Quiet rookie Carlson moving into key Seahawks role Print
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Thursday, 21 August 2008 22:16
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 RENTON, Wash. (AP) -Will Heller has been through six NFL training camps. That's long enough to know why the Seahawks drafted John Carlson in the second round.
``They didn't draft him that high to sit on the bench,'' the veteran tight end said, laughing and knowing the rookie from Notre Dame is about to surpass him to become the starter and downfield receiving threat Seattle has lacked recently.
Heller's right.
The only place Carlson will be sitting this season is in the middle of soft zone defenses while running key pass routes coach Mike Holmgren loves to feature in his offense. Holmgren loves utilizing his tight end downfield, but had to improvise last season because Marcus Pollard faded and was eventually released.
So if there was yelling or lecturing on the practice field during training camp that ended Thursday, chances are Holmgren was delivering and Carlson was, well, receiving.
``When he signed his contract when he came in (two days late), I grabbed him and I kind of laid it out for him,'' Holmgren said. ``I said, 'This is what you can expect from me, and this is why.'
``He's a bright guy and he's a very good player. The worst thing that can happen is that the player's off balance, and he doesn't understand why I'm dumping on him. He understands. That's clear. That's been said. Now it's up to him. He's going to be fine.''
Holmgren isn't declaring yet that Carlson will start over Heller, a blocking specialist whom Holmgren calls ``Mr. Dependable,'' or veteran offseason arrival Jeb Putzier, who's caught the ball well but has been out of practice this week with an injury.
He doesn't have to.
``I really feel he is the player we thought he was when we drafted him,'' Holmgren said.
That means a 6-foot-5 target with the ability to make big catches. Carlson doesn't have impressive speed that former first-round bust Jerramy Stevens did before Seattle finally gave up on him following the 2006 season, but he's already proving to have more dependable hands.
That, and a wisdom for not sounding or acting entitled.
Ask him about being thrust into a starting role and instantly being a key to the offense, and Carlson flashes a stunned, fearful look, as if to say, ``What are you, crazy? Someone might hear you!''
``Honestly, I don't think about what my role is going to be,'' Carlson said. ``My focus is just to be as good a player as I can be. That includes special teams. Every day there's a lot to focus on as far as technique, blocking, running routes.
``Those are the things I focus on.''
Carlson said there are similarities in Seattle's offense and former NFL assistant Charlie Weis' pro-style system at Notre Dame. His transition has been smoothed by a realization that Holmgren and Weis are similarly meticulous. Carlson's mix of blocking assignments and the opportunities to make big plays downfield on pass plays is the same with the Seahawks as it was with the Irish. Even the way Holmgren and Weis run meetings, practices and training camp seem similar to him.
There is one, huge difference, of course.
``It's the highest level of football. The tempo is much faster. The speed at which you have to make decisions is much faster,'' Carlson said. ``So in that respect, it's difficult.''
So, yes, Carlson is dutifully playing the role of quiet, unassuming rookie.
The team's Web site had him keep an electronic diary of his first training camp. It wasn't exactly as provocative and colorful as, say, retired NFL receiver Keyshawn Johnson's old autobiography ``Just Give Me the Damn Ball!''
The Web site writer was hoping Carlson would at least perk up about his first NFL preseason game being a homecoming earlier this month, when Seattle played the Vikings in Minneapolis, about 70 miles from Carlson's hometown of Litchfield, Minn.
Nope. Carlson stayed as level as one of his home state's 10,000 lakes.
About the only time you get a rise out of him is when he talks about his marriage last month to the former Danielle Herndon, a captain for Notre Dame's volleyball - and specifically about his new mother-in-law getting impatient when she visited the couple's new apartment in Renton. On the day Carlson was supposed to be starting training camp, she found her son-in-law at home on the couch, waiting to sign a contract.
``She wasn't real happy to see me. She wanted me working,'' Carlson said, chuckling. ``I spent most of the day with my wife and my mother-in-law. I just handed over the credit card, and hoped that this (contract) was getting done so I could pay the bill.''

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