SEATTLE — The Seahawks rolled out a new — and brief — experiment during Saturday's preseason 40-10 win against the Denver Broncos.
The experiment came in the form of a 6-foot-1, 220-pound wide receiver named Phil Bates, who Seattle wants to try at fullback.
The Omaha North graduate had a solid training camp and used his size to shield off defensive backs and make catches. But the Seahawks have a crowded receiving group and saw a chance to give Bates a shot at fullback, the spot where he started working Thursday.
It's not exactly an unfamiliar position for Bates. His father, Phillip Sr., played fullback at Nebraska.
Bates, though, only played one play Saturday. He shifted into the backfield to line up at fullback and caught a pass in the flat. But the pass was nullified by a penalty, and Bates had to leave the game after the play because of an ankle injury.
He didn't return and was wearing a boot on his leg in the locker room after the game.
Carroll said the Seahawks saw a big, physical receiver who might be able to use those strengths to make the conversion to fullback. If he does, Bates will have followed a similar path to Seattle's starting fullback Michael Robinson.
Bates, like Robinson, originally played quarterback in college before switching to wide receiver.
A touted quarterback coming out of high school, Bates spent the 2008 season at Iowa State before transferring to Ohio University under former Nebraska coach Frank Solich.
Bates has only played receiver for about two years, having switched his final year of college.
“He's just a really good all-around football player,” Carroll said. “We love that he's really fast. He's a terrific catcher. If it could work out, then we might be able to develop a player.”
Carroll pointed out that offensive line coach Tom Cable made the same conversion successfully when he was the coach of the Oakland Raiders. Cable took Marcel Reece, an undrafted receiver with the same body type as Bates, and turned him into a Pro Bowl fullback.
Reece was primarily a receiver when he played at the University of Washington.