Seahawks’ Justin Britt learning center after latest position switch
RENTON – Justin Britt had already gone through two position switches in as many seasons with Seattle, so he knew better than to be completely surprised when offensive-line coach Tom Cable called him after the draft in April to talk about moving from guard to center.
And as Britt spoke with the media on Wednesday, after the Seahawks held their fifth of nine Organized Team Activities, he sounded as though he has come to embrace it, as difficult as the early stages of his transition have been.
“I love it. Really, I just want to start and play. I love the challenge,” he said. “To an extent, it makes me feel more important, more involved, definitely. I feel like (I’m) capable of doing the job. I know the offense in and out.
“The hardest part is seeing it from the center perspective, getting the calls out quick. I’m so used to playing guard or tackle, where I listen for the center to make a call and then, boom, I know what I’m doing. Now I’m the one who has to see it and people are waiting on me to get the call out. So it’s definitely getting better, more rhythmic, and I’m getting more comfortable.”
Britt worked with the first team Wednesday, though that isn’t necessarily a firm indication of where he stands on the depth chart compared to his two biggest competitors for the job: incumbent starter Patrick Lewis and rookie sixth-round pick Joey Hunt. Asked about when he’d like to have things settled along the offensive line, Cable noted that there’s three months before the start of the regular season and said the Seahawks are in no hurry to make any decisions.
Cable said the thinking behind the move with Britt is that Seattle wants to get its best five offensive linemen on the field at once, in whatever configuration that might be. The explanation was the same last summer after a preseason shakeup of the offensive line in which Britt moved to left guard from right tackle, where he had started as a rookie in 2014 after being drafted in the second round. Britt played left tackle as a senior at Missouri.
His latest position switch presents the biggest challenge. It’s one thing to flip from one tackle spot to the other. It’s another to move inside to guard, where the space is more confined and everything happens faster. It’s entirely different still to move to center, which is like the central nervous system of the offensive line. It’s now Britt’s job to get the rest of the group on the same page.
“There’s just a lot more of it,” Cable said about what Britt is now responsible for communicating pre-snap. “So every play, the center’s got to be able to go up and call everything, whether it’s run or pass – it doesn’t matter. I just think there’s a lot more of it. The demand is every play as opposed to just when it affected him before.”
Britt said he has studied film of former Seahawks starter Max Unger and some other NFL centers to pick up whatever he can. He’s also leaned heavily on former teammate Lemuel Jeanpierre, who was Seattle’s backup center and a spot starter for parts of the last five seasons. Britt said Jeanpierre was the first veteran he talked to as a rookie in 2014 and he recalled how he would call Jeanpierre late at night during training camp that year to help get up to speed and ready for the next day’s work.
“He’s a great teacher, a great player and he really understands the system here,” Britt said of Jeanpierre, who’s a free agent. “Even though he’s not here, he’s a great asset for me to have. He’s definitely helped me understand the ins and outs without … having to make it more confusing. So, shout-out to Lem – miss you, man – but he’s definitely helped me understand everything, and it’s definitely slowed down the practices for me. The first day or so, things were flying, snaps were probably everywhere and now they’re consistent, not even thinking about it. I’m just confident in myself.”
Whatever resistance Britt may have had to his latest position switch wasn’t evident Wednesday. He talked about it as an opportunity as opposed to any sort of demotion, though he acknowledged the reality that nothing is guaranteed.
“The more you can do. I’m definitely losing more hair because of it,” he joked, “but the more you can do. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity. I’m going to do all I can to make sure this works out well. It’ll be good for my family in the future and good for the team if it works out. I just want to be one of the five that we put out on the field on Sundays.”