06-14-2012, 09:04 AM
RENTON, Wash. -- The story of Brian Banks has been told often enough in the past few weeks to be common knowledge, but once you get past the fact that a man lost ten years of his life to a trumped-up rape charge, the more amazing and meaningful part of the tale is the extent to which Banks, the former Long Beach Poly High star linebacker, is now getting a legitimate shot at the NFL. Having visited the Seattle Seahawks, San Diego Chargers, and Kansas City Chiefs for private workouts, the 26-year-old Banks headed back to Seattle on Wednesday for the next step in what will be a long, improbable journey -- he participated in the Seahawks' three-day mandatory minicamp on the invitation of head coach Pete Carroll, who got a verbal commitment from Banks as USC's head coach a decade ago. After lining up at middle linebacker with the reserve units in team drills during a two-hour workout, Banks spoke to the media and tried to express just how amazed he was to be this close to his dream -- less than a month after he was finally exonerated. "I didn't even know if I was going to have a number, a jersey…I didn't know what to expect when I first got here," Banks said. "I got to my locker and saw there was a jersey in it — number 43. And I just wanted to take a picture of it just for myself. It's just amazing to see my name on the back of it. It's an honor to be taken serious and to be given this opportunity." To bring the football realities into play is to veer away from the feel-good nature of Banks' story, which is undeniable and palatable in his presence. But once the amazement falls away, that is exactly what the Seahawks, and other NFL teams with interest, must do. When Banks is done here, he'll visit the Minnesota Vikings, and that probably won't be his last stop -- unless the Seahawks are impressed enough with what they see, or what they think might happen, to bring him on board. The most impressive thing about Banks from a purely competitive perspective was that after so long away from the game, he looked like an undrafted free agent who would probably come up a bit short on final cuts. That is to say, he didn't appear to be some schlub who hadn't played football in years. Banks ran to the ball with average speed in non-contact drills, he showed decent speed and flexibility in his drops, and he certainly appeared to be a step late to the action at times ... but given the circumstances, it was pretty darned impressive. "Well, you know, he's a little behind -- he might be a little rusty," Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr. said after the practice. "But there's the foundation. Does he look like a ballplayer? Yes. Does he move well? Yes. Is there a chance? Absolutely. The idea is, can he line up, and can he chase the ball? It's about making a first impression, and I liked the first impression he left." Norton, who played in the league for 13 years and made three Pro Bowls, is one of the more demonstrative position coaches in the NFL. If you're not where you're supposed to be, you're going to hear about it right away at faceblast levels, and Banks got the Norton glare, just*like*everybody else. That's exactly what he wanted. "I was waiting for that," Banks said. "I don't want nobody to take it easy on me out here. I know I have a lot of work to do and if that's what's required, then definitely give it to me. I'm ready for it. I've heard of his coaching style. It wasn't until that day of the tryout that I was on the way up here with one of the scouting coaches and he was like, 'I want to let you know, Coach Norton — he's no joke.' But you know what? I like that intensity. I like that style of coaching. If it's not right, tell me it's not right. And if it needs fixing, tell me it needs fixing and let's fix it together. We'll get it done. I appreciate it." Banks has been working out with different trainers in Southern California, and he's taken off 30 pounds in the last year, down from 275. The football stuff will come in time, to a certain degree -- it's just a matter of how much a guy with two missing high school years and no major college experience can assimilate. Certainly, to grasp the complexity of *an NFL defense, and to read multiple NFL offenses, Banks will have to learn many things he has never known. Aside from a year at Long Beach City College in 2007, Banks hasn't played competitive football in a full decade. And as he said on Wednesday, this is the first time he's strapped on a helmet since that one season.