KIRKLAND — Last year was supposed to be the big payoff for Itula Mili, the year the Seahawks finally made it to the Super Bowl with him as a key contributor after nine seasons in Seattle.
Mili had put in his time, keeping a starting job for two years despite the presence of former first-round pick Jerramy Stevens. He's one of the longest-tenured Seahawks, a guy who had been through the years of mediocrity and, along with the franchise, had risen his game in postseason contests in 2003 and 2004.
But an intestinal blockage blocked Mili's personal path to the Super Bowl; and even when he recovered from the problem, he was no longer in the playing rotation at tight end.
Weeks of inactivity followed.
"It was very difficult to stand on the sideline in the Super Bowl," Mili said. "That kind of gave me a lot of motivation to come out this year and, no matter what the situation was going to be ... from the day I left the Super Bowl, I went home and started training."
It's a new year, and Mili is back with a clean slate. An Achilles injury is nagging him, but Mili has practiced the past two days.
"I expect a lot out of myself this year," he said. "I expect a lot when training camp starts. I know what my capabilities are, and so I want to tap back into that."
Mili could have imploded and fumed at the idea of not playing last season. He could have walked away, so frustrated was he at not being able to live his dream and play in the Super Bowl.
Instead, he dedicated himself to helping the scout team prepare the starters for games.
"It was such a battle in training camp last year between him and Jerramy," tight ends coach Jim Lind said. "Then Jerramy jumped in there and played real well, and Ryan Hannam played real good, and they kind of complemented each other. And during the season, you kind of go one week at a time, and you never know what's going to happen, and everybody stayed healthy from then on.
"We knew he wanted to be back in there, but it just didn't work out because of the situation."
Hannam got the snaps behind Stevens, who went on to have his best season as a Seahawk. But now Hannam is a Dallas Cowboy and Stevens won't be back from knee surgery until training camp.
That leaves Mili as the No. 1 tight end. And there will be no missed minicamps for him this year as in years past, when Mili skipped voluntary camps for personal or contract reasons.
"He'll have another chance," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said, "and hopefully he'll be ready to go."
Hard luck for Hamdan
Seahawks quarterback Gibran Hamdan was at a recent minicamp practice after having returned from NFL Europe. Hamdan came back to the Seattle area because he broke his right ankle in a game last month.
It's the second straight year in which Hamdan suffered a season-ending injury. Last year, a broken collarbone forced him out in Week 4 of the NFL Europe season. This year the injury came a few weeks later, with Hamdan as the league's leading passer.
Hamdan played on the ankle in the second half of the game, managing to lead his Amsterdam Admirals to victory and be named the league's offensive player of the week for the third time this year.
Hamdan, 25, is on crutches with a protective boot over his ankle, but he hopes to be ready for training camp this summer.
• A camera crew was at practice Wednesday to film interviews for a biographical documentary of Seahawks QBs coach Jim Zorn.
• Asked if the team is affected by coach Mike Holmgren's ongoing contract negotiations, Hasselbeck said, "It's not something that we're too focused on. Just like I don't think our position coaches get too focused on a player's contract situation. Usually they're more focused on coaching football. For us as players, with whatever's going on there, we're just more concerned with playing football."
Josť Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or email@example.com