Christine Michael will cop to it — he was slow to get a clue.
After all, the NFL is about talent, and everybody knew he had plenty of it. Right?
He was a second-round draft pick, so the Seahawks wouldn’t dump him after that kind of investment. Right?
Certainly they wouldn’t trade him and keep an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, some kid named Thomas Rawls?
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As it turned out, Michael made some false assumptions about life in the NFL. And it very nearly cost him his career.
Michael makes it clear he’s not about to blow what could be his last chance with the team that gave him his first chance — the Seahawks.
“As a man, you have to grow up some day; it’s all about growth,” Michael said Monday after the Seahawks’ third day of camp. “This is all about self-evaluation … coming out here and taking this job seriously.”
Michael was the Seahawks’ first pick (62nd overall) in 2013 draft, but the projected heir apparent to Marshawn Lynch never grew into the job, and at the start of last season, he was traded to Dallas for a seventh-round draft pick.
Dallas waived him, as did the Washington Redskins, before the Seahawks brought him back following injuries to Lynch and Rawls.
In the final three regular-season games, the born-again Michael picked up 192 yards with a 4.9-yard average.
“The physical part was never an issue,” running backs coach Sherman Smith said. “He’s one of the most talented guys I’ve ever seen. He’s so explosive. It was the other things, accepting the responsibility of being a pro, being a teammate.”
Smith said he got the sense that Michael took the job for granted, that he felt entitled.
“But when he was done in Dallas and Washington, he realized he could be out of football,” Smith said. At that point, Smith had a frank talk with Michael.
“The thing I said to him was that this wasn’t about him proving teams wrong for letting him go, it was about proving us right for having drafted him in the second round,” Smith said. “We were the team that wanted him.”
“Reality set in, and he was a different guy with a different perspective,” Smith said. “The light went on, and he’s been really dependable and doing everything we need him to do.”
The perspective has been thrust upon him in a number of ways. His $725,000 cap number is only $50,000 more than the minimum for a veteran of his status, and the Hawks drafted three rookie running backs to compete for a role behind Rawls, the presumptive starter.
But while working with the No. 1 offense thus far in training camp, Michael has looked exceptional, with a rocket burst through the hole and uncanny balance in traffic. Coach Pete Carroll said he’s also much improved as a receiver.
“He’s worked really hard at it,” Carroll said. “It’s definitely obvious he’s more equipped and more confident than he’s been in the past.”
As Smith pointed out, talent has never been the problem. Applying it in ways to help the team was the shortcoming.
“It’s all about competing,” Michael said. “We’ve been doing this since we were babies.”
The goal now, he said, was “just being more consistent, being a team player, and all-around football player — on and off the field.”
Michael has been wearing “Michael Sr.” across the back of his jersey, a tribute to his new son, Christine Michael Jr., now nearly 3 months old.
That, too, could be a part of the newfound maturity.
When asked about his opportunities with the first team offense as Rawls recovers from ankle surgery, Michael downplayed the status.
“(I’m just) out here to get better, first team, second team, third team … it’s all about competing.”
Michael is a gifted athlete who woke up in time to make a U-turn before veering onto the NFL off-ramp.
If he can stick with the team, he would be a huge bargain, and the addition of the kind of rushing talent that nobody has ever doubted.