Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Half a ton of toughness

Jim Mora and Tim Ruskell added nearly a half of ton of physical toughness to the Seahawks this season.

By Clare Farnsworth

September 27, 2009

After struggling through a tough 2008 season, Seahawks president Tim Ruskell and coach Jim Mora decided the team needed an infusion of toughness.

Enter, in order, nose tackle Colin Cole, wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh, fullback Justin Griffith, defensive lineman Cory Redding and cornerback Ken Lucas.

Together, they bring 34 seasons of NFL experience to the mix – not to mention more than half a ton of toughness.

“Either guys have it or they don’t,” Mora said. “A team has it or they don’t have it. We’ve made a concerted effort in the draft and free agency to find guys that have a strong physical presence.

“These guys are all tough. They’re all tough.”

This makeover wasn’t just a coach longing to have more toughness on his team. It became an organization-wide obsession.

“We made a point with our scouts, to have that be a filter we put all these guys through. Where are they on the toughness scale?” Ruskell said. “Because that’s the point of emphasis with the coaching staff, so it has to be the point of emphasis for the personnel department.

“Jim made it a point of emphasis all offseason – that’s how you win the close games, that’s how you win the road games, that’s how you win playoff games. Toughness. Our record is not good in road games forever, and you can’t keep blaming the travel and the time zone.

“There’s something more to it than that.”

It’s toughness. And, unlike proper footwork or textbook tackling technique, it’s not something that can be coached.

“I don’t know that you go through three weeks of training camp and just create nastiness,” Mora said. “We look at guys and say, ‘Are they tough guys? Are they great competitors? Are they guys that can intimidate on the field? Do they have a strong physical presence?

“And we try to add guys like that to the mix.”

Redding finds it, well, tough to argue with the logic or the selection of players.

“If that was the goal – to get toughness – than they fulfilled it once they got all of us,” he said, smiling. “So I think they did a good job.”

With all that said, here’s a look at each of the tough guys the Seahawks added to their mix:

Colin Cole – All it takes is one look at the 6-foot-1, 330-pounder to see that “toughness” could be his middle name.

It’s also a prerequisite for the position he plays.

“Certainly, you start with the nose tackle,” defensive end Patrick Kerney said when asked about the team ratcheting its toughness quota. “He has to be the toughest player on the team because he’s going to be battling two guys more often than not, down after down.

“We have toughness in Colin.”

But where did Colin get his toughness? “I can’t say that I’m the epitome of what toughness is, but for me it goes all the way back to high school and wrestling,” he said.

Cole wasn’t just a wrestler – and definitely not a ’rassler. He was the undefeated state champion his senior year at South Plantation High School in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. – and his only loss as a junior came at the state tournament. His combined two-year record: 61-1.

It was wrestling that taught Cole how to establish a good base when someone else is trying to knock you over, and how to use his low center of gravity and natural power to impose his will on others.

“Prior to me wrestling, I don’t know that I had the balance, I don’t know that I had some of those things that I utilize playing defensive line now,” he said.

It also was wrestling that gave Cole an outlet for his aggressive nature.

“If it hadn’t been for wrestling, I would never have gained the abilities that I’ve got right now – especially to be able to play on the interior the way I do,” he said. “All the attributes that you have to have to play, I got from wrestling.

“Every play, every snap, for me is hand-to-hand combat. Every snap for me is tight quarters. Hands. Hand placement. Balance. When guys are coming at your legs, you’ve still got to play square; you’ve got to still play with speed. But at the same time, sometimes you have to play off one guy to get another guy.”

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