That’s the price the 5-foot-11, 240-pound linebacker paid for pleading guilty in August to a felony insider-trading charge, admitting he made $1.2 million through four illegal deals in 2014 and 2015 while a member of the Philadelphia Eagles. After being released by the Cleveland Browns, the 28-year-old signed with the Seahawks in September and played in three games before subsequently being suspended by the NFL for the last eight.
Of course, Kendricks could also face 30 to 37 months in prison as a first-time offender, but is expected to be sentenced no earlier than January. Until then, he’s allowed to play, beginning with tonight’s game against the Vikings.
Not necessarily with a clear conscience.
“The hardest part about this is the situation itself — understanding the severity, the friends that I’ve lost,” Kendricks said on Saturday, in his first interview since his suspension ended. “No one truly understands the intricacies [of what happened]. That being said, it’s understandable for people to want to walk away. Deep down, I’ll never know who’s truly with me or not. But I can tell.
“If they truly do know me, then there’s no shift [in loyalty]. But it can be a blessing in disguise. Those who aren’t supposed to be in my life, won’t be.”
During the eight-game suspension, Kendricks’ circle constricted. He trained in the seclusion of Sedona, Ariz. His playbook was taken away. He tried to avoid television, only watching an occasional Seahawks game.
[More Sports] Eagles draft target: The intrigue of Gerald Willis »
The season went on without him. The Seahawks won five of their next eight games. His little brother — Vikings middle linebacker Eric Kendricks — piled up 16 tackles in a loss to the Patriots last weekend.
And, like always,Kendricks wasn’t watching.
“Honestly, watching my brother play, it makes me nervous and anxious. So I try not to watch his games,”Kendricks said. ”And every time I don’t watch his games he balls out, so it’s like a superstition of mine.
“He’s still my brother. I want the best for him. So I’m watching it like film. I’m like, ‘You missed that there. You should’ve got that there. Oh, good job there.’ It’s just too stressful for me.”
One thing is certain: Kendricks doesn’t need more stress. He needs football. He needs the sustained support of a second family.
He needs to produce, like he did with 15 tackles and two sacks in his first three games with Seattle.
And, without injured weakside linebacker K.J. Wright (knee), the Seahawks need him, too.
“He looks really good on the practice field,” Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Saturday. “When he played for us we really felt his quickness. You could see the plays that he can make and the savvy that he has.
[More Sports] Phillies prospect update: Jerad Eickhoff strong as IronPigs take down Rochester »
“It’s going to be a while before he’s truly comfortable in the playing mode, just because it’s happened so fast. But his awareness really allows him to jump right back in. We’re going to expect him to be active and be part of it and play a lot in the game.”
Monday’s game represents both a return and a reunion of sorts for Kendricks.
“It is special, in the sense that during a hard time like this you lean on those that love you,” Kendricks said of the prospect of playing his brother in his first game back. “You lean on those that have been there all your life. It’s emotional coming back. And what better way to come back than to play a loved one? So it is special.”
Special is a wordKendricks repeated on Saturday. Losing the ability to play simultaneously shifted his perspective.
“I never thought I’d say that the game of football is literally healthy for me,” Kendricks acknowledged. “But there’s something that this game does for individuals like myself, and even those who watch and love the game. We all get together on Sundays — the people who are playing and the people who are watching.
“It’s a special game. A lot of life lessons are learned through the game. Through this life lesson that I’m learning, the game has become even more special.”
Football may be special for Kendricks, but it’s also increasingly fleeting. A potential prison sentence looms. A sustained playoff run with the Seahawks won’t stop it.
So how can he focus on football when the future appears so crushingly bleak?
“That part is inevitable. I probably won’t speak on that,” Kendricks said of his legal situation. “This is my escape. Football is everything for me, you know? To have lost that was very hard. That was probably the hardest thing, to walk away from the game that I love, from a team that has accepted me.”
For the next four games, at least, the Seahawks have accepted him back. Kendricks has a playbook, and a purpose. He’s trying to live in the present, to make his (remaining) friends and family proud.
“What do I visualize?” Kendricks said, repeating a reporter’s question. “Man … making plays, going out there with my boys, competing at an all-time high level, solidifying myself as a Seahawk. I’m just happy to be back.”
