RENTON – First things first.
Yes, Seahawks receiver Dee Eskridge – listed as D’Wayne on the team’s roster – prefers to go by Dee.
That might be increasingly relevant now that Seattle’s first pick in the 2021 draft – taken 56th overall – is back on the field at the VMAC, taking part in practices all week after sitting out the first three weeks while dealing with a toe injury.
“I’m just happy to be healthy enough to be back out there again,’’ Eskridge said following Thursday’s practice in which he caught several passes during team drills in what was the most action he has gotten yet.
Actually, though, the first thing for Eskridge each day in recent weeks is the alarm clock going off at 5:15 a.m.
That’s so he can get to the VMAC each day and do a little extra work with notorious early riser Russell Wilson.
“Every morning, we get out here and we walk on the field at 5:45, 6 and me and him just go through plays for 45 minutes to an hour,’’ Wilson said. “There’s still dew on the grass, but it’s good to go through the plays and really visualize it. To go through everything mentally and focus on it.’’
Eskridge said the early workouts came about after he had a conversation with Wilson recently and asked “how I could get better in certain areas.’’
Wilson suggested the workouts, and Eskridge has been hitting the alarm – but not the snooze button – ever since.
“We come here soon as the sun comes up,’’ Eskridge said.
Eskridge admitted he might not be wired quite the same as Wilson, who has a motto of “no time to sleep.’’
“It hurts to get up that early,’’ Eskridge said with a smile. “But it’s worth it in the long run. … It’s been great. Me and him are building our relationship.’’
Wilson, of course, has every motivation to want to see Eskridge be the best player he can be as quickly as possible – the more offensive weapons the better to Let Russ Cook.
Eskridge, from Western Michigan, was the second-highest pick Seattle has used on a receiver in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era, the only one higher being Paul Richardson at 45 in 2014 (Golden Tate was 60, DK Metcalf 64 and Tyler Lockett 69 of other receivers taken since 2010 who became significant contributors).
The Seahawks liked not only the speed of the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder, who won Indiana state high school titles in the 100 and 200 meters, but also the big-play ability he showed going against high-caliber competition at the Senior Bowl.
“D’Wayne Eskridge will absolutely eat you up in a hurry with his speed,’’ ESPN NFL draft analyst Louis Riddick wrote later. “He is a flash. … He’s just a big play waiting to happen.’’
But with that high of a selection came the expectation that he would immediately move into the competition for the third receiver spot after Metcalf and Lockett.
After a few good showings early in the offseason program last spring, though, Eskridge began battling a pesky big-toe injury.
On Thursday, Eskridge described it as “some inflammation’’ and that “everything went downhill’’ after he first experienced the pain.
It continued to bother him through the summer, and Eskridge was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list when camp began.
What helped was the team continuing to work with his shoes and other related equipment.
“It was a combination of many different things when it came to my shoes, my cleats, the sizes of my shoes, certain socks that take away the slipping in the shoe,’’ he said.
Eskridge, who was taken off the PUP list Tuesday, said he now feels 100%.
And that means he can fully join the third-receiver battle, a spot usually held so far by Freddie Swain.
He said the workouts with Wilson and the other non-practice stuff he’s been able to do have him in a good place to hit the ground running, though he admitted he worried briefly he was falling behind as the injury lingered.
“It was some pressure at first,’’ Eskridge said.
But he said Carroll told him not to worry about that, instead just concentrate on getting better.
“They constantly encouraged me,” he said.
Whether Eskridge plays in the preseason remains to be determined – Carroll said this week that they hope he can but that he won’t be rushed just to try to make that happen.
Wilson, who has seen Eskridge in action more than anyone, says he has no question that when the time comes, Eskridge will prove worth the wait.
“He’s a really smart player, he’s as physical as can be,’’ Wilson said. “So to see why we drafted him – I knew why, but to be out here with him the first couple of days is really cool to see.”