RENTON – Consider it curious, but in keeping with the nature of this team, one of the Seahawks’ surprise success stories is a player who was taken third in the 2005 draft, but was such an afterthought addition he seemed a long shot to contribute.
But Braylon Edwards not only earned a spot with Seattle, he is likely to start at split end when the team opens the season Sunday at Arizona.
The Seahawks are Edwards’ fourth team in five seasons, and after his 16-touchdown Pro Bowl season of 2007 many of his subsequent headlines involved legal scrapes and moving violations.
Last season with San Francisco, a knee injury limited his playing time (nine games) and productivity (15 catches).
Edwards’ torn knee cartilage required surgery during the season, and he came back too early and reinjured it, needing further surgery after being released by the 49ers.
He said fans and outsiders “don’t understand injuries, they just think you don’t have it anymore.” Critics questioned his motivation and whether his skills remained.
“It hurts, it hurts,” he said in the Seahawks’ locker room on Wednesday. “It wasn’t the best of times, really, because you hear it and you take it to heart. There’s no way around that. So the only thing you can do is fight to get the chance to prove them wrong and here I am.”
Yet he almost wasn’t here. Edwards was in for a workout before camp and the Sea-hawks kept another veteran, Antonio Bryant, instead.
At only 29 years old and having to show up for free-agent auditions was humbling enough, but to get passed over was very nearly a tipping point for Edwards. He was certain he was back to health after the knee surgeries and had shown his readiness.
“I was confused, I was about to go back and shut it down for a while,” he said.
To retire, to give it up for good?
“No temporarily to revert to a dark place. But I stayed with it, said a prayer, and my parents stayed with me and lo and behold, a couple days later I got the call.”
Edwards thinks that other teams in the league were torpedoing his chances with harsh evaluations.
“I think it was perception,” he said. “You get bad-mouthed a couple times and people don’t necessarily go out and find out things for themselves. That’s what was great about (coach) Pete Carroll and the Seahawks; they were going to find out for themselves if I was still hurt or if I wasn’t a team guy or if I was a distraction, and so far that hasn’t happened.”
The Seahawks have seen the opposite, in fact.
“He’s been very, very good,” Carroll said. “He started it on the practice field making plays and he carried it into the games. He’s picked everything up. He’s competed with great consistency. We’re fortunate to have him.”
Cornerback Richard Sherman has had to cover the 6-foot-2, 214-pound Edwards in practices and can see the gifts of a player who was once drafted before the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Aaron Rodgers.
“He’s a threat, he’s strong and has great body control,” Sherman said of Edwards. “He plays a lot of hand games; he’s a master of hand-fighting and getting himself in position to go up and get the ball. He’ll go up there and get it, and if he doesn’t, he’s gonna make sure you’re not gonna get it.”
Edwards’ legal issues over the years, which include a DUI, have overshadowed some of his significant charitable off-the-field activities.
As a 23-year-old rookie, Edwards’ charitable foundation established an Advance 100 program through which he committed $1 million dollars in college scholarships to 100 Cleveland area youths. Picked from more than a 1,000 applicants, the 100 selected needed to graduate with a 2.5 GPA and do 15 hours of community service.
Out of the 100 chosen, 79 met the requirements and they’re now enrolled in 22 colleges across the country including Harvard, Cornell and Johns Hopkins.
Edwards’ complete focus has been on the field since he arrived in Seattle, where he knows he’s no longer viewed as the highly touted incoming star.
“Those days are over,” Edwards said. “They came and went. It’s a new day; it’s a new dollar. I’m starting over.”
He said this is definitely a humble new beginning. But it has given him a deep reservoir of motivation.
“I’m blessed for the opportunity,” he said. “At the same time, it’s a matter of revenge. I’m going to attack every day making people pay for forgetting about me or disrespecting me or lying about me. This is my chance to prove it with my actions.”Dave Boling: 253-597-8440