The NFL offseason is about opportunity. Even year, standouts unexpectedly become available. This year, Pittsburgh sent wide receiver Antonio Brown to Oakland after a long dispute and Kansas City traded pass-rusher Dee Ford to San Francisco.
It appears another impact veteran could perhaps be on the move as well. FanSided reported Tuesday that the Seattle Seahawks are wiling to listen to offers for pass-rusher Frank Clark, who had 13 sacks in 2018 and 32 in the past three seasons.
Ford would be the model for the Clark trade. They are similar players and like Clark, Ford was given the franchise tag this offseason. The Chiefs ended up trading Ford to the San Francisco 49ers for a second-year pick. The 49ers gave Ford a five-year, $87.5 million deal. However, the 49ers can get out of it after one year at $20.5 million. So, that is probably a similar deal that Clark would get.
Also, the second-round pick is probably the working compensation rate for Clark, who turns 26 in June, according to FanSided.
Below are five teams, presented in alphabetical order, that could be a fit for Clark in a trade:
Indianapolis: This may be the best fit for Clark. The Colts have two second-round picks (No. 34 from the New York Jets and their own at No. 59). Indianapolis also has the most salary-cap room left in the NFL at $57.5 million, according to Spotrac.com. The Colts added former Kansas City pass-rusher Justin Houston offseason, but Clark would make sense for now and the future. This is a young roster that is poised to be a contender for the long-term.
Vannett is another example of how the Seahawks are so changed and younger from last season, when they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in six years.
Seattle’s third-round pick in 2016 from Ohio State is suddenly the longest-tenured Seahawks tight end. That status comes with perks—including being the chief assessor, judge and jury of the tight ends’ daily kangaroo-court fine system.
“The most common one is probably the ‘homeland fine.’ That’s probably the one I dish out the most,” Vannett said Monday following the 13th practice of Seahawks training camp at team headquarters.
The “homeland fine?”
“So for me, for example, if I were to wear anything Ohio, Ohio State, if I were to mention anything ‘Ohio,’ any city in Ohio, I get fined for that,” the native Buckeye said.
Tight ends coach Pat McPherson, 49, gets fined a lot for mimicking sound effects, especially during review of practice and game film.
“Ninety percent of his fines are from sound effects,” the 25-year-old Vannett said.
“We’ve got ‘Uncle Rico’ fines, where if you tell a high-school story that we all just really don’t care about, that’s a fine.”
That’s how coach McPherson also gets dinged for mentioning his playing days at UCLA and Santa Clara, or when he signed in 1993 as a rookie free agent with the San Francisco 49ers.
“We have a no-fine fine. I mean, if you go the whole day without getting a fine, you’re getting a fine,” Vannett said.
“That just goes to show, you are going to get fined.”
The going rate for fines is $20 per infraction, with what Vannett called a $1,000 “initiation fine” for incoming rookies, depending upon whether they were drafted or undrafted free agents. The leader entering the third week of training camp? Dissly. By a lot. Vannett estimates the rookie was up to $2,700 in fines as of Monday.
The ultimate authority of assessing the fines says he’s probably at $2,000. Vannett is the collector and keeper of the fine money, too. He inherited that responsibility when Willson, the previous longest-tenured Seahawks tight end, left.
“Since I’ve been here the longest, I’m sitting in the throne now,” Vannett said.
“I mean, what I say, goes. Sometimes I run it (by those) in the room, if I’m on the fence. But usually what I say is a fine.
“I mean, hey, I’m a leader. So I’ve got to act like it, right?”
No, Vannett is not pocketing the cash to spend on the newest plasma televisions or whatever, either.
“It goes towards charity, at the end,” Vannett said. “We have peoples’ foundations that it goes to. Half of it goes to charity, and half of it goes to the tight ends’ trip at the end of the year.”
Vannett said the most common charities to benefit from the tight ends’ missteps have been those that benefit children.
“In the past we did it for cancer,” he said. “It’s always going toward a good cause.”
Vannett is rising to meet his increased opportunities in the Seahawks’ kangaroo count and on their field after two seasons marred by a herniated disk in his low back. He said getting into a three-point stance was often painful. That and his limited chances behind Graham and Willson in 2016 and ‘17 are why Vannett has just 15 receptions in 24 games so far in his career.
Before training camp began, Vannett finally got an accurate diagnosis for his pain. He also got a new exercise plan and physical therapy that avoided surgery. He says this is the best he’s felt in years.
