Carroll starts ‘cool, big’ Seahawks minicamp

The khakis were still on. So were the sunglasses.

The hoodie? Seahawks navy blue and neon green, not Trojans

maroon and gold.

The enthusiasm? All Pete Carroll.

Even the weather – sunny and seasonably cool, with a breeze

blowing off Lake Washington – had this Southern California

transplant pumped.

“What was everyone complaining about the weather for?” Carroll

said, squinting into the sun and laughing.

Tuesday brought a minicamp like none other to Seattle. The

58-year-old coach who restored a dynasty at USC led his first NFL

practice since the end of the 1999 season. For 90 fast-paced

minutes, Carroll smiled and clapped and slapped backs.

His new players stretched as their coach walked and chatted

among them. They ran through pads laid out on the field. They ran

from drill to drill. All of it was just like the Washington Huskies

do across the lake under the direction of Carroll protege Steve

Sarkisian.

Which is to say, just like USC does.

It’s was as if Carroll was setting about to compete for his

third national title – not begin the long rebuilding of a fallen

NFL franchise.

The Seahawks have gone from four consecutive NFC West titles to

9-23 since their last playoff game in January 2008. They have so

many holes to fill in next week’s draft, Carroll said with a wry

smile, “we’ve got issues in a lot of areas.”

“Yeah, I am pumped up about it. This is a chance of a lifetime,

for us, for our staff, for our team,” the former coach of the New

York Jets (1994) and New England Patriots (97-99) said. “This is a

tremendous day. I even took a couple minutes out here to look

around and to recognize this day.”

This launch point was so important for Carroll, he had his

assistants out on the field the day before to practice the first

practice.

“It’s a new day for the Seahawks, we hope. It’s big!” he said.

“I know it’s just a little minicamp. But to us, it’s more than

that.”

The only coach not in team workout shorts or sweat pants had a

clear mission statement for his staff and players on Day One.

“We’re trying to do things better than it’s ever been done

before,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to be the best staff, the

best team, (to go on) the best run we can put the Seahawks on that

they’ve ever seen. That starts today. Where that ends up? I don’t

know. But that’s what we’re out here to do. It starts out with

having the best first practice that they’ve ever seen.”

His players are just trying to keep up with Carroll’s USC system

already rolling in Seattle.

After three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck fired a

sharp pass for a completion over the middle, Carroll thrust his

fist toward him for a bump. The 34-year-old Hasselbeck hesitated

and offered an open right hand instead to begin an awkward,

half-bump, half-handshake.

Mike Williams is a former Trojans wide receiver who almost

ballooned his way out of the NFL but is now slimmed down to 235

pounds. He’s getting a tryout with his old college coach. He made

the mistake of walking between drills as he talked to Seahawks

veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

“Mike Williams, c’mon!” Carroll yelled. “What are you walking

out here for?”

Williams, who played for Carroll at USC through the 2004 season,

said it seemed as though Carroll is more amped in Seattle than he

was in Los Angeles.

“More excited. A lot more excited,” Williams said. “My

feeling is, not to speak for Coach Carroll, is that he’s excited to

move on to a new challenge. USC was a challenge he had conquered a

few years ago.”

Carroll is surrounding himself with many familiar faces while on

his new turf.

Eight of his assistants and training staffers were with him at

USC, including new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. Six former

Trojan players are in this camp, from three-time Pro Bowl

linebacker Lofa Tatupu through Williams and two other USC free

agents who are getting tryouts.

Former Trojans defensive end Lawrence Jackson, Seattle’s No. 1

draft choice in 2008, said those who are not Men of Troy better get

on board.

“His resume obviously speaks for itself. His energy obviously

speaks for itself,” Jackson said. “All we have to do is buy in.

Hey, we’re going in the right direction. Get those old Seahawks out

of your mind. It’s a new day.”