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Thursday, July 27, 2006 - Page updated at 01:02 PM

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Live Q&A: Seahawks training camp

The Seahawks are set to get back into the swing of things, with training camp starting Saturday. It won't be long before the Hawks begin defense of their NFC championship, with the season only six weeks away.

But before that, there is camp in Cheney at Eastern Washington.

Times columnist Steve Kelley joined us for a live question and answer session previewing the opening of Seahawks training camp in Cheney:

Can the Hawks make it back to the Super Bowl this year?
Dean Johnson, Shelton

Steve Kelley: If you're asking me to make a prediction - remembering that I'm never right - I would guess the Hawks lose to Carolina in the NFC Championship game. Which means they've had another successful season. Everything broke perfectly for them last season until that Sunday in Detroit. They certainly have the talent to get back there. They have the toughness. They have linebacker Julian Peterson, an ingredient they didn't have last season. But it's such a long way from here to Miami and Super Bowl XLI. So much can go wrong. The secret as a fan is to enjoy the ride.

Will Mike Holmgren ever stop whining about the Super Bowl, or take responsibility for his own mistakes? He was more to blame than the refs.
Brian, Kent

I couldn't agree with you more, Brian. I thought from his first remarks at Qwest Field the day after the game, he was putting too much emphasis on that when he should have been talking strictly about the great season the Seahawks had just finished. The officials didn't cost them the game. The dropped passes and the injury to Manuel, which led to a couple of defensive breakdowns, were the differences in the game. I think the Hawks were the better team and to still be talking about the officials seven months later absolutely is whining.

Was money the only reason the Hawks didn't sign Ty Law?
Brandon, Vancouver, Wash.

Yes, although I'd rather have Ty Law at any price over Kelly Jennings.

How is Itula Mili doing? Stevens has been inconsistent in the past and Will Heller is inexperienced. Tight end seems like it could end up being a weakness.
Jason, Arlington

Well, he looks like Itula Mili this year. Last year, he looked like Two Of Mili. He was about 30 pounds overweight. Call me crazy, but I think Stevens finally emerged last season (OK, let's skip over the drops in the Super Bowl). I think he's one of the best pass-receiving tight ends in football. The Hawks are going to need some production out of Mili this season, especially in short-yardage situations. Ryan Hannam, who signed with Dallas, is another one of those unsung guys who will be missed more than you might expect.

Last year at this time I thought Holmgren should be fired and the defense was going to stink because it was made up of rookies and rejects. This year the team looks great. I look at the schedule and drool - I see four games that we may have trouble in and expect to lose one on top of that. Am I being an idiot again? And if so, what am I missing?
Steve, Kent Kent

Welcome to my world, Steve. That's the beauty and the beast of sports. I think two-thirds of Seattle thought Holmgren should have been fired. Now they want him to be their neighbor. I don't think any of us knew how good GM Tim Ruskell was. His job last season reminds me of the job Mariners GM Pat Gillick did in 2001. Ruskell has a great eye for talent and an obvious plan for putting a team together. As for us being idiots again, let's talk in January.

The secondary seems to be the only chink in the Seattle armor. Steve, do you feel that Hamlin is healthy enough, and do you think that Kelly Jennings will contribute enough to put this defense over the edge and into the top 10?
Jason Meyer, Sacramento

Every day at mini-camp when Kelly Jennings walked off the field, all of the people standing around, including many ex-NFL players, looked at him and said, "Man, he's tiny." So there is reason to be concerned. As for Hamlin, I don't think he knows yet. And he's not going to get many chances in the exhibition season to test is health. I'd be scared to death to play football again if I were him. But he's tough and just like Nate Burleson is the key to the offense, l think Hamlin is the key to the defense. And just like Joe Jurevicius' absence will be felt on offense, the absence of safety Marquand Manuel will be felt equally as much on defense.

Amazing how quickly a successful season can make us forget so many frustrating years. I still can't get over how the Hawks have actually been IN the playoffs for three straight years. Are they really THIS good?
Rory, Seattle

As someone who grew up in Philly and got used to rooting for bad teams, I understand the idea when something like the Hawks' success seems to good to be true. But to answer your question, they got to the Super Bowl last season, and they could return this season. So, yeah, Rory, they're pretty good.

Was thinking about going over to Cheney. What's camp like for fans? Do you recommend it?
Lou, Seattle

I've never thought Cheney was very fan-friendly, especially on days when it feels like the Hawks are practicing in a furnace. A lot of times the drills are done quite a ways from the hot metal stands that almost nobody uses. Still, it's the most up close and personal look you'll get all season. I just think the Hawks could do a better job of getting the fans closer to the field. The best part of the experience is after practice, when you can get just about anybody's autograph. I still have strips of autographs from the 1960 Philadelphia Eagles I got at their training camp in Hershey, Pa. From an historical standpoint, since the Hawks are moving their operations to Renton, this will be your next-to-last year you'll be able to say, "Yeah, I saw them in Cheney."

Will Shaun Alexander repeat last year's performance now that he has signed a pretty big contract?
Christian, Skokie, Ill.

The question Tim Ruskell asks himself every morning when he looks in the mirror. I think the answer is yes. Alexander had the most fun he's ever had playing football last season. He proved himself to be a good teammate, a good practice player and a guy willing to deep his shoulder for the extra yard. His gritty run late in their home opener against Atlanta last year, sort of set the stage for everything that followed.

