Boling: Kick coverage speaks volumes about Seahawks' Leon Washington
DAVE BOLING; STAFF WRITER
RENTON – Sometimes, a play here or there gives you a look inside an athlete, a chance to see their heart, to get a fair measure of their competitive spirit.
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has sprinted 20 yards downfield to recover a receiver’s fumble or thrown cross-body blocks on cutback runs. Tackle Walter Jones often flattened an end before moving on to a linebacker and then to a defensive back. Clobbering one guy was just not enough for him.
On Sunday, the Seahawks suffered a lopsided loss to Kansas City. The major point of redemption was the continued excellence of the special teams.
Late in the first period, for instance, in an example of shrewd scheming and perfect execution, Kennard Cox broke through to block a punt that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by rookie safety Earl Thomas.
It was the next play that had more subtle significance.
Because Thomas had just played a defensive series and returned the block, he needed a breather on the subsequent kickoff.
Without discussion, Leon Washington ran onto the field. This is the Leon Washington who has been a Pro Bowl back, the Leon Washington who suffered a gruesome, multiple displaced fracture of the lower leg last season with the New York Jets.
Washington not only jumped in to help out on a special teams unit, he sprinted downfield and made the tackle.
More impressive is the reason why he was able to more than adequately fill somebody’s spot.
“I go to all the special teams meetings,” Washington explained. “Not just the units I’m on. I want to know what everybody is doing because you never know, you only have 45 guys dressed on game days and they might need somebody to jump in.”
When the call for a replacement for Thomas went out, Washington ran up and said: Put me in coach, I’m ready to play.
Thomas said he learned a real lesson from Washington about what it takes to be a professional.
“He wasn’t even on the depth chart for (kickoffs),” Thomas said. “It was all from him being in the meetings and knowing what to do. It shows the character he’s got. This is a vet, a Pro Bowl guy; he’s so unselfish, and good things happen to unselfish guys.”
Kicker Olindo Mare said that Washington was sure to check in with him after the play to get his due respect. Mare was more than happy to oblige.
“You have a lot of teams where guys aren’t interested in playing on special teams,” Mare said. “And here we’ve got guys who are volunteering to get out there. (Washington) is one of those guys who will do whatever it takes to get on the field and help us win. Sure enough, he’s out there one time and he makes the play.”
Linebacker/special teams player Matt McCoy said that if Washington hadn’t filled his lane and made the tackle, the return might have gone to midfield.
“It gets everybody fired up,” McCoy said. “For a guy like him to go out there and put his body out like that says a lot about his character.”
Washington didn’t want to make a big deal out of his tackling ability. He should be expected to, he said, as he was considered the No. 1 prep cornerback prospect coming out of Florida his senior season. “Devin Hester was No. 2,” he said.
“I’ve done it before,” Washington said. “I was just talking to Mike Robinson about how we all try to make this game too complicated. It’s still a lot like the backyard football you played growing up; you have to run down there and tackle somebody.”
Actually, he doesn’t really have to. He’s paid nicely to return kicks (two for touchdowns this season) and be a versatile backup ballcarrier.
He had another high-impact special teams play on Sunday, when he tried to throw a block on a kickoff return, and he got absolutely flattened. Although it looked like they might need a spatula to get him picked up, Washington bounced up and ran off.
“Yeah, he hit me
he hit me,” Washington said with emphasis. “One of those things. You know, I take pride in what I put on film. My peers go into that meeting and watch that film, they may say that Leon got flattened, but he gave it everything he had.”
Yes, even in a dismal loss, jumping in on a play that might seem insignificant, Leon Washington gave it everything he had.
It says a lot about him.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 email@example.com