Kam Chancellor gave everything to his starring, thumping Seahawks career.
Including, he fears, perhaps his health for the rest of his life.
A hard-hitting, four-time Pro Bowl safety and the soul of the Seattle defense that led the Seahawks to consecutive Super Bowls and the region's only NFL championship, Chancellor announced online Sunday that doctors did not clear him to play football again. He stated that is because of the heightened risk of paralysis if he continues to play.
Chancellor wrote that his serious neck injury in November "had me at one of my lowest ponts as a Man."
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It's what is ultimately forcing him to end his playing days after eight seasons, and three months after his 30th birthday. For now, and for the foreseeable future.
"God has given me a sign that I just can't ignore," Chancellor, a strong safety known as "The Enforcer" within the Seahawks' famed "Legion of Boom" defensive secondary, wrote and posted on his social-media accounts Sunday afternoon.
That was days after his latest neck tests and examinations with doctors and three weeks before the Seahawks begin training camp.
"I've played through all types of bruises and injuries at a high level. But this one, I just can't ignore. When the doctors told me what was going on in Nov(ember), I could feel my heart drop to my stomach. ...
"To walk away from the game by chance is one thing, to walk away from the game because of the risk of paralysis is another."
His online announcement ended ominously. It offered a glimpse into the life of NFL stars, a reality of a brutal sport that is just as real as the $25 million Chancellor got guaranteed in the contract extension he'd been seeking for years and finally received from the Seahawks 11 months ago.
"P.S. Pray for your boy," Chancellor wrote. "I have no clue how these head injuries will go after the game. What I do know is that my God is stronger. Peace and love"
Chancellor's note was conspicuous in not saying "retirement." There are hefty financial reasons for that.
The extension he signed last Aug. 1 guarantees him $6.8 for this year and $5.2 million in 2019. Officially retiring would mean he would not get that money.
But Sunday he made it clear he saw no reason to play football again. It's just not worth the risk anymore.
Last year was the fourth consecutive one Chancellor played fewer than the full 16 games of a regular season because of injury. He got neck and nerve damage making a tackle on Arizona running back Andre Ellington Nov. 9 late in the Seahawks’ ninth game, a win over the Cardinals in the desert.
A few weeks later, during a Seahawks practice, Chancellor and his wife walked into team headquarters, past the indoor practice field, past the locker room and upstairs. That’s where general manager John Schneider’s office is, among those of other team leaders. It was a sign this wasn’t just a season-ending but potentially career-ending issue with his neck.
In February, Chancellor got all $6.8 million of his base salary for 2018 guaranteed, a key part of that three-year, $36 million extension he signed last summer.
As the Seahawks are reliving now in deciding what to do with Earl Thomas' ending contract, that’s the danger of agreeing to a multi-year extension with upfront cash to a rugged veteran who’s had a history of injuries. Even when he’s that team’s soul.
There's no denying Chancellor was that. For most of last half-dozen years. Really, for just about since he took over as the starting safety next to Thomas in the Seahawks secondary to begin the 2011 season.
Seattle's fifth-round draft choice from Virginia Tech in 2010 was once a quarterback early in his college days. He then became a tormentor of QBs, the kind of hitter about which they have nightmares.
Chancellor became one of the most ferocious and impacting hitters in the NFL from 2011-15—at exactly the same time the Seahawks become one of the league's most ferocious and impacting defenses and teams.
Foes feared him coming down close to the line of scrimmage to ruin running plays like a linebacker, or pass receivers like a bulldozer.
Teammates revered him for his quiet, sage, strong persona in the locker room. He dispensed advice about football and finances and relationships and life off the field like he delivered hard hits on it.
Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown honored his departing teammate online Sunday night.
Now, Chancellor knows his hits must stop.