Deon Butler getting big chance with Seahawks
At 5 feet 10, he isn't the prototypical NFL receiver, but second-year pro Deon Butler is getting opportunities to prove that he belongs.
Seattle Times staff reporter
RENTON — The coaching transition brought up a big question for Deon Butler.
Or perhaps it was a little problem.
Pete Carroll's reputation, in terms of receivers, preceded him.
"You hear at USC everyone is 6 feet 6," Butler said.
Butler is 5 feet 10.
"There were definitely some times early when I was like, 'I hope they give me a shot,' " Butler said. "And they did."
Just look at last Saturday's exhibition opener against Tennessee. When the Seahawks went for it on fourth-and-two, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst lofted a 36-yard pass to Butler. Now, Seattle is even considering playing Butler in the slot.
There are casualties in any NFL coaching change. Players picked by a previous regime don't always fit in a team's future plans.
On Wednesday, defensive end Lawrence Jackson, a former Seahawks first-round draft pick, was traded for a sixth-round choice next year. In the spring, Seattle let wide receiver Nate Burleson leave as a free agent and traded backup QB Seneca Wallace for a 2011 pick.
But any thought that Butler might become one of those casualties has evaporated. The question is no longer whether he will make the team, but how prominently he might be featured.
"He's improving every day," said Jeremy Bates, Seattle's offensive coordinator. "He's an exciting player."
Bates has some experience with those kinds of players. Two years ago, he was Denver's passing-game coordinator when Eddie Royal caught 91 passes as a rookie.
Butler isn't just the same height as Royal; he knows Royal. They played against each other as high-school seniors in the Virginia state semifinals.
Whose team won?
"His, by like six points or something," Butler said. "But if you put that in there, make sure you put that I had 200 all-purpose yards."
He did that while defending Royal one-on-one the entire game.
So when Butler found Bates would be Seattle's new offensive coordinator, he called Royal, who had some experience in Bates' system. Bates coached under Carroll last year at USC, but was in Denver before that. Royal gushed about Bates' passing game.
"He's not afraid of a smaller receiver," Royal told Butler. "There's always a role for a good receiver."
In the first week of training camp, Carroll said Butler had made more progress in the offseason than any other receiver on the team. In fact, Carroll said Butler had come farther than any player on the team other than defensive tackle Red Bryant.
Butler came to Seattle from Penn State last year as a third-round draft pick, and he wasn't invisible during his rookie season. His 32-yard reception on Dec. 6 against San Francisco set up Seattle's winning field goal, but that was one of only 15 receptions in his 16 games. His most consistent action came on special teams.
"I wasn't disappointed," Butler said of his 2009 production. "I wish my numbers could have been better, but realistically speaking, you're coming into a situation with a Nate Burleson, a T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and John Carlson. I don't know of many rookies that are going to come in and overshadow those names."
Now in his second year and under his second coach, Butler's opportunities appear to be expanding. A little problem? Nope. Butler is going to try to wrap his hands around this big opportunity.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
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