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Seahawks newcomer Balmer won't say why 49ers dealt him

  • By Associated Press
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SEATTLE -- It took Kentwan Balmer a meeting with Mike Singletary, a few days of unexcused absences from the San Francisco 49ers and a trade to find a new NFL life.

The 23-year-old defensive lineman isn't sharing the reason for his rift with the team that drafted him in the first round just two years ago.

"You're very persistent, man," Balmer said when pressed for an explanation Tuesday, after he passed a physical with the Seattle Seahawks and practiced at defensive tackle and end with the second unit.

An explanation would seem to be in order when a first-round draft pick disappears from his team, then resurfaces with a division rival.

"Yeah, I can understand why it strikes people as a little different," Balmer said. "But what happened down there is down there. I'm here, ready to move forward, happy to have a fresh start and out there ready to compete."

Balmer showed his versatility on Seattle's defensive line one day after San Francisco traded him for a late-round draft choice next year. He also showed his elusiveness.

"I would just like to thank the Seattle Seahawks for this chance," said Balmer, the 29th overall pick out of North Carolina in 2008. "I would like to thank the 49ers for allowing me to move on. I'm just here, happy and ready to compete."

Balmer said he was "just happy to be here" seven times in a five-minute span while continually being asked what happened in San Francisco, which gave him a five-year, $8 million contract two years ago.

He acknowledged that being traded inside the NFC West was odd.

"Oh, yeah, of course," he said, chuckling. "It does seem funny. Like I said, I'm happy to be here. And it seems like they like me a little bit."

Balmer left the 49ers on Aug. 9 for what Singletary, their head coach, called personal reasons. Balmer missed his fifth consecutive practice Friday, before San Francisco traveled to Indianapolis for its preseason opener against the Colts.

Balmer's absences had been unexcused since Wednesday, the night he met with Singletary. What was it like for a third-year pro to confront his coach, a Hall of Fame linebacker renowned for his intensity?

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"Like I said, what happened in San Francisco was in San Francisco," Balmer said. "I think this is a first-class organization (in Seattle). I think I mesh well with the people here."

Singletary wasn't much more revealing about what happened. He's moved on, too.

"I think he's a fine young man. But obviously there are some things he needed to express and deal with," Singletary said. "I'm happy for him."

Playing time and an unknown future are plausible reasons that Balmer wasn't happy with the 49ers. He has yet to start a game and hasn't recorded a sack in his first two NFL seasons. He has 11 career solo tackles and has combined on eight others in 27 games in San Francisco's 3-4 defense.

Now the 6-foot-5, 315-pounder is in Seattle's 4-3 scheme that uses principles of the 3-4 and wants run-stuffing defensive ends. Balmer fit the profile at times Tuesday, banging into prized rookie left tackle Russell Okung, the Seahawks' sixth overall draft choice.

Balmer said Seattle is playing the style of defense he did at North Carolina. He was an end his first two years for the Tar Heels, then a tackle his last two.

That versatility attracted then-49ers general manager Scot McCloughan two years ago. McCloughan is now with the Seahawks, the right-hand man to new GM John Schneider.

"We have strong connections to the 49ers," Schneider said, "and it is our understanding that Kentwan is ready to play football and in need of a fresh start."

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Balmer provides another option against the running games inside the NFC West. The Seahawks are so intent on getting bigger across the defensive line, they have converted Red Bryant from a backup tackle into a 335-plus-pound end.

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"(Balmer is) really physically capable of standing up against big, ol' linemen that we're going to play in our division," Carroll said. "We feel real good about him getting in here and starting to help us right away."

Maybe not as soon as Saturday's preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. By the end of Tuesday's two-hour workout in 89-degree heat, Balmer was bent over between plays and gasping. He said he's fit to play this weekend.

Asked if his "personal reasons" from last week are now resolved, Balmer replied: "Yes, sir. I would definitely say so. I had some time to stay in shape and get my mind right."

The Seahawks are home against the 49ers in their Sept. 12 season opener. Balmer said he won't be looking to get even.

"There's no hard feelings," he said. "I thank the 49ers for giving me the opportunity and allowing me to move on."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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