His rise and return to full health are timely. They are coinciding with the renewed value and emphasis tight ends have in the Seahawks’ offense this year.
Graham and Willson were essentially wide receivers in tight-end alignment in the last past seasons under coordinator Darrell Bevell and line coach Tom Cable. Those two were down-filed pass catchers who blocked only when they absolutely had to. Vannett was the lone “blocking” tight end of those three.
New coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and new line coach Mike Solari have their tight ends being, well, tight ends. They are focal points in run blocking and in pass catching, particularly right now with lead wide receiver Doug Baldwin out indefinitely with a left-knee injury.
SEATTLE — It was the biggest question facing the Seahawks’ rebuilt defense, even bigger than the one surrounding what remained of their Legion of Boom secondary: Where would the pass-rush come from without Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril?
Frank Clark was an obvious candidate.
Jarran Reed was not.
Reed’s 10.5 sacks — which included two in the Seahawks’ win over the Arizona Cardinals in their regular-season finale on Sunday – offered one of the biggest surprises of the year for the playoff-bound Seahawks.
“What a great performance for the whole season for him,” coach Pete Carroll said of Reed. “… I don’t think we’ve ever had a defensive tackle that had 10 sacks … and Frank has just played great the whole year. He had a fantastic season.”
Carroll was right. Since he arrived in 2010, no Seahawks defensive tackle had accrued more than 5.5 sacks. Clinton McDonald reached that total in 2013 and Jordan Hill matched it the next year.
All 10.5 of Reeds sacks came on plays in which he lined up as a defensive tackle. According to ESPN charting, that ties him with Fletcher Cox for the fourth-most sacks out of that alignment (defensive tackle or nose tackle) this season behind Aaron Donald’s 19.5, Chris Jones’ 14.5 and DeForest Buckner’s 11.
With Clark’s career-best 14 sacks, he and Reed combined for 24.5. According to the Seahawks, that’s the most by a pair of Seattle pass-rushers in the same season since Michael McCrary and Michael Sinclair combined for 26.5 in 1996. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, the only other duo in franchise history to produce more was Jeff Bryant and Jacob Green, who combined for 27.5 in 1984.
When the Seahawks traded Bennett to Philadelphia and released Avril this offseason, they moved on from two of the best pass-rushers in franchise history. Bennett is seventh on the team’s all-time sack list with 39 and Avril is 10th with 34.5. But in their five seasons together in Seattle, their highest combined sack total was 19 in 2015.
The point is: Clark and Reed have given the Seahawks some serious pass-rushing production.
It wasn’t hard to see this could be coming for Clark. Actually, it was almost expected of him. He had already started to emerge as one of the league’s up-and-coming edge-rushers with 19 sacks over his last two seasons, and he was now in his first full year as a starter in place of Avril.
Clark’s 14 sacks are sixth-most in the league, and his 700 defensive snaps are fewer than all five of the players ahead of him, according to ESPN charting. It’s why the 2015 second-round pick is on his way to cashing in, be it through a franchise tag or a multi-year extension with his rookie deal set to expire.
“He is a factor every time we rush the passer,” Carroll said. “You can tell by the way [opponents] are trying to take care of him.”
But this type of season seemed to come out of nowhere for Reed, who had always been considered primarily a run-stopper. Jim Nagy, who now directs the Senior Bowl, scouted Reed while he was with the Seahawks and called him “the best run-stuffer I’ve seen in a long time” after Seattle chose him in the second round in 2016. Nagy saw some pass-rush potential when he watched film and observed Reed’s athleticism during the pre-draft process, but that potential rarely translated into sacks in college.
Reed had only two of them during his two seasons at Alabama. Over his first two NFL seasons, he had a total of three.
So what’s gotten into him?
Maybe his sack spike is a product of being on the field a lot more. Data from Pro Football Reference has Reed playing about 80 percent of Seattle’s defensive snaps this season, a massive jump from 44 percent and 56 percent, respectively, in his first two seasons. More playing time obviously means more opportunities to rush the passer.
Maybe that part of Reed’s game just bloomed late. He played in an Alabama defense that prioritized stopping the run, not asking its defensive tackles to penetrate up field.
