|Weaver entrenched with Seahawks|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 31 July 2008 22:41|
Not in the locker room. Or the shower. Or his house, his church or on the visits he still enjoys with former Seattle teammate Shaun Alexander.
The Seahawks' devout starting fullback was belting out the gospel song ``Oh Happy Day'' while on the sidelines during practice Thursday morning. Except this was no happy day for Mike Holmgren.
The veteran coach, who is in his 10th and final season leading the Seahawks, stomped over to the 25-year-old Weaver and told him sternly: ``I'm in a bad mood. I don't want to be in a good mood. No signing hymns.''
``I go to church and I love to hear hymns,'' Holmgren said later, smiling. ``Out here I tell him, 'Please don't.'''
A year ago, Weaver could have been singing a different song: ``Almost Gone.''
In 2007, Weaver was entering his third season as an overlooked, undrafted free agent out of Division II Carson-Newman, a Southern Baptist college in Jefferson City, Tenn. He had already proven to Holmgren his halfback-like skills as a receiver and elusive runner. What the 6-foot, 242-pound Weaver was failing - miserably - to prove was that he could block well enough to be a fullback. And the Seahawks wanted him to be the heir to Pro Bowl fullback Mack Strong, who was entering his 15th season.
After the first weeks of training camp last summer, Holmgren pulled Weaver aside and said bluntly, ``If you don't fix this, you're not going to be here.''
Weaver fixed it. So quickly that when Strong was forced to retire immediately with a neck injury following Week 5, Seattle didn't go searching for a veteran replacement from afar. The team just plugged in the man who weeks earlier was perhaps one more bad practice from being unemployed.
``I was kind of surprised, to be honest with you,'' Weaver said.
He credits Strong, who was watching practice Thursday, with convincing him he could do it.
Now, 11 months later, Holmgren is calling Weaver ``as talented a fullback as I've ever had.''
To Weaver, this journey from abyss to bliss is even farther than it seems.
``Tremendously far, man,'' Weaver said, after displaying his versatility and value in Thursday morning's practice.
First he flattened a defender in the open field with a wicked block. Then he twisted and leaned like a gymnast to catch a pass thrown behind him.
``Obviously I have matured a lot,'' Weaver said. ``And I'm very thankful for the opportunity, and Coach Holmgren and his staff and the people in the front office for believing in me after going through what I went through last year.''
Holmgren acknowledges Weaver is sensitive. So, yes, the 60-year-old coach known for occasional eruptions wondered if Weaver would fold after the direct challenge.
``Hey, it's a tough business sometimes. If he couldn't handle that little bit with me, it gets a lot harder than that,'' Holmgren said. ``But I was pretty sure.
``I'd been a school teacher for a long time now. And so I kind of know how it's going to work before I do something, at least I think I do. I try not to back a player into a corner unless I think I'm going to get the response I need.
``He went after it hard.''
Weaver's staying after it, too. He took kickboxing classes for 90 minutes each Monday, Wednesday and Friday from February into July, ``just getting a feel for my surroundings. And endurance was the biggest deal, being able to last for a while,'' he said.
That was while the Seahawks signed veteran T.J. Duckett in the offseason. The 6-foot, 254-pound Duckett looks like a fullback, if not a tank. He has the prototype cinderblock body that would seem to fit Holmgren's idea of a fullback and Seattle's priority of improving its dreadful running game from last season.
But Duckett has appeared to run more like a halfback. And he is also adept at catching passes. Holmgren said ``at first blush'' he sees Duckett as the designated short-yardage runner, meaning Weaver would still be blocking for him as the fullback.
``Really, the only thing that prevents him from being very, very successful on every play is Leonard,'' Holmgren said. ``He's strong enough. He's fast enough. He has great skill. He has become a very good blocker.
``He just has to concentrate on every play. As I tell him, 'Never think you've arrived. Always go from the point like you've got something to prove to me.'''
Weaver said he didn't worry when Duckett signed.
``Oh, no, no. Duckett's a teammate, a good man,'' Weaver said. ``Of course, we're all competing. But I've never gotten sour.''
Even though the Seahawks almost soured on him.
``It would have been a shame, you know?'' Holmgren said. ``We were prepared to do that, but fortunately, he got it. And he went with it.
``He responded beautifully.''