SEATTLE, WA - After experiencing the NFL lockout back in 2011, Duane Brown has been through the rigors of trying to prepare and train for a season without the benefit of offseason workouts and minicamp.
However, many of the parallels stop there when comparing the current coronavirus crisis to a work stoppage created by labor strife. For starters, unlike back then, most players aren't able to freely travel to get together for training with people confined to their homes due to social distancing restrictions.
"That was a little bit different," Brown said comparing the two situations. "Right now, everyone is kinda scattered all over the place and you couldn't meet up really even if you wanted to unless you are in a state that allows that."
But while nobody knows what to expect in coming months as the world tries to navigate through a pandemic, including Brown, that prior experience of jumping right into training camp could prove beneficial whenever the Seahawks and the rest of the league can return to the field.
While all 32 teams await the green light from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell - which could come as early as sometime next month - the Seahawks find themselves in especially difficult circumstances without the benefit of a normal offseason program. Aside from Brown, Seattle could be breaking in as many as four new starters along the offensive line, including third-round draft pick Damien Lewis at right guard.
Preparing for his 13th NFL season, Brown didn't sugarcoat it. This isn't an ideal situation for attempting to build camaraderie with several new players up front, regardless of whether they are rookies or established veterans, but it's the reality of the situation for every NFL franchise as the sport tries to open a new season on time.
"It sucks not being able to do that," Brown said referencing the lack of on-field practice time this spring. "But that's the position we're in, so we got to make due with what we have. The thing about it is - every team is dealing with it."
Doing his part as a veteran leader, Brown has been proactive communicating with his teammates as players hunker down in their homes and participate in a virtual offseason program.
For rookies such as Lewis who haven't even participated in a minicamp practice yet, Brown has been helping them go through their playbooks and answering any questions they may have. He's made it a priority to inform them of what to expect when the team does reconvene for practice and meetings.
Discussing the obvious disadvantages first-year players currently face, Brown commented, "I think for rookies, just having no introduction at all to the NFL. Not being able to be in the facility, to be around the players, to be in actual meetings, to be in a workout, to kinda have any kind of OTAs to see how we go about our business. You just have to rely on information that you are given."
After losing former starters Germain Ifedi, Justin Britt, and D.J. Fluker during the offseason, the Seahawks also have several new veterans set to join the team. Among those, center B.J. Finney and tackle Brandon Shell signed in free agency and will be looking to replace Britt and Ifedi in the starting lineup.
Though players like Finney and Shell have been through the gauntlet that is an NFL training camp and have ample starting experience, they too will face obstacles acclimating to a new team minus invaluable offseason work. Most notably, Brown referenced adapting to a different culture as well as a different coaching and training staff in Seattle.
"You come from whatever team you're on, you kinda know what to expect year to year. You come to a new team, it's a different strength staff, it's a different training staff, different coaches, meetings are different, everything is different, so you just don't have the feel for what to expect and how things go."
Trying to build chemistry with so many new pieces to the puzzle will be challenging, but Brown also acknowledged the Seahawks have several players returning who are already familiar with the system. The team re-signed left guard Mike Iupati and center Joey Hunt, while 2019 draft choice Phil Haynes as well as Jordan Simmons and Jamarco Jones will return to compete for starting roles.
Given the presence of those familiar faces, Brown doesn't expect achieving continuity up front amid tough circumstances to be as "drastic as it seems." Once players and coaches are able to return to action in the near future, he's confident they will be able to overcome missing essential offseason workouts and mesh as a unit.
"It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. But we're all competitors, we're all professionals, and we'll get it done."