What's missing? This team is missing that clutch hitter who gets us the big win. Who will step up or who should we have gotten to be our Hines Ward or Adam Vinatieri?
Chuck Gillespie, Pullman

I think Joe Jurevicius was that kind of guy, but I think the days of questioning the clutch-ness of Alexander or Hasselback are over. I also think Josh Brown has the same kind of ice water as Vinatieri. I know, however, Brown was unhappy that his holder, punter Tom Rouen, wasn't invited back, and it's going to take him time to adjust to the guy they drafted, Ryan Plackemeier. Or whomever the new holder is going to be.

What's going on with the Hawks playing on the NFL Network? How can I watch the game if I don't have the NFL Network as part of my cable package?
Matthew, Seattle

Welcome to the greedy world of professional sports, Matthew. I'm with you. It's bad enough paying 50 bucks to watch a couple of bantamweights bloody each other's noses, but the idea of having to pay for something we've been getting free since the days of Bobby Layne and Frank Gifford (the player) bugs me. But I believe this is just the beginning.

Can the Seahawks live with their wide receiver corps or should they upgrade somehow? How will Nate Burleson be used?
Doug Sera, Clackamas, Ore.

Nate Burleson, I believe, holds the key to the offense. We know how good Matt Hasselback is. We know what kind of production to expect from Shaun Alexander. But Burleson has to be the Burleson of two years ago. I expect him to be used as their deep threat, but I've always been impressed with his ability to go over the middle. And in the West Coast offense, you have to be able to catch the ball with a slobbering safety waiting to take your head off.

How will the Cardinals' acquisition of Edgerrin James affect the Hawks? You hear every year how the Cardinals will be improved.
Ben, Cincinnati

It seems like everybody's conceding the NFC West to the Seahawks. I think they're going to win it again, but they're aren't going to cakewalk through the division like they did last season. James obviously makes the Cardinals better, and if Matt Leinart has any kind of rookie season (and with those receivers, even you and I might be Rookies of the Year), the Cardinals are going to be dangerous. The 49ers, with a new offensive coordinator, are better, and the Rams can't get any worse than they were last year. But you're right about the Cardinals; they were last season's sexy dark-horse pick and look what happened.

Is D.J. Hackett ready to be a No. 1 receiver? He may have to be if Darrell Jackson's recent problems with staying on the field continue. I think Hackett is ready - do you and the Hawks?
David Spencer, Mercer Island

There are days when Hackett looks ready and days when you wonder if it's ever going to happen. He has the size and speed, but there are serious questions about his ability to play through injuries. And as one coach said last year, we're going to find the answer. So Hackett looks like the season's biggest question mark on a receiving corps full of question marks.

How close are the Seahawks in signing their top draft picks? Are there any possible holdouts?
Jake, Spokane

Four of their top six picks remain unsigned - cornerback Kelly Jennings, defensive end Darryl Tapp, offensive lineman Rob Sims and wide receiver Ben Obomanu. That obviously isn't a good way to start training camp. The absences of Jennings and Tapp would be especially disconcerting, but I think all four will be signed and in camp within the week.

Note: The Seahawks have signed fourth-round draft pick G Rob Sims and their second of two seventh-round draft picks WR Ben Obomanu, the team announced today.Sims, drafted 128th overall, was an All-Big Ten Conference first-team selection his senior year at Ohio State and Obomanu, drafted 249th overall, finished his Auburn career ranked second in school history with 18 touchdown receptions.Obomanu and Sims become the fourth of six draft picks to sign with Seattle.


What are your impressions on filling the void from the departure of Steve Hutchinson at left guard? Can the O-line be as strong as last year? What about the rumors that Pork Chop Womack may not be healthy enough?
Scott Santos, Snoqualmie

I don't think those are rumors about Pork Chop. There should be legitimate concerns about his health. That's what makes Chris Spencer such an important part of the exhibition season. He's going to get his chances to play, and it's now or never. Spencer was a first-round pick last year, and unless you're a quarterback, teams expect first-round picks to play right away. Spencer wasn't ready last year and he was a major disappointment. In answer to the second part of your question, any offensive line with Walter Jones at left tackle is a pretty good offensive line.

The Hawks had a phenomenal season in '05. Are there any areas you feel the Seahawks overachieved in last year, and we might see them to come back to earth a bit this season?
Theron B, Sammamish

Yes. Next question? No, I'm kidding. I think their pass receivers overachieved, and I think they're really going to miss Joe Jurevicius' size and ability to make catches in the clutch. Bobby Engram is close to coming the Jamie Moyer of football, and as much as I like Nate Burleson, he had his best seasons alongside Randy Moss and has something to prove after last season's disappointments. Another area of concern could be the offensive line. Not just because Steve Hutchinson is gone, but because center Robbie Tobeck is a year older and Hutchinson's replacement, Pork Chop Womack, seems to perennially be hurt. This is the season that last year's No. 1 draft pick, Chris Spencer, has to emerge either at center or at guard.

Do you think the NFL will do any thing about the refs when the Seahawks go to this year's Super Bowl (only because it wasn't fair playing against the Steelers and the refs last year)?
Jack Hammon, Anchorage

Let's put it this way: They're not going to make a decision on this season's Super Bowl's officials based on the performance on last season's. And since they didn't fine Mike Holmgren for his comments following the game, which they should have, they probably should assign the same officials at this Super Bowl just out of spite. But the Hawks have a long, long way to go before you should start worrying about who's officiating in Miami.

Steve, do you think we need to pick up a veteran QB to back up Matt Hasselbeck?
Wallace, Seattle

Yes, although I don't think they were willing to spend the money to get a quarterback of quality like Joey Harrington and we should even put a question mark by Harrington. The field of candidates wasn't that impressive. They need to find a way to get Seneca Wallace on the field more often and Greene isn't close to being ready. It looks to me like they start this season like they started last, holding their breaths, hoping nothing happens to Hasselbeck of Shaun Alexander

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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