Maybe he’s extra motivated now that he can sniff a big pay day of his own as he nears eligibility for an extension, having played the requisite three seasons.
Whatever the reason, the Seahawks could use more of the same from Reed and Clark in the playoffs.
“Just seeing my boy, him being able to take on the challenge under the duress of us not having all that we had, it’s just great to see,” Clark said of Reed. “It just shows us young guys what our ceiling really is.”
The fifth-year option is not something that comes of all that often for the Seattle Seahawks, who have consistently traded down or out of the first round over the last seven years, but 2019 is an exception. Barring an unexpected trade, the Seahawks will have to make a decision on right tackle Germain Ifedi by May 3 as far as if they want to ensure themselves the right to keep him under team control through 2020. It would seem like an easy choice to retain a former first rounder who has started 44 games in three seasons, but it may be hard to reconcile with the idea that Ifedi is as valuable on the field as the fifth-year option would cost the team.
Seattle’s had the right to exercise Ifedi’s option since December 31, but the deadline doesn’t come for another five months so there’s no reason to rush it. What would it cost? The rule goes that a top-10 pick will be paid the average of the top-10 paid players at their position while picks 11-32 get the average of players ranked 3-25 in salary. Someone smarter than me could calculate what that would mean for a tackle in 2019, but nothing is set in stone and the NFL will announce those figures at a later date; last year, it was revealed on April 20.
In 2018, 20 of 32 fifth-year options were exercised, which was the same figure as 2017. Of course, this gets less likely the further you go down the list: from picks 26-32, only Byron Jones and Damarious Randall had their options picked up, and Randall was traded from the Green Bay Packers to the Cleveland Browns shortly before — the Packers weren’t going to pick it up. Both players are also DBs and both were transitioning to new positions, Jones from safety to corner and Randall from corner to safety. Oddly, that means that Randall is getting paid $9 million next season (if the Browns don’t cut him, which they can as the fifth-year option holds zero guarantees other than injury guarantees) while Jones is only getting about $6 million, and those are the positions they didn’t play, not the positions they did.
Moving back to Ifedi and offensive tackles.
The NFL classifies all offensive linemen the same as far as fifth-year options go and last year that meant a salary of $9.625 million for players picked outside of the top 10. Andrus Peat and D.J. Humphries had their options picked up while Cam Erving, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Laken Tomlinson did not. Erving and Tomlinson are no longer with the teams that drafted them, while Ogbuehi spent most of the season as a healthy scratch for the Cincinnati Bengals. Humphries was a risky one as he missed all of his rookie season plus 11 more games in 2017, but the Arizona Cardinals picked up his option anyway; Humphries played in nine games and then went on injured reserve, so I assume his 2019 salary is now guaranteed just as Blake Bortles’ was for the Jacksonville Jaguars when he got hurt at the end of 2018.
When the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft came about, the Seahawks knew they wanted to take a wide receiver. They traded four picks to the Washington Redskins to take the player they had been eyeing: Tyler Lockett.
The Seahawks can expect big things from Tyler Lockett in 2019. His 2018 season was an unexpected performance that no one will forget. It was a season that was statistically shattering for him.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Seahawks signed Tyler Lockett to a three-year $31.8 million contract extension. To some, this huge extension came as a surprise as Lockett hadn’t had a big season since his rookie year. From the start of 2018, it became clear why Lockett was extended such a generous contract. Lockett had multiple receptions a game; except one, where he only had a single reception. He also had his career-high in single-season yards (965) and touchdowns (10).
Throughout the season, Pro Football Focus was all over grading Lockett’s tremendous performance. Some of his accomplishments in the season include zero drops, the highest grade on Go routes (132.2), 158.3 passer rating when targeted (first among wide receivers), and a career-high overall grade of 80.3.
The Seahawks have always had an underrated receiving corp. They’ve never been considered among the best in the NFL but have made a big enough impact to keep Seattle in the playoffs nearly every year since the Pete Carroll era started. The Seahawks are clearly set up for a good receiving group in 2019 with Lockett, Doug Baldwin, and David Moore. It’s likely they could even target another in the draft to cement depth at the position.
Lockett’s outstanding 2018 season projects good things for him and the Seahawks in 2019. Especially, with a quarterback like Russell Wilson. Hopefully, after seeing Lockett’s production improve, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will find ways to implement a more vertical passing game in such situations that can be successful for both Lockett and Wilson.
