Duckett rejoins old pal in Seattle Print
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Wednesday, 07 May 2008 21:32
NFL Headline News

 KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -A decade ago, T.J. Duckett and Julius Jones hit it off as star high school seniors during a recruiting trip to Notre Dame.
Even though Duckett went to Michigan State and Jones to Notre Dame, he still knows Jones well. Well enough to tease him about the bulging biceps and triceps that Jones shows off each day at Seahawks minicamp, with sleeves meticulously tucked in to show them off.
``Nice little tuck show he does,'' Duckett said Wednesday, laughing. ``It's his gun show. I'm just trying to buy tickets.''
The Seahawks signed Duckett to a five-year contract in March, after he spent one middling season with Detroit and the one before that with Washington. When he signed, it was unclear how much the 254-pound pack of power and deceptive speed might replace Shaun Alexander. Seattle no longer needed the 2005 league MVP after two seasons of injuries and ineffectiveness.
But a week later, the Seahawks signed the more accomplished Jones from Dallas to a four-year contract worth almost $12 million.
After six days of minicamps, it's still unclear how Duckett fits in Seattle.
Will he be the third-down back that he resembles? Or will he be the versatile, every-down back he is showing he can be during these early practices?
And if so, what's Jones here to do? And what of Maurice Morris, who has proven while spelling Alexander for six years that he can be a slashing runner and receiver?
``You can't have enough backs,'' president and general manager Tim Ruskell has said more than once since he signed Duckett and Jones.
Despite Duckett's bullish appearance, the words ``short-yardage back'' make him chuckle.
``People look at me and call me that,'' he said. ``Then I get out there and run and they say, 'OK. He's faster than we thought, he moves better than we thought.'
``That puts people in a situation where they don't know how to use you. They look at you one way, then you can do something else, and they really don't know what to do.''
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren is already at that point, after two weeks of work without pads or contact that has been heavy on the passing game. Duckett has been catching almost everything thrown near him and shown surprising agility - just as he said.
Holmgren has always preferred a single, featured back for all downs. That's what Alexander was for him in Seattle, and Ricky Watters, too. Dorsey Levens helped Holmgren win a Super Bowl as the lead runner in Green Bay a decade ago.
``I think you play the guy who is good at (everything),'' Holmgren said. ``There are some teams that take a big, strong pile-driving guy and I guess they call him a short-yardage back. I have never done that. In fact, when I have done that it hasn't worked very well.''
With Jones and Duckett - plus Morris and versatile, still-learning fullback Leonard Weaver - Holmgren said: ``I have to see. When the pads go on I have to see how these guys go.''
Duckett looks like he goes as a linebacker, mainly because he was one. Notre Dame was the only school that recruited him as a running back out of Kalamazoo, Mich. During his freshman season at Michigan State he was a backup at outside linebacker to Julius Peterson, the Seahawks' Pro Bowl menace to quarterbacks.
By midseason, coach Nick Saban was having Duckett run the ball in short-yardage situations. By his sophomore year, Duckett was the feature back who ended up with 3,379 yards rushing at Michigan State. Atlanta chose him 18th overall in the 2002 draft.
His career peaked in his second season, with 779 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns for the Falcons. They traded him in 2006 to the Redskins. After one season they let him sign with Detroit. He would have liked to stay near his family again this season, but the Lions let him go, too, this winter.
He said he is motivated by the many who forget he is still in the NFL.
``Oh, definitely. You want to get back on the map,'' he said.
That could happen with the defending four-time NFC West champion Seahawks.
``I haven't won a Super Bowl, haven't gone to a Pro Bowl. So there is a lot of growing to do,'' Duckett said. ``This is a great opportunity, a great organization. Out of all the other teams, I couldn't ask to be in a better spot.''
 

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