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Wednesday, April 7, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seahawks

Notebook: Useful tips for Hawks' receivers

Seattle Times staff reporter

KIRKLAND — Comical as it appeared, the drill was nevertheless effective.

The Seahawks' receivers stood in a circle, trying to balance on one leg while position coach Nolan Cromwell flipped softballs at them.

The object of the drill, Darrell Jackson explained, is to train the receiver to catch things with his fingertips instead of his palms. That way, the receiver stands a better chance of controlling a thrown ball.

The Seahawks dropped 37 passes last season. It seemed like more.

Jackson went through a slump of drops, and Koren Robinson dropped at least two sure touchdown passes. Lesser-used receivers were not exempt from bobbles, either, and catching the ball soared to the top of the list of major focus areas this offseason.

Robinson has committed to staying in the Seattle area for the team's workout program, rather than returning to his native North Carolina as he did in his first two offseasons. Robinson, Jackson, Bobby Engram and the cadre of receivers — minus restricted free agent Alex Bannister for now — are beginning the improvement process with the softball drills at the team's minicamp this week.

"This camp is a fundamental camp," Jackson said. "It lets us prepare for the upcoming camps and games. ... Right now we're just knocking off the rust. My emphasis is just trying to get better, trying to catch everything."

Cromwell went to the softball tip drill to change the practice routine, a departure from simply making catches off a ball machine or regular pass-and-catch.

"The idea with the softball is just to get them to look at a smaller ball, something they can fine-tune on and focus on the catch," Cromwell said. "We went back and analyzed all of them (the dropped passes last season), and I think we have a pretty good feel on what it is. We were trying to do too much most of the time, rather than catching the ball first and doing it 1-2-3."

Robinson never had to be approached regarding his decision to commit to the Seahawks' offseason program. He was motivated after his production dropped by 13 catches and almost 350 yards from an impressive 2002 season in which he led the team in both categories (78 and 1,240). The team's early playoff departure in 2003 also affected his decision to stick around.

"I think it's time for me to step up and be a leader," said Robinson, who is looking for a more permanent residence in the Seattle area. "I felt like if I stayed up here, that would show people that I'm not playing around, that I'm serious about my job. I said, 'It all starts with me first.'

"I feel like I can be one of the best receivers in the league, but I think sometimes I rely on my athletic ability instead of trying to work on my craft. You have to mature sometime. You have to grow up. You have to take it serious."

Bierria's back

Coming off a successful 2002 rookie season in which he led the Seahawks in special-teams tackles, Terreal Bierria was poised for more of the same last August.

But the reserve safety suffered a torn left rotator cuff in Seattle's third exhibition game and two weeks later found himself on injured reserve. The designation and subsequent surgery ended Bierria's season before it could even begin.

The Seahawks retained Bierria, showing confidence in the former fourth-round pick. And — after seven months of rest, rehabilitation and frustration — Bierria can finally display his abilities during minicamp this week.

The shoulder passed its first test Monday.

"I fell on it for the first time, and it kind of scared me, but it held up good," Bierria said. "It's just fun to be back out here. (I was) smiling the whole practice yesterday, just glad to be back."

Notes

• LB Anthony Simmons and CB Kris Richard made their camp practice debuts yesterday.

• QB Matt Hasselbeck is among the Seahawks who enjoy minicamps, if only for the chance to reunite with teammates. Though practices are voluntary, Hasselbeck has a different spin on showing up for camp.

"The whole voluntary camp thing to me is a little weird because I've never really felt it was voluntary," Hasselbeck said. "There's certain guys that maybe it's applied to in the past, but voluntary to me is whether or not you want to be on this team."

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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