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Tuesday, July 29, 2008 - Page updated at 05:15 PM

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Seattle WR Logan Payne making strong statement

Maybe it shouldn't be that much of a surprise when unheralded receiver Logan Payne climbs the back of Seattle's Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant to make a highlight-worthy catch.

AP Sports Writer

KIRKLAND, Wash. —

Maybe it shouldn't be that much of a surprise when unheralded receiver Logan Payne climbs the back of Seattle's Pro Bowl cornerback Marcus Trufant to make a highlight-worthy catch.

Or when Payne makes a diving stab at a Matt Hasselbeck dart across the middle, or hauls in a throw in traffic. The fact that Payne is easily the most noticeable standout during the first week of Seahawks training camp underscores his understanding that a roster spot and playing time is at stake.

"It's a long training camp. There's days where you don't want to go but it's when you reach those days you have to push through and keep competing, keep pushing through that stuff," Payne said.

Payne finds himself embroiled in one of the few competitions of Seattle's training camp. Along with battles at tight end and kicker, the most notable showdown is who will emerge as the fourth and fifth possible receiving options for Hasselbeck and the Seahawks offense.

The top three spots are set: speedster Nate Burleson, steady veteran Bobby Engram, coming off the best year of his career, and Deion Branch once he returns from a major knee injury suffered in Seattle's playoff loss to Green Bay last year.

Then come the questions.

There's Ben Obomanu and Courtney Taylor, a pair of former Auburn teammates. Each has the key combination of speed and receiving skills. There's Jordan Kent, the raw former basketball player and sprinter at Oregon, who has worked diligently to improve his pass catching, but still struggles with his route running.

Then there is Payne.

Coming from a run-oriented offense at Minnesota, even getting noticed by the NFL was at times a challenge for Payne. But that's just part of Payne's background. Despite being an all-state receiver in high school in Florida, he was completely overlooked by the Big 3 colleges in the state - Florida, Florida State and Miami - and only got interest late in the recruiting process from South Florida.

So it was off to chilly Minnesota, where Payne barely saw the field his first two seasons with the Golden Gophers, before catching 96 passes for 1,333 yards and 11 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons. Even though he went undrafted in the 2007 draft, Payne remained confident someone would swoop in and sign him.

"I never tried to doubt myself at all. I just kept those blinders on and I had set goals for myself and didn't really get distracted by anything else and kept working toward those goals," he said.

Seattle signed him just before its 2007 minicamps and Payne impressed coach Mike Holmgren enough to keep him around on the practice squad last year. Payne was even signed to the active roster for Seattle's two playoff games, but was put on the inactive list before each game.

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"Being on the practice squad, you go against the first team defense every week and Jordan (Kent) and I took advantage of that. We had a great practice squad (and) it helped me understand the game," Payne said. "Going against (Trufant) every day on the practice squad, everything has to be perfect."

In the first week of training camp, it's been a daily wait to see just when Payne would make another eye-popping catch. On Sunday, it was going over the top of Trufant and wrestling the ball away on a deep throw near the sideline, drawing cheers from his teammates.

Ultimately, Payne may be best suited as a slot receiver, with his big frame - 6-foot-2, 205 pounds - and sure hands; a prototype for an inside receiver willing to work in traffic. And if Payne needed a reminder that it's still early and practice performance doesn't always equate to game ability, he only needed to hear Holmgren's reminder that he's never played in an NFL game.

"The test for Logan and for any of the young receivers is that when you get into games, will they disappear?" Holmgren said.

"That'll be the test for our young receivers. I think Logan will be fine, but I've seen it happen before. All of a sudden what happened to ... well, the game started and things happened faster and it's different. ... I think he'll be fine, but we got to see."

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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