Every summer, in training camps across the landscape of pro, college, high school and even Pee Wee football, there comes a point when players get tired of smacking their teammates around and restlessly anticipate popping pads with somebody else.
But for the NFL players patiently waiting for the league's labor dispute to iron out, unleashing that competitiveness on their teammates sounds great right now compared to the alternatives of informal workouts and Madden tournaments. The longer this lockout lasts, in-house competition takes precedence over mastering game plans to beat the other guys.
The story of the Seattle Seahawks this offseason has been—seemingly 90 percent of the time—the quarterback position. Last season's second-stringer, Charlie Whitehurst, currently has the job by default while starter Matt Hasselbeck hangs in free-agency limbo.
Meanwhile, rumors persist about which QBs the defending NFC West champs will try to sign or trade for once they're allowed to resume business, with everybody from Kyle Orton to Kevin Kolb surfacing on the radar.
But there is more to these Seahawks than just a quarterback competition. Here are seven position battles besides QB that aren't getting enough attention.
The favorite: Max Unger
Contenders: Chris Spencer, Chris White
Unger was drafted in '09 to be the center of the future, but following a solid rookie campaign, a toe injury ended his second season in Week 1. That opened the door for Spencer to take over as the O-line's signal caller, and he helped guide Seattle to the playoffs. But then Spencer is a free agent and may not return next season.
With the QB situation unresolved, choosing a starting center is further complicated. The center/quarterback relationship in football is like the pitcher/catcher bond in baseball: The team's most talented center can still find himself on the bench if he doesn't have the right chemistry with the QB.
The favorites: Marcus Trufant, Walter Thurmond
Contenders: Kelly Jennings, Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Byron Maxwell, Kennard Cox
On paper, Trufant is the clear choice as Seattle's No. 1 corner—a.k.a., the guy assigned to stick the Larry Fitzgeralds, Michael Crabtrees and Henry Ellards of the NFC West. (For real, have you seen the Rams receivers? I don't think a 50-year-old Ellard would be a bad option for them.)
But Trufant also makes a lot of paper, and he's accumulated a lot of injuries, making the one-time Pro Bowler a possible salary-cap casualty.
Jennings was the starter opposite Trufant last season, but he was also on the wrong end of a few too many highlights. The Seahawks could just as easily demote Jennings as they could let him walk in free agency, meaning there should be at least one open CB spot on the line for next season.
Thurmond had a few standout moments in his rookie season while coming off a major knee injury that cost him most of his senior year at Oregon. Now he's in his second year post-injury, when many athletes are able to return to their full capabilities. He'll lead a hungry crew pushing Trufant and Jennings for playing time.
Sherman and Maxwell are big, physical rookies who still have to learn the system and adjust to the next level; Cox saw action in 11 games as a backup last season; and Browner is an experienced newcomer who reached All-Star status in the Canadian Football League.
The favorites: Red Bryant, Chris Clemons
Contenders: Raheem Brock, Kentwan Balmer, Dexter Davis
Barring injury, Bryant is penciled in at strong-side defensive end. The only problem is that Bryant always seems to be injured. In three pro seasons he's only appeared in 17 games, including the seven he started last season before an MCL tear sidelined him.
When Bryant was on the field, Seattle had one of the best run defenses in the league; when he got hurt and Balmer took his spot, the drop-off was noticeable.
Balmer did improve with experience, though, ending the regular season with a solid performance against St. Louis as the Seahawks held Steven Jackson to just 45 yards rushing. Don't sleep on Davis either, who made the roster as a seventh-round draft pick and saw spot duty in all but one game.
On the other side of the line, Clemons started every game last season at rush D-end and racked up 11 sacks, while Brock finished with nine sacks as the backup. That total was a career high for Brock, a nine-year veteran who gets immediate respect in Seattle's locker room because he has a Super Bowl ring. The Seahawks defense needs to put more pressure on opposing quarterbacks to help its secondary, so this competition will come down to which player shows he can get into the backfield more often.
