Sunday, April 20, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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NFL Draft -- Hawks Are The Talk -- Seattle Gets Springs, Jones In First Round; Now Await Olympia

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

KIRKLAND - Everything happens so fast. Inside the capsule of the Seahawks' draft war room, the plan that would shock the NFL went from certain to uncertain to certain again. The NFL draft shot by on the television screens. The phones screamed.

And then 45 minutes after yesterday's draft began, the day was over here. Two picks, a trade and they were writing the names of Seattle's two choices in the first round on a board. The two players the Seahawks wanted most: Ohio State cornerback Shawn Springs and Florida State offensive tackle Walter Jones.

"The best scenario happened exactly like we thought," said Randy Mueller, Seahawk vice president. "Maybe the football gods are looking out for us today."

This is what they wanted. They wanted Springs, considered the best cornerback in the draft, with the third pick. Then they wanted to trade their other first-round choice, the 12th overall, to move up to the sixth selection and choose Jones, who some thought was as good as the top pick, Orlando Pace. In the end, this is exactly what happened.

Just 45 minutes and two giant holes had been filled. The Seahawks completed the reconstruction of their defensive backfield and strengthened a tenuous offensive line before 10 a.m. All of it had been approved earlier in the morning by prospective owner Paul Allen who already had spent more than $11 million in signing bonuses in the offseason. Now, he will have to pay at least another $5 million for the two draft picks.

Yesterday's move could have been the ultimate lobbying effort. The House is supposed to vote any day now, on whether to put a funding plan for a new football stadium up for a referendum. Without a vote, Allen says he won't buy the team. That would mean the franchise - with all its new free agents and draft choices - would most likely move away.

This was their last chance to build momentum for a team that has lost so much support the last few years. The Seahawks brought out NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to make what amounted to a plea to keep the team here.

"There is no Plan B," Tagliabue warned.

The plan for Seattle was to get both Springs and Jones. Yet, it almost didn't happen. Oakland, which had the second pick overall, kept trying to lure the Seahawks into a trade. For two days, the Raiders had been hinting they would pick Springs and ruin the draft for Seattle.

Even yesterday, as the Raiders were about to pick defensive tackle Darrell Russell from USC, they called again, one last time, hoping Seattle would break.

But Coach Dennis Erickson had told his staff that he would not part with the pick. If they had to, they would choose Russell, make him a defensive end, and trade up to No. 6 to get Iowa cornerback Tommy Knight.

They didn't have to, which allowed them to pursue a trade with the New York Jets for the sixth choice. The Jets, however, wanted too much - Seattle's No. 12 selection and the third- and fifth-round choices, as well. The Seahawks wouldn't do it. So New York instead traded with Tampa Bay for the eighth pick and a fourth-round selection.

Right there, Seattle's plan seemed dead. In fact, Mueller and Erickson later said they began concentrating on No. 12.

Then the phone rang. Tampa Bay was on the line, offering the sixth pick for Seattle's first- and third-round choices. A disbelieving Mueller repeated the words he was hearing over the phone and the room was in shock. The choice they wanted could actually be theirs and for less than the Jets wanted them to give up.

"It was just dumb luck," said Mike Allman, the Seahawks' co-director of scouting.

The room exploded with cheers. Grown men were slapping five. Defensive coordinator Greg McMackin slapping fists with offensive line coach Howard Mudd. The Seahawks were going to get the two players they wanted most.

There were just five minutes left in the selection and suddenly there was trouble. Mueller was scrambling to call the league office and report the trade, but the line was busy. How could that happen? All this work they had gone through to steal the draft and now the phones were against them.

Finally, there was ringing. And Seattle had the two players it wanted.

"They're very good players," Mueller later said after the deals had been done. "Both guys are solid character guys, they care about winning."

Jones, reached at his home in Aliceville, Ala. said he was surprised by the trade. Springs was already making plans to be in Seattle today.

It happened in an instant. But, in 45 minutes, the Seattle Seahawks had the players they wanted.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.


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