The Seattle Seahawks are messing with fire in a meaningless game versus the Arizona Cardinals and they just got singed a little bit.
In the first quarter, starting left cornerback Shaquill Griffin was having one of his best run-stopping efforts of the season with five total tackles (two solo tackles) and a tackle for a loss but his good game just wasn’t meant to be or maybe he was playing a bit too hard (no such thing) because he turned his ankle on an early defensive play and had to hobble off the field.
The Seahawks officially announced Griffin as questionable to return with an ankle injury but he has not seen any action since injuring his ankle and that’s probably for the best with a playoff matchup coming next week and the team already having some injuries in the secondary. The Seahawks didn’t even start free safety Tedric Thompson due to his ankle injury despite the fluid in his chest clearing out, which was the injury that held him out week 16 action. They also have Bradley McDougald’s patellar tendonitis in which to monitor. He is playing on Sunday despite being listed as questionable on the injury report.
For now, Griffin remains out of the game as the Seahawks entered halftime in a matchup becoming more meaningless by the second. He’s been replaced by Akeem King who the Arizona Cardinals have been targeting to some success in the first half.
The Seahawks currently lead by a score of 14-13 but that lead may not matter in the end. The Chicago Bears currently hold a 13-3 lead over the Minnesota Vikings and if the Vikings lose, the Seahawks clinch the fifth seed even if the Seahawks loss. The Seahawks can also clinch with a win but none of that is worth losing a starting player over in the first place.
Currently, Griffin is the only player the Seahawks have seen suffer any real damage and according to reports on hand, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. According to the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta, Griffin got the ankle taped and looks like he could go back onto the field if he needed to do so. He didn’t even go back to the locker room; so that’s a good sign. The Seahawks may not need him this week but they certainly need him versus Amari Cooper and the Dallas Cowboys.
Head coach Pete Carroll will have the final word on Griffin’s status but they appear to have averted disaster. But if they plan to continue to play their starters, they have another half of football to get through. And since they’re decidedly not blowing out the Cardinals, he can’t pull the starters based onBu the game flow, which means he’s unlikely to pull them at all.
The selection of Ethan Pocic in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft was supposed to signal a change in the Seattle Seahawks’ philosophy. Following a year in which the Seahawks’ offensive line finished 26th by Football Outsiders, Seattle drafted a lineman in Pocic who was less explosive than their previous standards, and didn’t hit on any of the existing thresholds.
However, Pocic was also a known quantity. He was coming from a national powerhouse in LSU and he had pedigree, being named all-conference twice and All-American once. Plus, he was versatile, having started 27 games at center, nine at right guard and one at right tackle in college. With the Seahawks, his career began well enough, as Pocic started 11 games as a rookie. But following the conclusion of his rookie year, offensive line coach Tom Cable was fired, and a new coach in Mike Solari and a new system was on its way in.
To prepare for the change in scheme, Pocic bulked up, gaining a reported 20 pounds over the offseason. He also spent time at the OL Masterminds summit, working in the classroom and on the field with some of the game’s best linemen. And with D.J. Fluker suffering an injury that kept him out of the first two games of the 2018 season, Pocic began the year as a starter, before ceding his spot to Fluker upon his return.
As Fluker was set to miss Week 10 through another injury, it was presumed Pocic would step back into the starting lineup. But, less than an hour before kickoff, GM John Schneider announced it would be Jordan Simmons, not Pocic, starting in Fluker’s place. The reasoning, per Schneider, was Simmons being a better scheme fit.
The decision to start Simmons came as a surprise for a number of reasons. Pocic had previously started this season and had changed his body to be a fit for the scheme. Simmons was questionable coming into Week 10 with a calf injury. And, he is a former UDFA who, in his second season, was just claimed off waivers in September. All of that adds up to be a damning indictment of Pocic’s place on the roster.
But wouldn’t you know it, against Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh, Simmons justified the decision, playing well in his first NFL start. He anchored well in 1-on-1s on numerous occasions and helped Seattle to a massive performance on the ground. Following the Seahawks’ loss, Carroll singled him out during his post-game press conference for his performance. (Carroll also gave a slightly different reason for Simmons’ start, saying “We wanted to make sure we had a big guy in there, a solid guy who could hold up against their guys.”)
