Sports

For the fans: Seahawks have first-ever open training camp

Seahawks wide receiver Deion Branch has fun on the sidelines at a training camp practice Aug. 3 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. The practice was the first- ever training camp session open to fans at the VMAC.  - Adam Mcfadden, Renton Reporter
Seahawks wide receiver Deion Branch has fun on the sidelines at a training camp practice Aug. 3 at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. The practice was the first- ever training camp session open to fans at the VMAC.
— image credit: Adam Mcfadden, Renton Reporter

On the sunny shores of Lake Washington Aug. 3, roughly 1,500 fans took in the Seattle Seahawks’ first-ever open training camp practice at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.

John Carlson, a second-year tight end, was enthusiastic about practicing in front of fans for the first time.

“It brings a new excitement to practice and kind of livens things up a little bit,” he said. “It makes it a little more competitive out there. It’s fun to have the fans out there because obviously without the fans we can’t do what we do.”

Fans aren’t allowed to park at the VMAC, so they must park at The Landing and ride a shuttle to practice. The shuttle system ran smoothly as buses took off every few minutes and the ride was short. Once at the VMAC, fans can sit on a grassy berm or stand next to the fence surrounding the practice fields on both the east and south sides.

With just a short metal fence separating them from the on-field action, fans had a great view of the players.

The crowd erupted in cheers on a number of great catches by T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deon Butler and other recievers. At one point defensive tackle Craig Terrill even implored the crowd to get loud by waving his hands up.

Players occasionally interacted with fans while standing on the sidelines – a simple turn and thumbs up, for example – but it was mostly about business during the practice session.

It was a different story after the roughly two-hour training session, as many players stayed outside to mingle with fans, sign autographs and take pictures.

“I think it’s very important to reach out to the fans because without their support we wouldn’t get paid money to play football,” said Carlson, one of the players who stayed on the field the longest. “They showed a tremendous amount of support last year even though we didn’t produce the wins we probably should have. So it’s just a small way to say ‘thanks’ to them.”

Carlson and the rest of the players were glad to finally put on full pads and get some contact during practice. Through the spring practices, the team didn’t wear pads and there was minimal contact during drills.

“Practicing without pads isn’t really football,” Carlson said. “Once you put the pads on you start to get sore. You start to hit people a little bit. That’s when it starts to feel like training camp.”

After his rookie training camp started in Kirkland and was run by former coach Mike Holmgren, Carlson said things this season are a little different.

For one, breaks between two-a-day practices are longer. Carlson takes the time to go home (he lives near the VMAC), study the playbook and get off his feet.

The practices are also very high tempo under new coach Jim Mora. But even with the small changes, it’s still training camp.

“Training camp is training camp. It’s a grind,” he said. “You’ve just got to get through it. You use this time to improve and gel.”

Adam McFadden can be reached at amcfadden@rentonreporter.com or 425-255-3484

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