Seahawks' exhibition finale is prime time for players on bubble
Safety Jeron Johnson, receiver Doug Baldwin and others get chance to make a closing statement.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Exhibition, Oakland @ Seahawks, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 5
RENTON — Safety Jeron Johnson packed for an entire season. Receiver Doug Baldwin brought enough clothes for about three days.
Johnson has at least 20 pairs of sneakers in his hotel room. Baldwin has all of one jacket.
While they packed differently, the two undrafted rookies share an objective: earning one of the 53 roster spots available when the Seahawks' season opens. Friday's exhibition game against Oakland at 7:30 p.m. is their chance to make a closing statement.
Training camp is where teams attempt to identify the overlooked and discard the overrated. For the past month, Johnson and Baldwin are two rookies who have not just played their way into the conversation, but likely onto the team. The final exhibition game is one last audition.
"You can't let it add pressure onto you," Johnson said. "I've been having pressure on me the whole camp. Just got to go in like I've been going in there all the rest of the game and be prepared for everything they throw at me."
Johnson grew up in Southern California, where he was a high-school teammate of Richard Sherman, the cornerback Seattle drafted in the fifth round out of Stanford. In fact, Johnson threw Sherman his first touchdown pass back when they were in the ninth grade.
Johnson went to Boise State, the only school other than San Jose State to offer him a scholarship. He started 44 games during the Broncos' rise to national prominence and earned a reputation as a big hitter. He was expected by many to be chosen as high as the third round. He went undrafted, and the disappointment was so stiff at one point he had to stop watching TV on the draft's final day.
It's more than a chip Johnson carries on his shoulder. It's more like a mission.
"That will always be in the back of my mind as motivation," Johnson said.
Training camp is the embodiment of the old American ideal, a land of opportunity, and Johnson has played his way up the depth chart. He deflected the final pass as Seattle completed a goal-line stand to beat San Diego on Aug. 11, showing more coverage skills than some expected. He forced a fumble on a punt return the next week.
As things stand right now, Johnson, Josh Pinkard and Atari Bigby are the three backup safeties in the mix behind starters Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
Baldwin is another undrafted rookie, from Stanford, who was visiting his girlfriend in San Diego when the lockout ended. He had enough time to pack one bag.
"I'm cycling through clothes," he said, "and getting them washed every other day."
He's 5 feet 10, but his footwork is exceptional. He's caught eight passes — most of any Seahawk in the three games — and returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown. He appears to have moved past second-year receiver Golden Tate on the depth chart.
"I've been blessed with an opportunity that a lot of people don't get to experience," Baldwin said. "Since I was 6 years old, I've always told myself that nothing would stop me from getting to the NFL."
He's almost there.
• LB David Hawthorne (knee) and RB Marshawn Lynch (ankle) will not play Friday, according to coach Pete Carroll. The coach did not offer a definitive status on any other players. WRs Sidney Rice (shoulder) and Mike Williams (toe) missed practice this week and are also unlikely to play.