So now, Pocic finds himself in a strange spot on Seattle’s roster. He isn’t the immediate backup at guard, and was even inactive in Week 9 in favor of Joey Hunt. Offensive line guru Brandon Thorn has consistently stated he believes center to be Pocic’s best position, but that doesn’t help him either; the earliest the Seahawks can get out of Justin Britt’s deal is following the 2019 season.
Pocic is perhaps without a role on Seattle’s 2018 roster, but at the very least, he has time on his side. His rookie contract runs through the 2020 season, and this offseason showed he’s willing to put in the work to fit Solari’s system. The Seahawks may seek to trade the former day two selection in the coming offseason but for now, he’ll ride out 2018 as the fourth or fifth guard on an offensive line that’s (for the most part) come together.
DETROIT — It was a play so deliciously entertaining and surprising that it earned two new nicknames — one for the player who pulled it off, and one for the play itself.
“You mean Aussie Sweep?’’ coach Pete Carroll said of punter Michael Dickson’s decision not to bother stepping out of the end zone to take a safety in the final minutes of Sunday’s 28-14 win over Detroit.
Instead, Dickson faked the punt and ran nine yards for a first down to the Seattle 12. That clinched the win.
The play was so audacious — Dickson admitted he wasn’t even sure that he had to get at least eight yards on the play, which snapped from the Seattle 3 — that it also earned Dickson his own new nickname from teammates.
And what would that be?
“Big balls,’’ Dickson said.
But then, who could argue that’s what it took for a rookie fifth-round pick from Australia to decide to run for?
“Yeah, so I was meant to run to the right and soak up some time before we took the safety,’’ Dickson said. “It was open. I thought, ‘Stuff it. Try and get the first down.’ “
Dickson laughed and admitted he “didn’t even really know how many yards’’ he had to get for the first down, but said he realized he’d pulled it off when he passed the first down marker at the 11-yard line.
He also said it briefly hit him that once he turned the corner “there was no backing up. So just go for it.’’
And what reaction did he get once he got to the sideline?
“Everybody was just laughing,’’ he said. “Who does that? It was just a weird thing for me to do. So they were just laughing.’’
Once he got the necessary yards, anyway.
Carroll said that some “superlatives’’ went through his mind initially, undoubtedly meaning expletives.
“It was like he went against all tradition, all thinking and everything,’’ Carroll said. “But he saw a situation and he took advantage of it. And I think that’s what great players do, and they surprise you sometimes. That was truly a surprise. That was a great moment, and I was really fired up for him.”
Carroll planted a tiny seed in Dickson’s head during a conversation at the airport in London last week.
“Pete came up to me and said, ‘When are you just going to run the ball?’ ” Dickson recalled. “I said, ‘When are you going to ask me?’ And he said, ‘Sometimes there’s a gap. Just take it.’ “
Carroll fessed up to that.
“He’s been after me,’’ Carroll said. “I said, ‘Sometimes you’re just going to have to take off and go.’ And the next time out, he did it. So, I don’t know. That’s something that a really good player can do. Sometimes the coverage, the return team takes off and they give you a soft edge and that’s what he saw. He was going to kill some time and took full advantage of it. So, that’s awesome.”
One coach not really in favor of it, Dickson said, was special teams coach Brian Schneider.
Dickson said he told Schneider of what Carroll said to him last week and Schneider said, “Don’t ever do that. Only at practices. And then today I was doing it and I was like ‘Pete said.’ “
Failure, Dickson knew, was not an option.
“Oh, man, I would be extremely embarrassed,’’ Dickson said. ”I don’t even know. That did not even cross my mind. Honestly, I knew I was going to get it, and I’m glad it paid off.”
Twelve tackles in 17 games — hardly stellar statistics for an outside linebacker in the National Football League.
for a linebacker with one hand, these statistics are truly amazing, as
is the player who recorded them, Shaquem Griffin of the Seattle
For those unfamiliar with Shaquem’s story, it
transcends football or any other sport. It is a powerful, poignant, and
inspirational playbook for confronting and tackling disabilities or
adversities with incredible courage, dogged determination, and boundless
Shaquem was born with amniotic-band syndrome, which
affected the normal growth of the fingers on his left hand. At age four,
the excruciating pain became so intolerable that he snuck into the
kitchen one night and attempted to self-amputate the digits on his left
hand with a butcher knife.
