What their coach called “the most intense, emotional moment we’ve had in years” stabilized somewhat for the Seattle Seahawks.
Beloved teammate Ricardo Lockette had surgery in Dallas on Monday that lasted more than five hours and successfully repaired disk and ligament damage in the 29-year-old wide receiver’s neck.
“Ricardo Lockette underwent successful neck surgery this afternoon at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas,” the team’s statement said late Monday afternoon, about six hours after coach Pete Carroll had said Lockette was going into the operation. “He is expected to remain in the hospital for a few days for recovery. He will be up and moving around as early as (Tuesday) and his neurological signs are all positive.”
The News Tribune learned running back Marshawn Lynch and left tackle Russell Okung stayed behind in Dallas to be with Lockette while the rest of the Seahawks flew home Sunday night following their 13-12 win over the Cowboys. Lockette, Seattle’s special-teams ace, also had his family from Georgia with him at the hospital; they attended Sunday’s game. A team trainer and a staffer also stayed back with Lockette.
Carroll said doctors expect Lockette to be able to rejoin the team following a post-operative stay of about a week at Baylor Medical Center.
Lockette was laid out by a hit from Dallas safety Jeff Heath during a punt late in Sunday’s second quarter. The blow high to the chest, which officials penalized as a “blindside hit,” immediately crumpled Lockette. It left him motionless on the field for many minutes with a concussion, then strapped to a spine board with his helmet still on.
Earlier Monday, Carroll declared Lockette’s season over. The coach said the team doesn’t know right now whether he will play football again.
“We are really grateful for our medical staff, the medical staff at the stadium, the medical staff of the Cowboys and also Baylor hospital that were able to just jump at the cause and were able to take great care of him,” Carroll said.
The coach said he talked to Lockette’s father, Earl, before the surgery and that the family was in good spirits, considering what Carroll reiterated was a “serious” situation.
“We are going to help him get right and turn the corner on this injury,” Carroll said.
Lockette was unconscious in the middle of the field for a few moments Sunday. Quarterback Russell Wilson said it was the scariest scene he’d ever been involved with on any field. Lockette, usually Seattle’s No. 4 wide receiver, had more targets (two) than top wideouts Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse combined well into the second quarter. Then he was getting his usual double-team in the open field while as the gunner running down to cover a punt by Jon Ryan on the next-to-last play of the opening half.
Video shows Lockette turning toward Dallas safety Jeff Heath and lowering his head just before Heath lifted him off his feet with a block. As officials flagged Heath for a blindside hit to a defenseless player, Lockette laid motionless on the field near the Cowboys’ star logo.
Seahawks doctor Jonathan Drezner rushed onto the field as soon as the play ended. He was at Lockette’s side with colleague Dr. Ed Khalfayan, Carroll and, most prominently among players, safety Earl Thomas, Baldwin and Wilson.
Those three and Carroll stayed with the doctors and trainers as Lockette was loaded onto and strapped to a spine board. Meanwhile, both benches emptied onto the field. Defensive end Michael Bennett, backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and other Seahawks angrily yelled and gestured at Cowboys players for what they thought was an unnecessary hit. Bennett called it “classless.”
Lockette’s helmet was still on as he was immobilized and taken from the field. He pumped his right arm and raised an index finger and thumb in the shape of an “L” to the hushed-then-applauding crowd at AT&T Stadium as he was carted off the field to the hospital.
“It was horrible,” Carroll said.
Thomas said he could see Lockette tearing up, possibly fearing the worst.
“He was talking, but you could tell it was bothering him,” Baldwin said. “He was just trying to be strong. He’s one of the most loved players in this locker room, so it definitely affected our team.”
Baldwin called it “a relief” for the entire team when Lockette moved his arm and signaled while exiting the stadium.
“That’s the first thing you think about, ‘God, please allow him to still be able to walk,’ ” Baldwin said.
The NFL could fine Heath if it deems the hit flagrant. Asked Monday what he felt about the play upon film review, Carroll said: “It was just a high hit. It was up high. And we refer to the strike zone, that’s below the neck and above the knees. The league will figure that out.”
While rap music blared in the Seahawks’ locker room minutes after the big win in Arlington, Texas, the players were not nearly as loud or joking as they were the previous week after a blowout win at San Francisco.
They remain somber heading into the team’s weeklong bye. The players are off until next Monday, when they will begin to prepare for their next game Nov. 15 against NFC West-leading Arizona at home.
“Really, it’s just caring, the emotional part of losing one of our guys, and knowing he has to go through major surgery,” Carroll said. “It’s emotional for us. I think it’s that family feeling, you know, when something happens in your family and get sick or whatever. Our guys responded in that way. They are very focused to continue to play the game and all of that, which we found out by the way they played in the second half.
“Today they are just concerned for him. Beyond football.”