Seahawks End Mini-Camp on High Note
The Seahawks formed a large circle around new coach Jim Mora one hour into the final practice of minicamp. About 70 sweaty men wearing metallic blue helmets then suddenly turned into boys. They bellowed rowdy cheers that made the middle of the field sound like many playgrounds this time of year.

Mora had just released them early. School was out for the Seahawks until July 31.

"As Mike (Holmgren, Mora's predecessor) would say, we gave them a little 'cookie.' They deserved it," Mora said Friday after cutting short the third and final day of the final mandatory activity Seattle plans until training camp begins.

"We had an outstanding offseason. We had 12 weeks of work. We had 22 practices. And throughout the offseason we had 96 percent attendance - and it's all voluntary except for this minicamp. I think that says a lot about our football team and the men on it ... the determination they have to be a heck of a team this year."

Yes, the foul taste of last season's 4-12 season - the worst in 16 years after five consecutive playoff appearances - still lingers among the former rulers of the NFC West. So if there are veterans flying off to tropical islands or party spots during the next 48 days, they are expected to bring their play books and workouts with them.

"I wouldn't say anything is laid back," quarterback and co-captain Matt Hasselbeck said of these first months of Mora's tenure.

In an NFL that guards play books like launch codes to nuclear warheads, Mora is allowing his players to take theirs with them on vacation. He wants no excuses that Seattle's new offensive and defensive schemes are foreign once the season essentially begins in seven weeks.

"Now is not the time to slack off. Now is the time to pick it up," Mora told the players before Friday's practice. "Protect the work you've done ... and not jeopardize your place on this team."

Mora also expects his players to be "in the best shape of their lives and demanding the best performance they've ever had on the football field" when camp begins, and not just because there are conditioning tests and body-fat measurements players must pass the morning they report. Mora noted there are only 15 days between the start of camp and the first preseason game.

Then again, it doesn't take much to send Mora into a fitness mood.

The 47-year-old is a workout fiend. He runs up a rugged mountain trail near his suburban home before dawn many mornings each week. He canceled a practice last week and accompanied his humbled players an hour south to Fort Lewis, where they wore themselves out on the Army's obstacles courses during a 90-degree afternoon. He had players running between drills and even plays throughout minicamps and team activities all spring. And, oh yeah, he's climbing 14,411-foot Mount Rainier with the league commissioner in three weeks.

Hasselbeck thinks Mora's message has been received. Of course, the quarterback is the guy who last summer worked on pass routes with now-departed veteran receiver Bobby Engram near the players' resort homes on Lake Chelan.

"We're done. Everyone gets out of town for six weeks. But this is the point you've got to gear it up, physically and mentally," said the three-time Pro Bowl passer, who appears healed from the lower back injury that kept him out of nine games last season.

Yet it's not all work and no play with Mora. The Seahawks rookies have to stay around for pre-training camp programs over the next few weeks. During those, Mora will lead them on outings to a Mariners baseball game, a Storm women's basketball game and to the top of the Space Needle.

Mora didn't mention whether he'll have the players scale that Seattle landmark, or whether he might lead them in bungee jumping off the top.

"I like the pace. I like the tempo. Our players have adapted well to the way we've asked them to practice," Mora said. "I don't know if you're ever where you need to be. You are always working to be where you want to be.

"I think they've embraced the changes we've asked them to make, wholeheartedly. I believe we are on the right track." Notes: Mora said second-year FB Owen Schmitt enters camp as the starter and that veteran Justin Griffith, who signed recently from Oakland and was Mora's FB in Atlanta from 2004-07, "understands he has more of a mentor role." ... CB Marcus Trufant has nagging hamstring pain, WR Nate Burleson injured his hamstring last week and WR Courtney Taylor strained his groin. All stayed out of the minicamp. But Mora said all players - even LT Walter Jones, DE Patrick Kerney and others who are coming off surgeries - will be ready for training camp. ... Rookie WR Deon Butler, a diminutive third-round pick in April, impressed Hasselbeck and Mora with how he caught passes all spring. Mora said Penn State's all-time leading receiver will get chances to return kickoffs and punts during preseason games.