Kam Chancellor’s back.
Tyler Lockett is getting back.
And Thomas Rawls is looking back.
Chancellor’s smile Friday said it before his words did.
“Yeaaaaaaahh!” the soul of the Seahawks’ defense bellowed in his low, low voice on the edge of the practice field.
“It’s great to be out here!”
The eighth-year veteran was back in his familiar office for the final practice of offseason organized team activities. Chancellor did his most extensive work yet since offseason surgery on both ankles. No. 31 returned to the spot in which he’s started the last six seasons: as the starting strong safety in position and team drills on Seattle’s seventh and final OTA day.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection, including last season when he missed four games from October into November with a groin injury, Chancellor laughed with three-time All-Pro Richard Sherman through drills. Chancellor laughed again when he did a leaping hip bump with linebacker Dewey McDonald to celebrate a play. And he sprinted through open-field tackling drills.
During a turn-and-cut drill with a tall, tackling dummy set in the middle of the field, Chancellor didn’t avoid the dummy to catch a pass thrown by an assistant coach, as his teammates did. Chancellor smashed the dummy to the ground as if it was an Arizona Cardinal while sprinting to the ball.
In the scrimmaging, he showed bursts of speed running from the middle of the field to the left sideline to break on a Russell Wilson pass. He broke up another one out of the back of the end zone.
Minutes before, on the adjacent field along Lake Washington, another positive for a Seahawks star: Lockett did his most work this offseason, at least in the three OTAs that were open to the media over the last two weeks.
The speedy wide receiver and Pro Bowl kick returner did a technical route-running drill with Wilson and fellow QBs Trevone Boykin and Austin Davis. Lockett broke his leg 5 1/2 months ago, in a Christmas Eve game against Arizona. Friday, he was jogging his routes while catching passes along with Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin for about 20 minutes.
Those were the surest signs yet Chancellor and Lockett will be ready for the season opener Sept. 10 at Green Bay – and in Chancellor’s case for the start of training camp at the end of July.
Lockett may still be limited by then. Then again, by the looks of Friday, perhaps not.
Rawls continued to look renewed and noticeably fired up, especially given the games don’t get real for another three months. He appears to have accepted the challenge for his lead running-back job created when Seattle signed former Green Bay Packers top rusher Eddie Lacy to a one-year contract full of incentives in March.
“(He’s) a great benefit to the team,” Rawls said of Lacy.
“It’s about competition. … We believe that as long as people compete they will earn whatever they deserve. In the end, it’ll work itself out.”
Rawls has not completed a full season as a starting running back since he was at Flint Northern High School in Michigan.
He was a backup for three years at Michigan. He transferred to Central Michigan and missed games with an academic suspension and following a purse-snatching incident.
He broke his ankle in December of his wondrous undrafted-rookie season with the Seahawks. In his second regular-season game back from that he cracked his fibula, last September.
When asked what he learned in his first two seasons with the Seahawks, Rawls said Friday: “Take care of yourself. Take care of your body.”
He also said: “I’m an uncommon man.”
Chancellor feels the same way about himself. After all, he does embrace the nickname, “The Enforcer.”
He is entering the final year of a contract that many expected to be extended by now.
Despite Chancellor being 29, despite his fruitless holdout in 2015 and injuries that have cost him games in recent seasons, it would be surprising if the Seahawks don’t settle on a new contract with him before the season begins. There might be something of a locker room revolt, or at least upheaval, if they didn’t.
When asked in mid-January about his contract status following the last game he played, in a hallway of the George Dome after Seattle’s playoff loss at Atlanta, Chancellor smiled and said, “Day to day, man.”
The Seahawks often reach agreements on extensions for top veterans before or at the start of training camp (such as for Wilson two summers ago).
Carroll and general manager John Schneider have said repeatedly this offseason they want to take care of core guys. Chancellor is certainly one of those.
In February, Chancellor had what the team characterized as “clean-up” surgeries for bone spurs in his ankles. It’s something he has had done in previous offseasons. He is scheduled for $6.8 million in base pay and $325,008 in per-week roster bonuses during the 2017 season, with a salary-cap charge of $8.125,008. He’s wanted a new deal for two years, and infamously held out for two months into the 2015 regular season in vain to get one.
He was the first player Carroll mentioned in his postgame press conference following the playoff loss at Atlanta as the foundation for the Seahawks’ strong leadership base. He is beloved among teammates for his intensity, his wisdom and his hard-hitting style of play.
Then Seattle drafted Michigan’s Hill in the third round, with an obvious eye toward eventual life after Chancellor – whenever that may begin.
Hill is 6-feet-1 and 216 pounds. He, like Chancellor, is known as an aggressive tackler against the run. And, of course, he’s eight years younger than Chancellor. Hill had been getting first-team work while Chancellor watched earlier OTA practices.
But not Friday’s.
Earl Thomas was not on the field for the 70-minute practice that came before the players scattered for a weekend off prior to next week’s mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday.
Thomas had been on the field watching the first two OTAs open to the media. Coach Pete Carroll said last week that Thomas was essentially a full participant in the first two OTA practices, his first on-field work since he broke his leg Dec. 4. Carroll said he has no doubt Thomas will be ready for the start of training camp.
DE Dion Jordan was not present. Fellow defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson joined recuperating CB DeShawn Shead (knee injury in January) and LB Michael Wilhoite as watchers of practice while recovering from injuries. ... Rookie RB Chris Carson, a seventh-round draft choice, missed practice with a leg injury. … The players’ return to the field for Tuesday afternoon’s start of minicamp. It is mandatory. That’s why Bennett will be there.