When Seattle Seahawks center Patrick Lewis was an underclassman at Texas A&M, he was a guard and he wanted to stay a guard.
But one thing he wanted even more was to play in the NFL.
So when A&M coach Mike Sherman told him that positional versatility could increase his chances of playing on Sundays, well, that’s when Lewis became a center.
“I fought it for two years,” Lewis said. “I was actually recruited as a center, but I played guard. I fought it with Coach Sherman for a long time, telling him, ‘No, I’m playing guard’ — until my junior year. I had to step into a leadership position and take over the center position. ... Coach Sherman always told me, ‘Well you know, Patrick, if you play in the NFL you might need to play all three inside positions. So you might want to try.’ I was like, ‘All right, let’s do it.’”
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That’s increasingly looking like a good decision, although only after a bumpy introduction to the pros.
Lewis was bypassed in the 2013 draft. Then he bounced around as a free agent, first with Green Bay, then with Cleveland, then with Jacksonville, then to Seattle, back to Cleveland and then finally back to the Seahawks.
That last stop not only got him on the roster of the defending Super Bowl champions, but into their starting lineup three times — including this past Sunday at Arizona when he was in the middle of an offense that set a franchise record with 596 total yards — 267 of those on the ground.
“To be honest, I didn’t really realize how many yards we rushed for until we got in the locker room and they told us,” Lewis said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ That’s being an offensive lineman. You never know what you did. You never know until the game’s over. It was a fun night. I’m happy we made history.”
Over the week since, Lewis has gotten his share of praise from coach Pete Carroll, offensive line coach Tom Cable and quarterback Russell Wilson, among others.
“Just from an understanding of the system and a scheme standpoint, he’s done really well,” Pro Bowl alternate left tackle Russell Okung said. “Obviously, physically he can move guys back, and he can play some good ball. Just seeing him being able to grasp our offense better, it’s been pretty good.”
Grasping the system was a luxury Lewis didn’t enjoy his first time in Seattle. After being claimed off waivers from the Browns on Aug. 26 he found himself on the field two days later in the final exhibition game at Oakland.
Three days after that, he was back on Cleveland’s practice squad, where he stayed until he was signed again by Seattle on Oct. 8. About a month later he made his first NFL start, against the Raiders. He picked up his next start when the Cardinals visited in November, and then faced them again Sunday.
“He did a nice job against them,” Carroll said. “We thought he held up well. In the competitive world we are living in, if there’s an edge here or there, we are trying to give a guy a shot. And that’s what Tom wanted to do with it.”
Lewis already knows the door to that competitive world swings both ways, and there are no guarantees he will see the field again Sunday when the Seahawks conclude their regular season with a visit from the St. Louis Rams.
When healthy, the starting center position belong to Max Unger. And Carroll indicated after practice Friday that Unger might have recovered enough from his knee/ankle injuries to return to the lineup.
Even if Unger can’t go, Carroll has publicly declined to pick between Lewis and fifth-year veteran Lemuel Jeanpierre.
Lewis understands it’s a new week.
“I’m never satisfied,” he said. “It was fun that night (in Arizona), but now we’ve got to go try to get this win this Sunday.”
The Seahawks returned to practice Friday after taking Christmas Day off. ... Carroll said WR Jermaine Kearse (hamstring) is out for Sunday, as is DE Demarcus Dobbs (hamstring). C Max Unger, TE Cooper Helfe t (ribs), WR Chris Matthews (hamstring) and CB Tharold Simon (shoulder) are questionable. LT Russell Okung, TE Tony Moeaki (shoulder) and RB Marshawn Lynch (back) are probable. ... The Seahawks announced the release of DT Travian Robertson. Carroll said the club knows its coming roster addition, but he didn’t share it. Robertson was signed from Atlanta’s practice squad Nov. 18 and played in one game — against Arizona on Nov. 23 — and recorded one tackle. He was inactive for Seattle’s past four games.