If you expected there to be a degree of ambivalence, perhaps a chilly reception when the prodigal safety returned, you don’t understand how the Seattle Seahawks feel about Kam Chancellor.
“I just feel like there’s some energy in the building; it feels like we’ve got some life to us,” said linebacker K.J. Wright on Wednesday afternoon after Chancellor abruptly and unexpectedly ended his 54-day holdout that morning.
While coach Pete Carroll welcomed Chancellor back by acknowledging that he’s one of the players who are the “blood and guts” of the team, some fans had come to think that Chancellor had become more about greed and ingratitude.
And it seemed as if those most offended had been staunch Chancellor fans who felt as if a holdout was anathema to the qualities in Chancellor that they most admired.
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Fans who desecrated their “Chancellor” jerseys in criticism over his absence might bear lingering resentment. And, fact is, everybody else showed up for work on time.
But when this guy roars out of the tunnel Sunday afternoon, emerging from the smoke and rising flames, and starts banging his fist into his left hand, well, I’m guessing all will be forgiven.
Wright was asked about the feelings of those in the locker room, players on a team that might be 1-1 or maybe even 2-0 if Chancellor had been on the field. Would there be some tension with Chancellor’s return?
“Tension? I don’t know why people keep saying that; we’re all happy,” Wright said. “The tension has been released. It’s just good that he’s here. We all understood his situation.”
Chancellor was voted the team’s defensive captain last season, and although he relinquished that role to Bobby Wagner, his approach to his job likely won’t change as they move forward.
“(His impact) is more off the field,” Wright said. “Just the way he carries himself. He’s a leader and guys look up to him. I just believe it’s something we need, and I believe it’s going to show up on the field.”
Yes, what will the impact be on the field? The greatest impact will be felt by the Chicago Bears receivers and running backs who possess the ball in Chancellor’s neighborhood.
Bears coach John Fox got an eyeful of Chancellor in Super Bowl 48 when Fox coached Denver. Chancellor had 10 tackles and two pass break-ups, but the stats don’t even hint at the influence Chancellor had. On the third offensive play for the Broncos he tackled Demaryius Thomas so hard that Thomas flew 5 yards, and by the time he came down, the Broncos had been drained of some of their competitive fervor.
Such holdouts are uncommon but not lethal. Dallas running back Emmitt Smith held out the first two games of the 1993 season, and his team stumbled to an 0-2 mark. After he returned, Smith was the NFL MVP and the Cowboys won the Super Bowl.
Nobody was willing to talk about the “business” part of the Chancellor dispute, and lacking leakage of specifics, it seems a lose-lose deal. Chancellor, at the very least, forfeited half a million in game checks, and possibly much more in potential fines and remittance of a slice of signing bonus.
And the Hawks obviously were less than full force when he was gone.
It’s clear that Chancellor was not sitting on the couch scarfing Cheetos and Ding Dongs for a couple months.
Carroll reported that Chancellor showed up at 226 pounds and 6 percent body fat … leaner by roughly 6 pounds, and surely still packing the power that has been his hallmark.
Is he ready to play as soon as Sunday? Chancellor said he is. Carroll said they will prepare as if he’ll be in the lineup. But how much can you tell from a press conference?
Maybe the conciliatory words are secondary to the look in his eyes. Chancellor is one of the Seahawks we suspect is incapable of guile. When he looks you in the face and answers a question, it carries weight and gravity, and it feels inarguably genuine.
Of his holdout and return, he said he has always followed what was in his heart, and having watched his teammates (“dear to my heart”) lose games was very painful.
This guy is driven by deep feelings and strong principles. They probably caused him to stick to a pointless holdout to his own financial detriment.
But these are also the qualities that cause this team to follow him with such loyalty, and to welcome him back so eagerly.