Ever since he got crunched and was lying unconscious on the field outside Dallas six months ago, Ricardo Lockette’s career has been in serious doubt.
Now it is over.
The News Tribune confirmed Wednesday that the press conference the Seahawks called for Lockette on Thursday afternoon at team headquarters is to indeed announce Seattle’s 29-year-old former wide receiver and special-teams ace’s retirement from football.
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Lockette posted sentimental pictures and thoughts on social media after NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was the first to report the news of his retirement Wednesday.
Lockette has been in a neck brace -- and thankful to be alive -- for much of the time since he got flattened by a hit from Dallas safety Jeff Heath during a punt in the Seahawks’ win at the Cowboys Nov. 1. The blow high to the chest, which officials penalized as a “blindside hit,” immediately crumpled Lockette. He later said he initially feared for his life while he was laying first unconscious then motionless on the field for many minutes with a concussion. Paramedics then strapped him to a spine board with his helmet still on while the giant AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, was in dreaded silence.
Lockette said this offseason in a visit with Redmond fire fighters and emergency medical personnel he was told by doctors at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas that the ligaments and cartilage that help connect his neck vertebrae were so damaged by Heath’s hit that if he had stood up, been pulled by a teammate or handled incorrectly by trainers it may have been fatal.
“He said if I would have stood up then, the weight of my head — left, right, front, back — I would have died,” Lockette said two-plus months ago.
"If one of my teammates would have come over and pulled my arm, just barely, I might have died. Or if the returner at the time would have broken a couple of tackles and they would have fell on me, I would have died on that field."
He had surgery at Baylor Medical Center to stabilize his neck and repair the ligaments and cartilage. He is so revered in the Seahawks’ locker room that teammates Marshawn Lynch and Russell Okung stayed behind to be at Lockette’s side in Dallas while the rest of their team flew back to the Northwest following the win over the Cowboys. Upon his discharge from the hospital in Dallas later that week Lockette was an occasional visitor to the Seahawks’ locker room in Renton. When last season ended for Seattle in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs in mid-January, Lockette’s contract expired and he became a free agent. He remained unsigned through Wednesday’s news.
Truthfully, he’s thankful to be walking. So playing football has been a secondary concern for him since that fateful hit six month ago.
Thursday, his playing career will officially go into the past tense. And considering all he’s gone through, that’s indeed for the best.
Lockette earned $1.71 million his last three seasons with the Seahawks. And I mean earned.
His career was full of persistence on long roads. The first post-high school athletic competitions for the native of Albany, Georgia, were in track and field at Wallace State Community College in Hanceville, Alabama. He entered the NFL with the Seahawks in 2011 as an undrafted free agent from small, Division-II Fort Valley State. He spent most of that rookie season on the practice squad before appeared in two games in December. Seattle cut him twice in 2012; he ended that season on San Francisco’s practice squad. After the 49ers cut him the next season he spent the first two months of the 2013 season on the practice squad of the Chicago Bears. He returned to Seattle in late October 2013 to sign onto the Seahawks’ practice squad and eventually played in eight games and three playoff games -- including Super Bowl 48 -- for Seattle that season, plus all 16 regular-season games and three in the postseason in the 2014 season.
He was best known for his speedy runs down the field on kick coverages and then wild, thudding hits on returners. His best-known play as a wide receiver is the most infamous one in Seahawks’ history. Lockette was Russell Wilson’s intended target on a slant pattern from the 1-yard line in the final seconds of Super Bowl 49 in February of 2015. New England’s Malcolm Butler cut Lockette off his route and intercepted the pass at the goal line to make the Patriots the champions instead of the Seahawks.
Well into the following year, Lockette said he “can’t watch” replays of that fateful play.