By Brady Henderson
Golden Tate showed during his breakout season in 2012 that he’s a big play waiting to happen, a wide receiver equipped with not only the speed to run away from tacklers but the elusiveness to avoid them.
Those attributes made him well suited to take over as Seattle’s punt returner once the team released Pro Bowler Leon Washington in March.
Golden Tate will be Seattle’s primary punt returner this year, but Walter Thurmond should get some chances as well. “We feel great about both of those guys,” coach Pete Carroll said. (AP)
“That’s just another opportunity to get the ball in my hands and make a play, and hopefully at least make that one less first down that the offense has to get or make a big play that sets us up in at least field-goal territory,” Tate told “The Huddle” on 710 ESPN Seattle on Wednesday. “So I’m excited.”
Tate will be the primary punt returner when Seattle opens the regular season on Sunday against Carolina, but he might not be the only one. Cornerback Walter Thurmond is another option, one the Seahawks plan to use should Tate need a breather.
The ability to make defenders miss is crucial for a punt returner, and it was a common theme in just about every one of Tate’s highlights as a receiver last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Tate was second only to new teammate Percy Harvin among NFL receivers in forced missed tackles with 21, a total that took into account the Seahawks’ two playoff games.
Returning punts isn’t completely new for Tate. He did it in college and split the duties with Washington as a rookie in 2010, finishing with a 12.6-yard average on 16 punt returns. While that was a mostly forgettable season for Tate, one of the bright spots was a 52-yard punt return in which he broke three tackles during a Week 2 game against Denver, the first time he touched the ball in an NFL game.
Secondary opinion. You can forgive Tate for not seeming overly concerned about Carolina’s secondary considering the defensive backs he lines up across from every day.
“They’re most talented at linebacker,” Tate said about the Panthers’ defense. “They have that kid from Boston College (Luke Kuechly) and he runs around, making tons of plays. So up front, we’ve definitely got to take care of him. Outside, they’re just guys.”
Carolina’s depth chart lists two new starting defensive backs. Seattle’s secondary, meanwhile, is so strong that Tate said preseason games actually seemed easier than practicing against Richard Sherman, Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor on a daily basis.
Of Carolina’s defensive backs, Tate added: “They’re decent guys, though. They’re pretty good.”
Fantasy fun. Every wonder whether NFL players play fantasy football? Tate and some of his Seahawks teammates do. The defensive backs have a league, and tight end Zach Miller runs one as well.
“I lost to Zach Miller last year,” Tate said. “He kinda killed me, so I’m coming back for revenge.”
It’s not just for the skill-position players. Tate listed offensive linemen Max Unger and Breno Giacomini as well as kicker Steven Hauschka among the members of Miller’s league.
“It’s fun. It’s a way to hang out, really. Guys are going to go to each others’ houses and watch ‘Monday Night Football’ and some guys are going to be playing against each other, talking crap,” he said. “So I think it’s another way to build camaraderie around here.”
In case you’re wondering, Tate drafted himself in one of the later rounds.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.