseason but, when asked by his hometown Omaha World-Herald recently which position he'll be utilized at for the Seahawks in 2014, he replied, "I still play wideout."
"I played quarterback in college (at Iowa State and at Ohio), but when I got to the league I had to transfer to learn how to play wide receiver. And that was a hard adjustment."
Not only is it a hard adjustment making the switch to receiver, it's one position where the jump from college to the pros typically takes several years. You see highly-drafted major college receivers struggling during their first two seasons in making the adjustment to the pro game, and Bates of course was a UDFA quarterback out of Ohio. That's tall odds, but he's stuck around, mostly on the practice squad. As Teddy K.G.B. would put it, Bates is "hang-ging around, hang-ging around" with the Seahawks.
"But, I stuck because I can catch," he said. "I could catch the hard balls."
This lines up with something that Rob Rang said about Bates back during his rookie training camp:
"As an undrafted free agent playing at the wide receive position, it's easy to make a good, quick first impression," said Rang back in 2012. "But what was most impressive, I thought, about him, was that he was truly working on his routes, he showed the natural burst out of his breaks that you're looking for. Obviously, he's still going to be, very much, a work in progress as a route-runner, but I never saw him drop a pass, I never saw him shirk from the physicality of running over the middle, I did see him go up and make some big time catches, so there was a lot of reasons to be pretty excited about him."
Bates has been quiet after making a little noise during training camp his rookie year in 2012, but now that he's had some time to learn the nuances of the position, the mental side of things might finally match up with his physical abilities.
"This year, it's the year to take it to the next level," Bates told the World-Herald. "That next step of my career to show everybody that I can do it."
At 6'1, 220 or 230 pounds or so, Bates profiles, physically, differently than most other Seahawk receivers. This might help him separate.
"I watch a lot of Anquan Boldin. Demaryius Thomas. Just try to steal things from every guy. You've got to think: Those guys have played so much receiver. I have only two years. I'm just trying to keep enhancing my game, keep building my game."