The favorites: John Moffitt, Mike Gibson
Contenders: Tyler Polumbus, Stacy Andrews, Ray Willis, Chester Pitts, James Carpenter
Seattle's new O-line coach, Tom Cable, walks into a situation where he can basically construct his line from scratch. Throw in the fact that the Seahawks want to establish more of a power running game, and Cable is pretty much the envy of the old-school, gnarled-fingers, flat-noses set.
While second-year stud Russell Okung is set at left tackle, the Seahawks are auditioning for every other spot on the line, including both guard positions.
Andrews started 12 games at right guard last season before losing his job to Gibson, and now Andrews is a potential salary-cap cut. Polumbus (free agent) made seven starts, Pitts made five and Willis (free agent) was a 16-game starter two years ago before knee surgery took him out of the mix last season before it began.
Then there are the rookies, first-round pick James Carpenter and third-round pick John Moffitt. Carpenter is expected to earn his starting job at right tackle, but he may wind up playing guard if circumstances change. Moffitt is expected to start at right guard, but it may not be from day one.
The favorite: David Hawthorne
Contenders: Will Herring, K.J. Wright
Whether you believe Aaron Curry is a future beast or a present bust, his starting spot as strong-side linebacker is secure. Defensive leader Lofa Tatupu isn't budging from his middle linebacker position. So that leaves a competition for weak-side 'backer in Seattle's 4-3 alignment.
Hawthorne, by all rights, should win the job. He started every game last season, racking up 106 tackles and forcing three fumbles.
But the book on No. 57 says he's not a natural outside linebacker. Herring and Wright are. (Well, actually, Herring is a bulked-up safety, but he finished his career at Auburn as an OLB.) If the two of them show off during training camp, they could cut into Hawthorne's playing time.
The favorite: Kam Chancellor
Contenders: Lawyer Milloy, Mark LeGree
The Seahawks want to get younger and more athletic on defense, which automatically puts the 37-year-old Milloy at a disadvantage. He's also a free agent, and considering the team used three 2011 draft picks on defensive backs, Milloy may not be in Seattle's future plans.
But playing safety in the NFL also takes savvy and a high football IQ, something Milloy has in greater supply than perhaps any player on the roster. Put it this way: Milloy has more sacks and interceptions in his career (46) than the rest of the squad's safeties have combined games started (45). Milloy has cleats that are older than Earl Thomas.
Chancellor is a big hitter, but as a second-year pro he's still figuring things out in coverage. LeGree is a ball-hawk who picked off 22 passes at Appalachian State, but he has an even bigger learning curve than Chancellor. Plus, the rookie LeGree has never faced receivers this talented and offenses this sophisticated.
The favorite: Ben Obomanu
Contenders: Deon Butler, Golden Tate
On one side you have Mike Williams, a 6'5" possession receiver who can make grimy catches in traffic and go to the flag on red-zone fade routes. On the other side? Ideally you'd want somebody with speed: a down-the-field threat who can stretch defenses and make would-be tacklers miss.
To fill the void, Seattle may be inclined to bring in a big-name/big-play receiver through a trade or free agency. Terrell Owens and Randy Moss are available. Steve Smith and Chad Ochocinco are reportedly on the verge of being traded. Proven playmakers Santonio Holmes, Malcom Floyd and Sidney Rice will also be on the free agent market.
Or the Seahawks could find what they need in-house. Obomanu led Seattle's regular receivers in yards-per-catch last season (16.5), finished second behind Williams in receiving yards (494) and tied with Butler for the team lead in receiving touchdowns (four). Butler finished second on the team in receptions (36) and is one of the fastest players on the Seahawks; however, that speed wasn't reflected in his modest 10.7 yards-per-catch average.
Tate may have the most talent of anybody in the group, but as a second-year pro he's still learning. Pete Carroll told the Tacoma News Tribune recently that Tate will be "in position to take over a huge role" next season.