The next day, this hand was amputated. Undeterred by the surgery, Shaquem was running in the backyard with his identical-twin brother, Shaquill, the following day with a football tucked between his right hand and the bloody bandage on his left arm, according to Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated TV.
This incident foreshadowed the relentless can-do spirit that Shaquem
would later display on high school, college, and professional football
fields. No surgeon could remove his no-excuse work ethic or iron-clad
will to play sports during the next 19 years, despite the constant
chorus of doubters who told him that his physical impediment would
severely limit his athletic achievement.
In middle school,
Shaquem and Shaquill made a solemn promise to each other: When it came
time for college, they would stick together, according Byron Drahold of
After forging outstanding, multi-sport high school
careers side by side, Shaquem and Shaquilll once again became teammates
at the University of Central Florida. True to his word, Shaquill turned
down several football scholarships including a chance to play on his
dream team, the Miami Hurricanes, so he could play college football with
During his remarkable college career, Shaquem was a
dominant defensive force. He won the 2016 American Athletic Conference
(AAC) Player of the Year award for amassing such statistics as 92
tackles and 11.5 sacks. The following year, his 74 tackles and seven
sacks helped to propel the UCF Knights to an undefeated season. During
his final year at UCF, he was named the 2018 Peach Bowl Defensive MVP,
an All-American, and the AAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Still, the doubters weren’t convinced that he could advance to the big leagues.
a game against the Houston Cougars in 2016, Shaquem had to play with a
cast on his broken right hand, which constricted the movement of his
fingers. Still, he made 14 tackles, sacked the opposing quarterback
twice, recovered a fumble, and picked off a pass that had caromed off a
″ I’ve played football one-handed. I’ve played
football with no hands,” he emphasized after the game. ” I’m waiting
for someone to say: ‘You can’t do it.’ ” – – play professional football,
After graduation, Shaquem was a late invitee
to the NFL-draft combine, a test for undrafted hopefuls. His
extraordinary showing included performing 20 reps in the bench press
while wearing a prosthesis and completing the 40-yard dash in 4.38
seconds, the fastest time for a linebacker since the NFL has released
In April 2018, Shaquem became one of 253 NFL
draftees from a pool of more than 16,000 NCAA-eligible players. He was
picked in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks, allowing him to once
again play alongside Shaquill, now a second-year cornerback on the team.
Nagy, former Seahawks scout, had been keeping an eye on Shaquem since
he began scouting Shaquill. He remembers clearly what he saw on a
sweltering August afternoon in Orlando that convinced him to draft
Shaquem, he told John Boyle of SEAHAWKS.COM. After a grueling practice,
Shaquem spotted an offensive lineman who was struggling as he was
leaving the field. He knelt next to his teammate, let him rest on his
shoulder, and held him.
“You saw it, you saw the leadership, you saw the type of teammate he
was … you saw the energy he practiced with. That’s all I needed to
see, ” explained Nagy.
During the 2018 NFL season, Shaquem
started only one game as a replacement for an injured teammate. He made
three tackles and played in 41 defensive snaps. He spent the remaining
games as an outside linebacker on special teams, logging only nine more
Shaquem received mixed reviews on his rookie season.
pundits characterized his performance as sub-par and unproductive, “not
good at getting bunches of snaps . . . and very bad in pass coverage,”
believes Lee Vowell of 12thManRising.com.
But Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll is more optimistic. “We threw him in there so early . . . for anybody coming off the big transition that he was making (from college to professional football and from defensive back to pass rusher) . . . . He’s way better schooled now than he was earlier,” he told SEAHAWKS.COM.
Fair assessment? Maybe, from the perspective of professional football.
in the larger game of life, there are other more authentic and
meaningful measures of success. And, for this football fan, Shaquem’s
actions off the field make him a true champion.
Shaquem used his NFL platform to encourage and inspire young athletes across the country and around the world.
seven tackles powered the Seahawks’ defense in defeating the Oakland
Raiders in their final 2018 preseason game. Well after 11 o’clock that
night, Shaquem walked back on the field of a nearly empty stadium and
was swarmed for hugs and photos by 30 young campers from NubAbility
Athletics, a non-profit group that encourages, inspires, and instructs
“limb-different” youth by “getting them out of the stands and onto the
playing field,” according to Boyle. “He wasn’t just another adult
telling those kids that they can accomplish anything – – he was living,
breathing proof of it,” explained executive director Sheila Trznadel.
also met with “limb-different” children during the regular season at
games and practices in Seattle as well as in cities where the Seahawks
played on the road.
