The 23-year-old is not 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 by The Associated Press on Tuesday, after he passed a physical with the Seahawks and then practiced at defensive tackle and end with the second unit.
A first-round pick that disappears from the team, then resurfaces with its division rival seems to need more of an explanation.
“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.”
The first day of his new NFL life showed his versatility on the defensive line, one day after the 49ers traded him for a late-round draft choice next year.
It also showed his elusiveness.
“I would just like to thank the Seattle Seahawks for this chance. I would like to thank the 49ers for allowing me to move on,” said the 29th overall pick out of North Carolina in 2008. “I’m just here, happy and ready to compete.”
Balmer said “I’m just happy to be here” seven times in a five-minute span while continually being asked what happened in San Francisco, which gave him an $8 million, five-year contract in 2008.
He did admit that getting 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.”
He left the 49ers on Aug. 9 for what coach Singletary called personal reasons. He missed his fifth straight practice Friday before San Francisco traveled to Indianapolis for its exhibition opener against the Colts.
His absences had been unexcused since Wednesday. That was the night he met with Singletary, yet he remained a no-show in camp.
What was it like for a third-year pro to confront his coach, a Hall of Fame linebacker renowned for his intensity?
“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 Balmer wasn’t happy with the 49ers. He has yet to start a game and has recorded no sacks 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 was that for a while on the first day of his new NFL life, banging into prized rookie left tackle Russell Okung, the Seahawks‘ sixth overall draft choice. Balmer also spent time at tackle.
He says this is the style of defense he played in 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 says 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.
“He’s really physically capable of standing up against big, ol’ linemen that we’re going to play in our division,” Carroll said of Balmer. “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 Green Bay, though. By the end of Tuesday’s 2-hour workout in 89-degree heat, Balmer was bent over between plays and gasping. Yet he says he’s fit to play this weekend.
Asked if his “personal reasons” from last week are now resolved, Balmer said: “Yes, sir. I would definitely say so. I had some time to stay in shape and get my mind right.”
“There’s no hard feelings,” he said. “I thank the 49ers for giving me the opportunity and allowing me to move on.”