All the attention’s been focused on who hasn’t practiced during the Seattle Seahawks’ ongoing organized team activities.
Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Cliff Avril, Earl Thomas, Michael Bennett, Bruce Irvin and Marshawn Lynch have been absent for varying reasons — from attending funerals in Florida last week for the first three to resting a repaired shoulder for Thomas. Bennett and Irvin are not happy about contract situations and are skipping the technically voluntary workouts as the only statements they can make without getting fined. Lynch is doing what he usually does until training camp in mid-summer.
Yet potentially far more important to the Seahawks’ 2015 season has been a particular veteran starter who has been participating in all offseason drills. For a change.
For the first five offseasons Kam Chancellor has been in the NFL, spring has been about rehabilitation, not renewal.
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But he says this offseason has been his best yet. He and All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman are the most remarkable participants of the OTAs that resumed Monday and continue Tuesday at the team’s Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton.
“I feel great,” Chancellor said last week with a grin. “Back to football form. Feel fast. Feel strong. I just feel good out there.”
The thumping strong safety and team leader is the player perhaps most respected and admired by his peers on the two-time defending NFC champions. That’s for his leadership, hard hits and guts in playing through pain. Last year at this time he was recovering from his most recent procedure, on his hip, and he dragged that leg through much of the early 2014 season.
He seemed destined for yet another offseason surgery a few months ago. Chancellor appeared out of February’s Super Bowl when he got tangled with a teammate and banged knees going for a pass at the end of the Seahawks’ Friday practice at Arizona State University two days before Super Bowl 49. He initially feared a more extensive injury and said he thought he might miss the game — until, he said, his teammates gathered around and prayed with him.
A day later, he was moving around on the knee in a walkthrough, a feat coach Pete Carroll that day called miraculous. On Super Bowl Sunday he tested the knee pregame and then played all four quarters against New England wearing a brace over a torn medial collateral ligament and bruised knee.
Chancellor said he had the same MCL injury while playing in college at Virginia Tech. That further strengthened his belief he could play through it.
After he did he took two weeks off then resumed offseason training. Then Chancellor merely rested, trained and refreshed.
The bone spurs that had him contemplating ankle surgeries after two painful, uncharacteristically plodding games last September? No one even mentions those anymore.
Asked how much better he is feeling compared to last year, he replied “Any year.”
“I think this is the strongest offseason I’ve had since I’ve been in the league,” said Chancellor, who entered in 2010. “I’ve been actually able to train in the offseason instead of having surgeries.”
Sherman initially was told he may need ligament-replacement surgery on the elbow he hurt in January’s NFC championship; Chancellor slammed into it while they made a tackle on a Green Bay Packer at the sideline. Like Chancellor, Sherman played through the Super Bowl with that injury then needed only rest instead of surgery.
Sherman’s been lined up the past week next to Chancellor in Seattle’s first-string secondary that also has DeShawn Shead at free safety while Thomas recovers into July from shoulder surgery. Offseason free-agent addition Cary Williams from Philadelphia has been at departed Byron Maxwell’s old spot at cornerback opposite Sherman.
Besides feeling refreshed, Chancellor senses the Seahawks have a renewed focus after coming within 1 yard in the final seconds against New England on Feb. 1 from winning a second consecutive Super Bowl. He believes Wilson’s interception at the goal line and the defense allowing the Patriots two late touchdowns to win it have re-motivated the players.
“Oh yeah, I told a lot of people, it feels like this offseason, everybody worked their hardest,” Chancellor said. “I’ve seen guys out here busting their tails, the whole offseason going fast-tempo. Guys are lifting like crazy. It’s just like the mindset is just sharpened. It just sharpened even more.
“We’re more focused, more driven. We’re just hungry for the first game of the year.”
Two weekends ago Chancellor hosted his sixth annual “Bam Bam’s Spring Jam” in his home area of Norfolk, Virginia, to benefit his foundation, “Kam Cares.” The Memorial Day weekend cookout and festival included a celebrity basketball game and attracted Lynch, Sherman, Thomas, plus fellow Seahawks Bobby Wagner and Marcus Burley. Former teammates Brandon Browner, Maxwell, Jeron Johnson, Ron Parker and Michael Robinson also attended.
The charity hoops game was at Chancellor’s alma mater, Maury High School. A story about that on complex.com had pictures of Chancellor, Lynch and Sherman hoisting jumpers. It quotes Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor saying Sherman was a little too physical and competitive by game’s end.
“Sherm took it too far,” Taylor was quoted telling one of his hoops teammates.
Chancellor’s foundation presented two checks of $1,500 each at the event to two Norfolk-area high school students from single-parent homes who had achieved a grade-point-average of 2.8 or higher.
“I want to create a big family out here,” Chancellor told the Seahawks’ website. “By doing this every year, it’s starting to grow every year. The family is getting bigger and bigger. The relationships out here are getting closer and closer. I want everyone to know one another and support each other.
“I think you can’t do things alone in life. You’ve got to have a friend.”
Full health helps, too. Chancellor finally has that this spring.
The team had OTA practice No. 4 indoors Monday; it was closed to the media. The Seahawks published photos showing Graham making his first OTA appearance. ... The photos showed the players again wearing helmets early in practices for individual drills then going without them when scrimmaging offense vs. defense at the end, as they did last week. Carroll said that change from previous years is to keep the Seahawks more in compliance with the “tempo” the league wants for OTAs and offseason minicamps. The NFL took two of Seattle’s three on-field practice days from its only mandatory minicamp this month away from the team after the league determined the Seahawks’ offseason drills last year were too physical. Their only on-field, mandatory-minicamp practice is June 18.