Three year-old Blake Venier of Gibralter,
Mich., was born without a left hand. Every time Shaquem’s Gillette
commercial (discussed later in this article) airs on television, he
points to the screen and insists: “I want to play with him.”
wish hasn’t come true yet. But, thanks to his grandmother and Seahawks’
staff, he got the next best thing. On the sidelines before a
Seahawks-Lions game, Blake and Shaquem bumped fists with their right
hands. This fist bump helped to erase the sadness that Blake felt after a
playmate warned other kids to “keep away from the monster, the boy with
no hand,” as reported by Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times.
Similar inspiring stories about Shaquem’s impact on “limb-different” children and adults were repeated across the country last season and continue into the post-season.
In mid-February, Shaquem was given true rock-star treatment at Brooks
Rehabilitation’s annual Celebrate Independence 2019 event in
Among the many excited fans of all ages and abilities who met their
hero at the event was seven year-old Shepherd Reavis who, like Shaquem,
was born with amniotic-band syndrome that affected his left arm. Too
excited to sleep the night before, Shepherd nervously gave his idol a
football marked with his handprints and a message: “Thank you for being a
great example ! Your biggest fan . . . Shepherd.”
million-dollar smile, Shaquem then scooped up and held his young fan, a
heart-melting moment captured in a photo that immediately went viral,
according to PEOPLE.com.
Wherever he goes, Shaquem’s message is
the same: “For those of you who have dreams and aspirations to be great
in life, do not let negativity dictate who you’re going to become.” Work
hard. Give it your all. Don’t quit when times get tough. Eventually,
you can achieve anything, Shaquem told SEAHAWKS.COM.
As a disabled person for more than 25 years due to severe rheumatoid arthritis, I was immediately drawn to Shaquem’s story.
disabilities are far less severe than the life-long loss of a vital
body part. But I can relate to the difficult emotional challenges that
all disabled persons experience to varying degrees: anger, acrimony,
resentment, self-loathing, a diminished sense of self-esteem and
It’s so easy (and understandable) to be consumed with
self-pity, to let your disability define you, and to fall into that
dark hole where your disability can become a convenient cop-out. In this
dark hole, you can readily absolve yourself from taking the initiative
and mustering the will to overcome obstacles that can ultimately lead to
a more productive, purposeful, albeit imperfect life.
Shaquem for not allowing himself to fall into that dark hole, starting
in pre-school. I admire his guts, grit, sweat, mental toughness, and
grueling persistence that collectively compensate – – I strongly believe
– – for his missing left hand.
“It’s not a deformity unless you make it one. You’re not disabled
unless you say: ′ I’m disabled, ′ ” Shaquem often emphasizes. Is there
more powerful proof of the axiom: “mind over matter?”
Thankfully, Shaquem’s compelling story has now reached well beyond football and athletic circles.
fall, Nike included Shaquem in its special 30th anniversary celebration
of its signature slogan, “Just Do It.” The text of Shaquem’s
advertisement asks: “Who would ever think a kid like me would go pro?
Gillette recently redefined its long-running “The Best a Man
Can Get” campaign by introducing a new series of advertisements with
the tagline, “Your Best Never Comes Easy.” The first advertisement of
this campaign focuses on the Griffin family with father, Terry, teaching
Shaquem and Shaquill to play football and to shave, according to Chris
Jasurek of The Epoch Times.
At this point, no one knows what
Shaquem’s football future will look like: Will he survive a second
season or forge a Hall of Fame career?
But a few things are
already certain. During his young life, he has become a tireless
advocate and charismatic role model, proving that those who are
physically “different” are no longer doomed to spend their lives sitting
on the sidelines.
And Shaquem ” will keep doing what he does – – running, tackling, smiling, serving,” believes Vorel.
could have played the victim card, spending his life seeking sympathy
and lamenting about what he couldn’t do. Instead, he chose to “Just Do
It” – – and he did.Norine P. Bacigalupo, an avid sports fan, taught journalism at Suffolk University in Boston for 28 years.