RENTON, Wash. - 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."
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."