Seattle Seahawks

Cassius Marsh turning heads for Seahawks

A broken foot ended the rookie seasaon of Seahawks defensive lineman Cassius Marsh (91) after five games in 2014. Hard work during the offseason has helped increase Marsh’s speed and put him in the pass rushing mix.
A broken foot ended the rookie seasaon of Seahawks defensive lineman Cassius Marsh (91) after five games in 2014. Hard work during the offseason has helped increase Marsh’s speed and put him in the pass rushing mix. AP

Don’t blink.

Cassius Marsh just took a jab step to his right. Then, he took a bullish step to his left.

Ah, you missed it? So did Russell Okung.

Marsh rushed untouched past his teammate and the Seattle Seahawks’ linchpin left tackle and into the backfield so quickly all that remained was the blur of colorful ink from the thousands upon thousands of dollars in tattoos that cover the second-year defensive end’s arms, chest and back.

This happened two times to Okung on Wednesday. It has happened time and again through five days of training camp. And it’s signaling Marsh is not merely back from his broken foot that ended his promising rookie season after just five games.

As coach Pete Carroll put it: “He’s haulin’ tail around here.”

The high-revving pass rusher said he’s even faster than before the injury. Faster than he has ever been.

“Oh, definitely,” Marsh said. “Just the hard work I’ve put in this last offseason has made me a better player. And I hope to build on that.”

He said his foot injury, the first broken bone in his 23 years of life, was a “four-to-six-to-eight-week thing.” That meant he was recovered enough that while his teammates were marching to a second consecutive Super Bowl into February, Marsh basically lived anonymously inside the training room at Seahawks headquarters. He worked with trainers on explosiveness drills and leg weights.

Then during the offseason the son of former Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Curtis Marsh went home to Southern California and worked out each morning to midafternoon at Sports Training and Rehabilitation Services (STARS SoCal) in Anaheim. It’s a workout center founded by former Washington State and Indianapolis Colts Super Bowl defensive back Jason David.

At STARS Marsh did box jumps a few feet off the ground for leg strength and explosiveness. He did “ladder” drills to improve foot speed. He attacked leg weights.

“It was everything, man,” said the fourth-round draft choice out of UCLA. “I went there every day. It was kind of like a 9-to-3 job for me.

“It’s paying off for me.”

A faster, healthier Marsh would add something of a forgotten wild card to Seattle’s pass rush that is featuring versatility and speed this summer.

Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are entrenched as the starting ends, and the Seahawks spent their first draft choice in May on Michigan rush end Frank Clark. Bennett excels inside over slower guards and centers on passing downs. Coaches are grooming Clark for the same role; the rookie has looked better utilizing his speed rushing from the inside than outside so far in camp.

That leaves a potential role for Marsh on obvious passing downs as Seattle’s “Leo,” the rush end off the offense’s weak side.

It all seems full of potential. But coach Pete Carroll wants to see what happens in full pads against opponents, starting in the first exhibition game Aug. 14 against Denver.

“(We) like our guys that stay around and work with our people,” Carroll said, adding that because of that Marsh is “more physical. … Really his offseason started early last year, so he’s well ahead. He’s been very active in practice. We’re anxious to see what he does in games.

Eventually, Carroll sees the 254-pounder as an outside linebacker. But that will be later. For now, he just wants him to line up over and speed past flat-footed tackles.

“He was active in the preseason last year for a little bit when he had his chance, so we’re hoping he can take it a notch higher,” Carroll said. “He’s the kind of guy that works so hard that if you give him enough plays he’s going to make things happen. He’s that instinctive, and he can take advantage of the mistakes that the offense makes so I’m really curious to see how he’s going to fit in.”

Speaking of curious: what about all those tattoos? Marsh looks like a walking graffiti wall. He had two full sleeves and a full chest done. He got his first one when “the day he turned 18,” he said. Mom Holly Ann LeBlanc refused to let her son have body ink as long as he lived under her roof.

He has “Commitment” in cursive, blue ink at the inside bottom of his right hand. He has “Love” and “Loyalty” in script. There are some paw prints inked inside his right arm. Those honor his 4-year-old pit bull “Boss,” whom Marsh humorously calls “the sweetest little puppy in the world.”

Marsh’s dad is bringing “Boss” north to be around for that first exhibition game against Denver.

If “Boss” wants to see his newly suped-up owner, he’d better not blink.

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